Career advancement for only 2 hours a night?
March 4, 2012 7:13 PM   Subscribe

What can you do with 2 hours a night to advance in your career?

I have 2 hours a night of spare time at home. This is after dinner, gym and family time.

What can be done in that time to get ahead in my career?

For purposes of context: I work as a prosecutor and my daily work is preparing, negotiating and trying criminal cases. With the exception of some weekends and late nights, I do my work at the office and don’t bring it home.

I’m glad to have the job but I would be happier with more money and more responsibility. That’s not happening anytime soon due to tight government budgets, and more experienced people not leaving their positions.

The kind of activity I’m looking for needs a low barrier of entry. One past example that has worked for me has been online language learning. I signed up for Livemocha to learn Spanish online and it has helped refresh my high school Spanish. Since I work in the Houston area, Spanish is valuable to communicate with clients.

Is there something you worked on consistently each night to get ahead?
posted by abdulf to Work & Money (7 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Study writing. Take notes of interesting parts of your cases and make them (altered and disguised, of course) into stories. Even if you don't end up being the next John Grisham, better writing will improve your communication in non-courtroom settings, which will help you become a better manager once those experienced people leave -- or help you get hired somewhere else where similar experienced people have left, or even leapfrog over the experienced people, because you're a better communicator than they are even if they're better lawyers.
posted by Etrigan at 7:22 PM on March 4, 2012

Are you participating in your local Bar Association and other attorneyish stuff? Inn of Court, I think it's called, is one my mom (a prosecutor) likes. She also volunteers to help with the high school and college Moot Court stuff.
posted by SMPA at 7:29 PM on March 4, 2012

write articles for the bar journals. They are much simpler than law review articles, shorter and more practical--with two hours a night, you can easily do it. Take a recent state supreme court case, or a typical evidentiary issue, a common ethics issue that doesn't have bright-line guidance, and write a guide to dealing with it in your county.

If your state judges' association has a magazine, write for it. My organization publishes in these magazines all the time and it's not a terribly competitive market. If your topic is reasonably timely, if your law is accurate, and your writing is competent, you should have no trouble getting published.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:45 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

What about something fairly low-key like a blog that'd let you work on your analysis and writing skills without being something you have to get things perfect or spend a lot of time with? Maybe something like, I dunno, a current events through a legal perspective blog. Looking at my news feed, there's the Limbaugh calling a girl a slut thing, could she sue for defamation (or something) and what would that look like? There's something on the BP spill that I imagine could entertain lawyers for years. There's something about a doctor charged with overdosing 3 patients, which I imagine would have interesting medical malpractice implications.

I think it'd let you raise your profile and work on some skills without being something TOO involved.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:33 PM on March 4, 2012

Chiming in here what Etrigan says with 2 specific suggestions:

1: Read "The Winning Brief" and then grab all of the books by Edward Tufte on turning information/data into something visual. Yes, this applies to lawyers. For example, there's some great examples in the Tuft books showing exactly how the Feds used visuals to convict good old Duke Cunningham from California a few years ago. My point is that you'll start learning how to incorporate tables, charts, graphs, and other such learning aids into your written and oral arguments. I once did a bar/CLE presentation about this and they loved it. We (lawyers) often forget about how powerful the visual is because we work in the world of the written word. (Note: Tufte's books are themselves works of art and are priced accordingly; see if you can get them through your library).

(The best closing argument I ever experienced was against a lawyer who used to be an elementary teacher. She used an overhead projector with colored markers in a sex discrimination/harassment suit. The jury loved it and I got my ass beat bad (rightfully so given my client's piggishness).

2: "The Winning Brief" is super-easy reading, well-organized and full of before/after examples of motions and appellate briefs. You'll get lots of easy to implement ideas for your written work. (I think the author teaches at one of the Texas law schools). It's like the legal writing class you wish you'd had in law school.
posted by webhund at 9:06 PM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

When you know Excel, you are the most valuable person in the office.
posted by lstanley at 6:01 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

oh yes, to piggyback on what webhund says, present at CLEs. Generally, getting selected to present at CLEs requires you to be friendly with someone who organizes CLEs and be able to speak competently on an issue. If you're using a couple hours every night to write, you should be competent to speak on a topic. Bar associations do CLEs, but that would be the hardest network to crack. Small nonprofits also do them--so if you are associated with a public interest bar or a public interest organization--you can try to present CLEs for them.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:35 AM on March 5, 2012

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