A five-member panel of Duquesne Law School graduates spoke to students on October 11 about their personal experiences and recommendations for succeeding in the tough legal job market. The program, Beyond OCI – Successful Job Strategies of Recent Graduates, addressed topics that the panel considered vital to breaking into the legal field, including networking, confidence, job hunting and interviewing.
“Market, market, market,” said Bryan Brantley, L ’04. “You have to think of yourself as a commodity, you have to sell yourself,” said Brantley, who now does product and consumer litigation work at McGuireWoods LLP.
Marketing yourself is about “making yourself known” during the internships and clerkships that are available during law school, said Robert Fisher, Jr., L ’03 and attorney for Edgar Snyder & Associates. Fisher encouraged students to become “visible” on the job by socializing with the attorneys that they work with.
When meeting an attorney for the first time, “don’t just ask for a job,” said Melissa Ruefle Spencer, L ’04 at Caroselli, Beacher, McTiernan, and Conboy. “It’s awkard.” Instead, ask for advice about how to find a job, have an informal conversation about your interest in the legal field, and politely ask that if the attorney hears about any opportunities to get in touch with you, she said. Spencer said that this more subtle form of networking can pay off for students with little practical experience to lean on.
Networking doesn’t always have to be done in the workplace, Fisher clarified. He suggested students befriend fellow students who may one day be successful and make excellent contacts in the legal field. “You guys have to stick together,” he said “you have to form your own network.”
Confidence was a common theme for the panel, and they agreed that it played a critical role in many aspects of job acquisition, including networking and making an impression at the interview.
As an evening student who worked to pay for her attendance at law school, Jessica Jurasko, L ’04, didn’t have time to get the practical legal experience that her peers did through their clerkships. Jurasko, now currently works at eCap Network LLC, recommended that students in that position get involved in a clinic program to help them get some hands-on experience while earning credits toward graduation.
The panel suggested that resumes and cover letters be specifically tailored to the firm that the student is applying for. At the very least, “instead of saying ‘your firm,’ say McGuireWoods,” Brantley said. “You know, fill in the blanks.” Spelling and grammar, he said, are also key.
Appearance and presentation during networking and job interviews is also essential to making a good impression, said Kimberly Tague, L ’04 working at Fenchel Law Offices PLLC. She said that although “don’t look like a slob” may seem like obvious advice, she speaks with many networking students and job seekers who “look like they just rolled out of class” wearing hoodies and flip flops. Tague also recommended that the prudent job seeker research the firm and interviewer before sitting down for the interview. This enables the interviewee to show off his knowledge about specific aspects of the firm, and demonstrates his diligence, she said.
The event was hosted by the Career Services Office and the Allegheny County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division.