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October 29, 2007

Every student needs an individual strategy: the CPDC will help you develop yours

1. INDIVIDUAL STRATEGY #1 Develop an individual strategy based on a student's interests and goals that takes into account market reality (i.e. A 2L's 4th quartile GPA is not a direct route to a large law firm.) This requires work on the student's part, because a search for "a job, any job," is fraught with difficulty, in part because the candidate pool for "any job" is loaded with students for whom it is their heartfelt first choice. Without some focus, taking aim at "any job" is beyond daunting, and almost guarantees frustration.

2. INDIVIDUAL STRATEGY #2 In addition to the short-term goal of getting the first job, it's a good idea to engage in some long-term strategic thinking. Most students' real "dream" jobs are not their first jobs after graduation. No one, in my experience, has aspired to permanently prosecuting misdemeanor traffic tickets, being the 4th chair litigator or the 7th lawyer on the deal. More often than not, there are jobs in which students and new lawyers built a valuable skill set and then moved on to the jobs that more closely matched the "dream."

3. OUTLINE TACTICS Having identified between one and three job categories or market segments, work with the CPDC, Alumni Office and Law Library staff to create the following set of contact lists:

a. Bar associations or other orgs to join AND to become engaged with leadership and membership. Even the slightest contribution to a bar committee's activity gives a student the "Presumption of Competence in All Things," which is useful as a networking springboard;

On most bar association websites (including, of course, the MN Bar Association), subject and issue-related committees and sections are listed, and each page has a helpful listing of the section and committee leaders with their contact info (employer, phone, email).

Three points:

(1) THEY WANT YOU The CPDC is besieged by requests from bar association folks to help them connect with students. They" are looking for "you." Membership is the lifeblood of these organizations, and bar associations are looking for new members and new ways to engage new and old members. The age-old question, "Why should I be active in the bar association?" is something that they wrestle with all the time.

(2) BAR LEADERS HAVE A JOB TO DO THAT INCLUDES YOU The lawyers who are elected to leadership positions are respected by their peers and become the public faces of the section. Among all of their other tasks, they are charged with increasing membership and these people know that accepting phone calls and fielding questions from potential members (students and lawyers) are part of the job.

(3) NOT JUST FOR BAR ASSOCIATIONS The same rule applies to officers of other organizations -- the professional organizations for the non-lawyers who will be future clients. (Examples not necessarily drawn from life: Bankers of America, Minnesota Drywall Contractors, National Organization of Nurses... you get the idea.)

b. ALUMNI Alumni in the jobs or in the practice areas (in MN or elsewhere) to contact for industry knowledge, advice about entry portals, and guidance about both potential opportunities and pitfalls. The CPDC and Alumni Office staff will always try to connect students to alums.

c. INDUSTRY SPECIFIC INTERESTS? If a student's interest is industry-specific, find the professional organizations of the non-lawyers, and conduct some information-gathering forays into:

(1) LITERATURE (paper & electronic) Be familiar with the literature, so that you can be sufficiently knowledgeable to carry on a conversation with professionals in this field;
(2) INDUSTRY PROBLEMS AND ISSUES Begin to get a handle on the industry's problems and issues so that when you talk to lawyers about your interest in the business, you present yourself as smart and sophisticated about their clients;
(3) MEETINGS WITH THE PROS Ask to meet with some professionals in that industry, so that in a law interview, you can say, for instance, "I recently spoke to several Senior Trust Officers and learned X about their work..."
(4) NOT CHEESY You may think that this is cheesy, however, industry knowledge or the ability to ask intelligent questions that get the conversational ball rolling are keys to success in all things. What's cheesy is insincerity.

d. FACULTY Enlist faculty in your job search and career development. There are Law Faculty who have gone to the mat for students who have performed well in their classes (either orally or on exams), who have served as research assistants or who have otherwise engaged with them (conversations after class). And all of this regardless of GPA. These are the people who often write letters of recommendation or who make calls to potential employers saying "John was terrific in my class and I know that his grade reflects neither his comprehension of the subject nor his problem-solving abilities. I would recommend him unreservedly." Don't forget your undergrad faculty!

e. KNOW THE RULES Review the rules for informational and networking interviews to understand how different they are from job interviews. Knowing the rules makes these meetings astonishingly powerful. Click here for more information.

4. APPLY FOR JOBS CAREFULLY. Review the materials that you send out all the time. Just because a letter sounded good (or read well) in September, doesn't mean it shouldn't be revised in October or November. Give special attention to documents that have generated poor or no results, and have someone review the text and your strategy. ASK FOR RECONSIDERATION if you think that the skills set and experience that you presented were well within the parameters of the job description.

5. KNOW THE "SEASON�? for hiring for the jobs for which you are applying. Large law firms and major public agencies do the bulk of their hiring in the early fall of the 2L and 3L year. Federal judges hire 3Ls in the fall; state appellate judges hire anytime after the middle of the 2L summer, although they seem to be falling in line behind the Federal judges in the 3L fall now. Small and medium-sized firms can hire throughout the 2L or 3L years, and often hire 3Ls as "part-time during the school year with possibility for permanent hire." The bulk of 1L hiring happens during the Spring semester. The list goes on and market segments differ.

6. CHECK IN WITH THE CPDC at least monthly. Now each student has an assigned CPDC counselor who can be main point of contact. All CPDC counselors are available to all students, however.

October 4, 2007

Employer Research: Just Do It!

Career expert Richard Bolles as well as law firm recruiters suggest that "[w]herever possible, you must research the organization [firm]...before going in for an interview.�? For employers, your efforts will reflect your interest and understanding of the organization. For you, it will help you determine if they are a good fit for you.

Topics to Research

• Areas of Practice
• Location of offices
• Firm Size
• Biographies of lawyers - be discreet here
• Clients they are representing
• Cases they are working on

Where to Look

Employer's Website - Their 'Mission Statement' - bios, 'About the Organization', etc.

NALP Directory/NALP Form - The annual NALP Directory of Legal Employers, www.nalpdirectory.com, is the most widely used directory in legal recruiting. The 2006-2007 edition includes information on more than 1,700 employers nationwide and is an invaluable tool for job searchers, career counselors, and legal recruiters alike. The CPDC has a hardcopy of the directory if you are interested.

Martindale - The Legal Personnel Locator offers free access to data on an extensive network of key non-lawyer staff members, including management personnel, librarians, marketing professionals and paralegals.

American Lawyer
- The American Lawyer covers the most significant legal business stories and the most important legal news stories. Often the two overlap. Corporate governance, bankruptcy, and the Supreme Court, are all topics that we address through our special perspective.

Daily News
Newspapers, radio, and TV

University Faculty/Staff Members - You will be surprised how in touch these individuals have with the legal and business communities.