2009 Archives

Don't Waste the Crisis

Uncertain About Your Future? Worried About Getting a Job? You Should Be — Get to Work


The following is from the March 9, 2009, edition of Texas Lawyer.  Karen Sargent of SMU's Dedman School of Law provided expertise for this story.

March 12, 2009

By Brenda Sapino Jeffreys
Texas Lawyer

It may not be time for desperate measures quite yet, but career services offices at Texas law schools are doing more this year to help worried students find clerkships and permanent positions as the troubled economy crimps the job market.

The mood of the law students around Texas is one of concern and worry, if not panic, say career services officials at several Texas law schools. . .

The bottom line is consistent from school to school: Positions are scarce, so students need to put more effort into their job hunts.

While career services officials are trying new ways to connect students to prospective employers, some tried-and-true methods aren't working as well. For instance, Karen Sargent, assistant dean and director of career services at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas, says the career services office usually generates job postings from firms of various sizes after sending e-mails or postcards to firm contacts reminding them about the law school. But recently, she says, it's mostly smaller firms that respond with job opportunities for students. . .

On March 2, Sargent says, she and Dean John Attanasio held two seminars to give second- and third-year law students at SMU some "straight information" on the economy and the state of the legal market. She says the students need to understand they must "call on their inner strengths and resources and adjust their expectations."

Amanda Ellis, a recruiter in Dallas who graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 2001, gave the SMU students some advice at the seminars. Ellis says she told students to network creatively, such as through Twitter, and to network with individuals who do business with lawyers, such as consultants or accountants. She also suggested looking for jobs outside the big cities, like she did in 2001 when she moved to Boston after graduation and landed a job at a firm 40 miles outside the city. She says students who are becoming lawyers as a second career should try to leverage their past experience, such as a former teacher practicing school law.

Ellis told students to be open to possibilities. "What you do right now does not mean you will be doing it 10 years from now," she says she told the students.

While technology can help students contact prospective employers, Sargent says, the SMU career services office this month is sponsoring a "good old-fashioned résumé drop" for second-year students. She's asking students to put paper copies of their résumés in practice-area buckets, and her office is contacting alumni to let them know about the buckets of résumés.

Also, Sargent says, last week her office started distributing to students a brochure comprised of letters from alumni of the law school with their best job-hunting advice. The office solicited advice from lawyers who graduated in 1991 and 1992 and 2001 and 2002, which are years when firms were feeling the effects of previous economic downturns.

Read the full story.

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