Career Services

Banks need panic buttons. Jodie Foster needs a panic room. I only panic when it’s nine in the afternoon. But the thought that American law schools should have a panic button in their career services office didn’t occur to me until I attended the NALP panel on spotting mental health issue in the law school community.

The panel consisted of Hanna Stotland, a career and admissions consultant; Dr. Nada Stotland, Professor of Psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center; and William Chamberlain, Director of Career Services at DePaul Law School.

I thought I was in for a touchy-feely hour about how it’s wrong to exclude the awkward gunner in the front row from all the reindeer games. Instead it was a sobering medical breakdown of the mental illnesses that afflict 20 percent of law students — and what career services officers can do to help stop people from literally killing themselves, which happens at way more law schools than I realized.

And yeah, your CSO should probably get a panic button installed if it doesn’t have one already….

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Hello again from the 2013 annual education conference of the Association for Legal Career Professionals (aka NALP). People here are very friendly — although, as noted earlier, the law firm folks tend to be more welcoming to us than the law school crew.

That’s to be expected, given our sometimes critical coverage of law schools. We seek to promote consumer awareness when it comes to legal education, but some schools — especially those schools with weaker job outcomes for their graduates — perceive this as an attack.

Yesterday I attended a NALP panel discussion about law school transparency. In the course of discussing what we talk about when we talk about transparency, the panelists provided five defenses that law schools can use when faced with criticism over unemployed or underemployed graduates….

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There are two sides to law school career services. One side you meet at conferences and events. The CSO employees you meet in public are smart, earnest people. They care about their students, and they know better than their deans the challenges of the legal job market. They’re pleasing to look at and interested in meaningful reform. You end conversations with them feeling like they’re underpaid.

The other side of CSO is the side you only hear about from the disgruntled students who actually need them. If the student has a job, they say there is one good CSO person in an office beset by lazy morons. If the 3L doesn’t have a job, the whole office is a solitaire-playing, baby-making, incompetent den of secretaries who are contractually obligated to use the word “network” in every single sentence.

I think both sides are true. There are some real CSO gems who work hard, and the law schools like to show these people off. But the system of law school career services is based on legal jobs economy that is gone and never coming back. People are using 2003 skills to contend with the 2013 job market, and it’s failing students all across the country.

It’s failing even students at Ivy League schools, as this story will point out. But I have two simple solutions that law schools could implement for next fall that would significantly improve the performance of law school CSOs….

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A couple weeks ago, we shared with you some of our survey data, which showed that, generally speaking, law students’ experiences with their schools degrade over time. The ATL Insider Survey asks law students and alumni to rate their schools in the areas of academic instruction, career counseling, financial aid advising, practical/clinical training, and social life. When the ratings by first-year students are compared with those of third-years, the 3L scores are lower across the board, in all categories. In other words, the longer students are exposed to their schools, the lower their regard for the institution becomes. More equals worse.

We wondered whether or how this downward trajectory manifests itself after the students become alumni. After the jump, we compare the perceptions of students to those of graduates. The answer may surprise you, but probably not. Also, we identify the law schools where there is the greatest contrast between the views of current students and alumni — both negatively and positively….

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When it comes to the Law Clerk Hiring Plan, the voluntary set of guidelines to put federal law clerk hiring on a standard timetable, one might say, “The ship be sinking.”

Actually, scratch that. The ship be sunk, and barnacles are growing all over its hull.

We declared the Plan dead last June, when at least two top schools decided not to participate in it. But now the Plan is, well, dead and growing cold and decomposing.

Yesterday brought word that an über-prestigious court, one that gunners across the land would sacrifice body parts to clerk for (who needs a pinky finger anyway), is abandoning the Plan….

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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…

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We’ve done a surprising number of stories about law school career service officers who push babysitting gigs on their unemployed students. I say “surprising” because after our first story, you’d think law schools would figure out that law students don’t like being put up for jobs that they could have secured in high school.

Since that first one, most CSO personnel and other law school staffers have figured out that babysitting jobs are best when the employer is a professor or somebody else connected with the law school. Then it’s less of a “career of last resort” and more of “helping out a member of your community” (who happens to be well-connected).

But it looks like one school has regressed to the point of just insulting its students with a babysitting ad that kind of rubs salt in the unemployment wound….

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Last month, we reported on the continued unraveling of the Law Clerk Hiring Plan (hereinafter “the Plan”). We cited, as evidence, the recent announcement by Georgetown University Law Center that it would be diverging in certain respects from the Plan.

Now another top law school — a top, top law school, one that sends many of its graduates into clerkships — has joined Georgetown in departing from the Plan. And the school’s dean has offered a full-throated defense of the decision to diverge.

Which school are we talking about? And is its argument persuasive?

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Over the past few days, we’ve received numerous emails from our readers asking about the fate of the Clerkship Scramble. This website, a popular read among the clerkship-crazed (we count ourselves in this camp), went offline sometime last week, on or about July 4. If you go to its former address, you’ll encounter this message: “Sorry, the blog at clerkshipscramble.blogspot.com has been removed. This address is not available for new blogs.” The site archives are gone, and they don’t seem to be available via Google Cache either (at least not on a comprehensive basis).

The Clerkship Scramble has been gone for just about a week, and readers already miss it. Fans have described it to us as “very useful,” “a promising site that filled a much-needed information gap,” “the best unofficial resource for law students applying to clerkships,” and “so good!” The site maintained data about clerkship placement rates by law school, compiled rankings of Supreme Court feeder judges, offered advice about the application process, and broke clerkship-related news (such as Georgetown Law’s decision to abandon the Law Clerk Hiring Plan).

So what happened to the Clerkship Scramble?

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CSO officers are usually pretty hot.

It’s been a while since we had a good Xtranormal video. Everybody remembers the brilliant “So You Want To Go To Law School” video.

That video is a cautionary tale for people at the beginning of the law school process. But you don’t need to tell unemployed graduates that the “hilarity” of law school extends beyond your three years on campus.

We’ve go a funny little video about a recent graduate’s interaction with Career Services. One positive thing to look forward to is that most CSO administrators look as good in real life and they do in Lego-esque cartoon blocks…

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