Career Counselors’ Corner: Alvita Barrow

Photo of counselor Alvita BarrowWhat’s your favorite part of being in OCPD? 

I enjoy most the opportunity to develop relationships with the students – to watch them arrive, whether they think they know what they want to do or have no clue, and then watch them develop during their time here as they get a clearer sense of who they are and the things that are important to them.

What advice do you wish you had received in law school?

I wish someone had advised me to make the effort to reach out and talk more with my professors outside of the classroom.  Once during my 3L year, I ran into one of my favorite professors in the grocery store which led to a meeting later over lunch. I realized then how much time I had wasted in not trying to get to know some of the professors outside of class.

What’s the best career-related advice you ever received?

Many years ago, as I profusely apologized to an employer and explained my reasons for turning down a job offer, the employer stopped me and told me not to apologize. She reminded me that just as they had been checking me out, I had every right to check them out also. It is advice that has saved me time and effort in even applying for certain positions that I knew, upon reflection, would not be a good fit for me.

What’s your greatest weakness?

I love storytelling, which can be both a big weakness and a strength, particularly in a position such as mine where listening is critical. Before I dive in and share a story that I think is relevant or might be helpful to a particular student with whom I am meeting, I have to remind myself that storytelling can lead to too much talking and that I need first to seek to listen and understand.

Why did you decide to work in career services?

I served as managing director of the clinic at Catholic’s law school for about 18 years and during that time, I always enjoyed talking with the students who would seek me out for career advice. Over time, I came to enjoy those conversations more than many of the other tasks that necessarily consumed my day. When I learned of the opportunity here at Wake Forest, the timing and the fit seemed right.

Tell us something about you that’s not on your resume.

Looking at my resume, which includes time spent in excess of 30 years in New York and Washington, DC, it would surprise many people that I actually was born and grew up in a very small town in the northeastern part of North Carolina. When I left the state to attend law school, I harbored an interest and expectation that I would return to North Carolina. I just had no idea that my eventual return would be more than 30 years later and that it would be here in Winston-Salem.

What do you do when you’re not in the office?

In some respects, I still consider myself a newcomer to the area and so I like exploring different area walking trails, coffee shops, and antique and consignment shops. My husband, who was born in Panama, likes to remind me that he was able to walk to the ocean when he was growing up and so we always have to include periodic trips to the beach, even if it’s just for the day. Also, and most importantly, we have twin daughters who live in Arlington, Virginia, and we travel up to the area regularly to visit with them.

What celebrity would you like to meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee?

Even with my appreciation for a good cup of coffee from Starbucks, let’s plan the meeting at Krankies instead – that way, we are in Winston, able to enjoy a great cup of coffee, without rushing or being interrupted by a legion of other people potentially vying for a selfie or quick handshake. Now, as for the celebrity, I would say Bill Gates. I am not sure if he considers himself a celebrity, but I do know that he is a person of great influence and that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation does some great work. I would love to share with him a few thoughts about how the Foundation can expand the ways it works to make a difference in people’s lives, especially in many of the poor and struggling areas of this country.

Career Counselors’ Corner: Dean Francie Scott

Get to know your career office! In this seriesPhoto of Assistant Dean Scott, we pose some of our favorite interview questions to each of the members of the Office of Career & Professional Development, as well as some general queries to learn more about their lives and interests. First up, Dean Francie Scott.

What’s your favorite part of being Dean?

I love being the visionary for an organization. I sort of consider the OCPD an independent entity within the law school – we’re part of the law school’s educational mission, but we also work to accomplish an individual mission, which is to ensure each student gains the professional skills, tools, and resources they need to pursue their chosen career paths. As the leader of the OCPD, I get to work with the team to develop our priorities, set goals, and evaluate all we’re doing to accomplish our mission. While there’s a certainty to day-to-day activities, there’s plenty of room for creativity and innovation in how we’re delivering our message and getting things done. That’s really exciting and fun for me.

What advice do you wish you had received in law school?

I wish someone had convinced me to pursue work I really enjoyed. Right out of law school, I took a high-paying job with great prestige, working with some really smart people, but I was completely unfulfilled by the day-to-day work. Looking back, though, I don’t regret the path I took. There were a lot of outside factors that made it the right choice at the time, and it’s hard to say it was the wrong choice, because I’m very happy with where I ended up.

What’s your greatest weakness?

I can be a little thin-skinned. I tend to take criticism personally, even though I try to let it roll off my back. I think it’s because I’m really passionate about my work and about having an impact, so it’s hard on me when I find that something hasn’t worked out how I intended.

Why did you decide to work in career services?

