Job Searches, Law Schools

Need Résumé Help? Don’t Bother Career Services, They Might Be Too Busy.

So I’ve quit my job at Debevoise and I’ve spent six glorious months on my couch. Life is good. My wife is making money and paying the bills; my new dog has become a wonderful friend (first Monday of my Biglaw liberation I went to the ASPCA). My Michigan college football dynasty is undefeated in EA College Football (I root for Michigan sports, long story).

But I know it can’t last. I know eventually I’ll have to get a real job (ish). And I know that I don’t want to go back to doing what I had been doing, so I make what seems to me to be the most logical call in the universe: the Career Services Office at Harvard Law School. Remember, these were the people who told me that I could do all sorts of things with a law degree besides the Biglaw thing that most people did with law degrees. This was the school that owned all my outstanding debts. These were the people, if any, who could help me in my time of professional ennui.

And they did. After emailing and calling in and setting up a phone appointment, I was talking not to some receptionist flunky, but the full-on Dean for Career Services, Mark Weber. And he tried to help. Turned out I really had no clue what I wanted to do next, so much of his advice was basic stuff like “we have lots of successful alumni, you should call them.” The point is that I felt like my law school still cared about my career and still had resources to help me, years after I graduated.

Of course, that was back during the salad days at Harvard Law. Apparently, things are very different during these challenging times at NYU Law School. A recent grad there emailed his career services office looking for help, and was told pretty clearly that nobody had time to assist him.

See, our guy had one job, and it would seem NYU Law is in some kind of triage mode…

A tipster sent in a letter requesting help from the NYU Office of Career Services. He’s a 2011 graduate who has one job and is looking for another. He wanted some résumé pointers to aid him in his search. So, to a large extent, he’s one of the winners. He’s one of the people who probably doesn’t already hate his law school and doesn’t feel like he’s been sold a bill of goods.

You’d think that OCS would be eager to help this man. I’d go into more detail about his situation, but it doesn’t really matter to this story because it didn’t really matter to NYU Law. Our tipster received an automated, slightly alarming response from the law school.

Dear Graduate:

This is to confirm receipt of your message to the Office of Career Services. We are currently receiving a very heavy volume of email from alumni (much of it time-sensitive) and are replying to all requests for assistance in the order received and as soon as possible. While we make every effort to respond in a prompt and thoughtful way to the many alumni who write to us each year, the office is extraordinarily busy and subject to many unexpected emergencies, thus, your patience when communicating with us is appreciated.

If you are writing on a matter of extreme urgency, please call our front desk at [redacted] or write to [redacted] during business hours.

I’d bet all of the money in my pocket that if this dude had emailed the “alumni giving office,” he wouldn’t have gotten an automated response telling him to be patient.

The tipster is a 2011 grad with a job in an office. If you are a 2012 grad who is giving jobs in an alley, you probably agree that your inquiry is more pressing. And if you are set to graduate in 2013 with no job, you can bet that OCS is doing everything it can to help you out and prop up its employed-upon-graduation statistics. If you have to triage, sending form emails to employed 2011 graduates is an entirely reasonable place to start.

But here’s the point: what’s the ratio of emails to available staff time at NYU Law’s office of alumni giving? How many professors do they have working on advanced scholarship relative to the demand for such publications? How many law librarians do they have?

If the office of career services is “extraordinarily busy,” then why hasn’t NYU Law hired enough staff to cover all of the bases? What, did this market sneak up on them? Are they surprised that students and alumni are demanding these services now more than ever? At this point, what in the world is all that tuition going to if not for the best career services team money can buy? Is NYU really wasting all of its money on faculty condos like this?

If you were designing a law school that really cared about the things that matter to students, wouldn’t the career services team be well-paid and well-connected opportunity mavens who strutted around campus with Bluetooth devices acting like Bob Sugar from Jerry Maguire? Wouldn’t it be the tax professors who share a bullpen office with stale coffee, and every time you show up for office hours you’d feel like you are taking them away from an intense game of spider solitaire?

I’ve said this before: the Office of Career Services should be the most expensive thing on campus BECAUSE JOBS ARE THE POINT OF LAW SCHOOL. If you have a good career services office, you’ll barely need a cloying and desperate alumni office. And if you have a great OCS operation, you’ll be able to take the hit of having fewer professors writing law review articles that nobody ever reads.

To go back to the triage analogy, law schools are putting all of their time into the recruitment of new officers and not enough time into the recruitment of new medics.

(hidden for your protection)

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