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New programs offer job hunting secrets

October 25, 2013

Seattle University School of Law is helping students develop the job-hunting savvy they'll need in a competitive marketplace with two new programs — the Find a Job series of panel discussions and a robust mentoring plan for 3Ls.

Between the two, students will have a chance to pick up the street smarts they might not learn in the classroom.

Shawn Lipton"We wanted to make sure students have an easy way to connect to the legal community," said Shawn Lipton, assistant dean of the law school's Center for Professional Development.

The Find a Job series began in mid-September and features guest speakers every Thursday. Topics have included finding a career in social justice, landing a non-traditional legal job, and the secrets of networking. The speakers, usually alumni, visit for about an hour at lunchtime in a casual setting open to all students.

Lipton said one of the most popular topics, attracting nearly 60 students, was a nuts and bolts discussion of litigation and transactional law. Students learned not just the difference between the two, but also how to tell which one best suits their strengths and what they can do during law school to set themselves up for a future career in one or the other.

"These discussions give students a better sense of what people do, and how they landed after law school," he said. "They're hearing stories straight from the horses' mouths."

The mentoring program offers similar benefits, but in a one-on-one setting. Alumni are paired with 3Ls, and both agree to an eight-month commitment with at least eight in-person meetings over that time period.

Both mentor and mentee sign a contract that formalizes the agreement and includes at least three "action items" from each of three categories - Ethics and Professionalism, Paths to Employment, and Service and the Profession.

Action items include things like discussing how to use social media to build a legal practice, how to figure out career objectives, how to maintain a professional network, and how to find ways to give back to the community.

The hope is that the mentor and student will build a mutually beneficial relationship that continues beyond the program and serves both people well in their respective careers.

"Seventy to 80 percent of jobs aren't posted anywhere. They aren't advertised," Lipton said. "Jobs happen because of these networking relationships."

Alia Ahmed, a 2006 graduate who helped developed the mentoring program and serves as a mentor herself, says her motivation stems from personal experience.

"I have no attorneys in my family.  So, navigating law school and developing a career in law was a new experience for me," she said. "When I started my career, however, I was lucky to connect with an experienced attorney who served as a mentor. My career would not have been the same without my mentor's assistance."

The law school has offered mentoring programs previously, but prior efforts were less structured and open to students in other years. By focusing a concentrated effort on 3Ls, the program aims to help law students at the time they most need it.

Ahmed, now a partner at Wong Fleming, appreciates the ease of a more casual mentoring arrangement, but she says the structure of the new program helps students who have a harder time with networking.

"It ensures access to those who need it most," she said. "Often, law students that may not naturally develop a mentoring relationship are the ones who could benefit most."

The mentoring program also provides a valuable bridge to practice. "Although law school prepares you for work as an attorney, it can't fully prepare law students for the daily realities of practicing law," Ahmed said. "I hear this often from attorneys after graduation, and my belief is that this is where a mentor can come in."