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Transcript: Wednesday, April 6, 2 p.m. ET

Career Advice

Anna Ivey
Wednesday, April 6, 2005; 2:00 PM

Anna Ivey, author of "The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions" (Harcourt), will be online to discuss her book and give insider tips on writing effective essays, interview techniques, and resumes.

Anna was the former dean of admissions at the University of Chicago Law School, and read thousands of applications, counseled tens of thousands of law school applicants nationwide, and conducted hundreds of admissions interviews. She's also the founder and president of her own admissions counseling practice, and now assists college, business school, and law school applicants from all walks of life in reaching their goals.

The transcript follows below.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Bowie, Md.: What are good career paths for people with the skills to work in a high-end field (law, business, medicine) but who only want to work a standard week so they can be fully involved in their communities and families?

Anna Ivey: Hi there -- first let me say hello and how excited I am to be participating in this chat! Thanks to the Washington Post for the opportunity.

Now to turn to your question: Sad to say, but in the professions, especially at the big-league levels, there really is no such thing as a "standard" work week anymore. Those says are long gone. Some big-league employers have part-time programs, but in my experience, those "part-time"programs often translate into 40+ hours per week as well. Jobs with old-fashioned 40-hour work weeks tend to be lower-stakes, lower-paying jobs. People make that trade-off all the time, and each side has its merits depending on individual circumstances, but the trade-off is real.


Fairfax, Va.: Good afternoon,

I am in the private sector and I have been submitted my resume to some nonprofit organizations in the D.C. metro area. About three weeks ago I went to an interview with a company and I loved everything about the job and felt I had a real good interview with the Director I would report to if hired. The next day I followed up with a thank you letter but I have not been called back for a second interview or have been requested to provide references so I am fearing that they have hired someone else. My question is how long should I wait before I send a e-mail or give a phone call to the person I interviewed with to see if I am still a candidate for the job? Any suggested words for what I should say so I don't seem too irritating?

Thank you in advance!

Anna Ivey: Having sat on both sides of the interviewing table, both in the private and the non-profit sectors, I would advise you to follow up asap. Unless they told you it would take at least this long, three weeks is a pretty long time to have waited if you still haven't heard anything after your initial thank-you letter. In the private sector, three weeks of not hearing anything would probably be bad news, but the non-profit sector moves more slowly and you may still be in the running. Either way, it makes sense to call and find out if a decision has been made, and, if not, whether you can do anything to facilitate their decision. And if they tell you you're not being hired, you can always ask for feedback. They're unlikely to give it to you straight -- they're too worried about law suits -- but no harm in asking. Good luck!


Danville, K.Y.: Anna,

Thanks for taking the opportunity to answer questions in this forum. I have been admitted to several law schools for the fall of 2005 -- ranging from a school ranked in the top 14 to schools in the top 25 and presidential scholarships at schools ranked below 100. My question for you is ... would it be stupid to attend a school that is ranked lower than other schools to which you have been admitted because of location or my perception that the school has a more friendly and collegial student body? In other words, do you believe that you should always attend the highest ranked school to which you have been admitted? Thank you for your reply.

Anna Ivey: Great question! And congratulations on what sound like very nice options. In my opinion, you are much better off attending a top-14 school than one that's ranked 100+. A degree from a top-14 school will be portable nationally, so that degree would have value whether you ended up in the region you think you'll prefer down the road (which is always guess-work to some extent) or whether you end up someplace else entirely. I discuss this issue more fully in chapter 8 of my book (The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions), and there I also talk about some exceptions to that general rule. For most people, though, that general rule would apply.


Oakland, Calif.: Do LSAT scores lose any weight in the evaluation of an applicant the older they get, in the same way that time off between college and law school can lessen the impact of a low GPA?

Anna Ivey: I assume you mean "the older the appliant gets"? The LSAT score is only one part of the admissions evalution process, so to that extent, it can be mitigated by strengths elsewhere in your application, whether it's life experience, a great GPA, a strong rec, or any other number of things. Admissions officers only have so much wiggle room to ignore the LSAT, though, so don't rely on your "older and wiser" status too much.


Ithaca, N.Y.: Thank you so much for fielding questions! I have friends who have used your admissions counselling service, and they were very pleased with the results! Anyway, my question speaks to advancement in the field of law. I am an Asian-American student and want to "swing with the big boys" so to speak. I am sure you are aware of the "glass ceiling" for women in law and business, but I believe that there is a prominent one for Asian practicioners as well. How do you suggest I make myself known as a prominent individual in the field of law as I advance through my studies? I know that rain-making, for example, is a large part of what makes and breaks partners. What kind of things should Asian students be wary of as they try to catapult to the top?

Anna Ivey: Personally, I haven't seen a glass ceiling for Asian-Americans at any of the places I've worked. (On the other hand, I'm not Asian-American!) At the law firm I practiced at, Irell & Manella, the managing partner was Asian-American, and he's considered one of the top lawyers in the country. (His name is Morgan Chu, and he's a bit of a rock star among intellectual property litigators). Law firms are, in my experience, some of the most meritocractic businesses around. Not perfectly meritocratic -- no such thing in this word -- but probably at the top of the heap in that respect. I would be surprised if being Asian held you back in the slightest in the world of big-league law firms.


Washington, D.C.: My parents are urging me to go to law school or graduate school. They want me to have a more stable, secure career future and they feel that I'm not currently living up to my full potential. I don't want to make them sound like pushy, unsatisfied parents. I know that they love and only want the best for me.

I've been out of school for three years and have been doing the admin assistant thing, but it's getting kind of old. I feel like I don't really use my brain anymore. I currently work two jobs to help offset my undergrad. student loan debt so I'm a bit reluctant to add on more student loan debt. I'm also afraid that I won't get in anywhere. What's your advice to people like me?


Anna Ivey: Sounds as if you should be moving on from the admin assistant world, but think long and hard before jumping into grad school. The price tags (and lost income and opportunity costs) are way too high for you to make that decision without great thought and self-awareness. Law school, or another grad school program, may be the right choice for you (impossible for me to gauge without knowing a lot more about you), so don't take this to mean you shouldn't go, but be aware that you're at an important juncture in your life, one that will have far-reaching consequences. Your research might reveal that law school is a good fit for you, as well as a good investment, in which case you will also have figured out what schools you are likely to get into, done the math, and assured yourself that the expense is worth it. It's always scary to be at an important juncture, but exciting too! Good luck.


Burke, Va.: Hello,

My husband and I are thinking about starting a family soon. I currently work full-time and love my career. I would like to get my MBA eventually and I was considering staying home and going to get my degree once we have a baby. Would that be a red-flag for business school admissions? Also, would I be hurting my career in the long run versus staying at work and not getting a degree?


Anna Ivey: Mixing an MBA (plus post-MBA career) with a baby is always challenging for women. Some women say they make it work and would do it again, others feel differently in hindsight. It's always hard to know how you'll feel in a future, hypothetical situation, especially where child-rearing issues are concerned. But I can tell you that if you know you want to get an MBA, and you know you want to have a baby, you're better off working until you start business school (b-schools don't like to see gaps in applicants' resumes), and having a baby while you're in b-school. It won't be easy, but women who have had babies while they were in professional school tell me it's easier to make that work during school than after school, because you'll have more control over your schedule as a student. Reasonable minds can and do disagree on this one, naturally. Also, keep in mind that there are some things in life that are hard to plan, and timing babies is one of them!


Baltimore, Md.: Hello! I'm looking forward to this discussion.

Here's my question and give it to me straight. I've been researching some top tier b-schools and am still confused about what they're really looking for from their applicants. Is it similar to undergrad. reqs? What are their thoughts on extra curriculars, continued learning, business/work endeavors unrelated to the major you're interested in pursuing (i.e., entrepreneurial endeavors now outside of your interest area)? Also, I heard b-schools are more interested in diversity of work experience now, so my lack of employment by Lehman will not count against me. Is that true?

Thank you for sating my inquisitiveness.

Anna Ivey: Big question, and only limited space to answer, so I'll have to be really general here. I work with a lot of business school applicants, and the common theme among the most successful ones are (1) increased responsbility over time at work + promotions, (2) impact on the job and outside of work, (3) self-awareness, (4) impressive and concrete goals, and (5) the ability to articulate all that well in a very finite amount of space. Those are the common denominators. Individual schools have their own additional critria that are specific to them -- some want heavy-duty quant skills, others want good "soft" or "people" skills, others specialize in international or non-profit tracks, etc, and you'd have to be able to market yourself effectively to what they're looking for and what they're best at. And that assumes you more or less fit into the profiles they're looking for numbers-wise.

That being said, they're not looking for an entire class of investment bankers and consultants, and if you're not coming from those b-school feeder jobs, you have a great opportunity to distinguish yourself from the pack.


Anna Ivey: Thanks so much to all of you for your great questions, and my apologies for all the ones I couldn't get to in one hour! I'm on a book tour during the month of April -- the tour schedule is on my website (www.annaivey.com) -- and I'd be happy to answer individual questions there. And for all you DC-folks, I'll be at Washington Law Books (1900 G St, NW) on April 21 at 7pm. Take care, and good luck!


washingtonpost.com: That's it for today everyone. Thanks to Anna Ivey for joining us today and taking questions. Please stay tuned to the Live Online schedule for more special edition Jobs discussions.


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