I really love working with people. I’m fascinated by what makes people tick, what brought them to a particular place in their lives, what motivates them. This work combines my interest in developing strong relationships with my desire to help people achieve their goals. I consider it a great privilege.

Tell us something about you that’s not on your resume.

I played the French horn for four years, from fifth through eighth grade. I was terrible – like, really terrible – but my parents made me stick with it for FOUR YEARS. Looking back, I actually think that was a smart decision, it taught me that not everything would come easily to me, and that sometimes you have to work hard to be good at something.

What do you do when you’re not in the office?

I have two sons who are 7 and 10 years old, so right now I spend a lot of time watching Little League games or hanging out at the pool. I also teach cycling classes at the local YMCA. In any free time left I can be found reading a good book – I especially love character-driven novels about families and relationships.

What are your favorite restaurants in Winston-Salem?

Mozelle’s. 18 Malaysia. Prissy Polly’s Barbecue in Kernersville. Kitchen Roselli in East Bend.

What is your favorite zoo animal?

Chimps, or really any kind of primate. They remind me of my children.

Plan Your Summer with an Interview Program in Mind

A map of all the job fairs WFU Law participates as outlined in the web page linked at the bottom of this article.


click to enlarge

Wake Forest University School of Law participates in more than 25 off-campus interview programs that take place all over the country each year, including over 15 diversity off-campus interview programs. As a student, you have access to employers who may not participate in on-campus interviewing due to distance and time constraints, or who may be seeking students with specific credentials or characteristics.

Location specific off-campus interview programs include: the New England Interview Program (NEIP), the Southern Legal Interview Program in Dallas, Texas (formerly Texas Interview Program) & the Southern Legal Interview Program in Atlanta, Georgia.

Practice specific off-campus interview programs include: Southeastern Intellectual Property Job Fair (SIPJF) in Atlanta, GA, the annual Equal Justice Works Conference & Career Fair, and the Loyola Patent Law Interview Program in Chicago, IL.

View the Complete List of Off-Campus Interview Programs for 2018

Entry-Level Public Defender Hiring: What’s the Secret?

Living a life of public service and being a public defender is a high calling. On a human level, it can be one of the most rewarding jobs a lawyer can have. On a practical level, public defenders acquire significant transferable skills: experience “standing up” in court; confidence interacting with clients, opposing counsel, and judges; the ability to juggle multiple priorities and cases. But how does one obtain a rewarding public defender job post-graduation?

Many public defender offices hire entry-level classes each year, so their hiring is fairly regularized. Some offices begin a hiring process in the fall for their class in the following fall. For example, offices in New York hire pre-bar because law graduates in New York can practice so long as they take the first bar exam after their graduation. In other states, such as California or Maryland, offices do not make hiring offers until after applicants have passed the bar, but they may hire 3Ls into “law clerk” positions pending bar exam results.

Other Tips for the Post-Grad Hiring Process: References 

Because the post-graduate hiring process can be competitive, a great recommendation for students would be to ask one professor or previous employer if they would be willing to make a phone call or send an email before the employer contacts them (in other words, ask the reference to do “outreach”). This technique demonstrates to the employer that a reference thinks very highly of the applicant. Note that this technique should only be used once per application; please consult with your career counselor if you wonder when the best time is for requesting a reference. It is usually most effective around the time of an interview. For example, the Criminal Defense Practice of New York Legal Aid prefers to receive calls from students who need recommendations after they have been notified of an interview with him but before the interview takes place.

Need more information on applying to public defender jobs? Check out the NC Public Defender Directory in order to contact your local office. You can also check out PSJD’s complete resource list on Postgraduate Fellowships and the NC Court System – Public Defenders Information.

5 Benefits of Cover Letters

Guest Blog by Vault.com’s Sarah Kuhn

Including a cover letter is a great way to express your interest in a company and stand out against other candidates. Many candidates choose not to include cover letters, so putting in a little extra work can really go the extra mile for you in the long run.

Of course, the overall idea is to make sure you are writing a proper cover letter: it should be specific to the position you’re applying for, centered on what you’d bring to the table, and not focused on what you’d want out of the company in terms of salary, progression or other demands.

The five points below will explain the benefits of a cover letter and review how writing one can set you apart from the competition.

1) Recruiters will see who put the work in

Just the fact that not everyone includes cover letters with their resume is reason enough to write one. It’s an extra touch that will help you stand out as a candidate. If you can personalize it with the name of your contact or a specific person with hiring power within the company, that will display additional effort and initiative as well. Take the time, because others won’t.

2) Your resume is factual, your cover letter is personal

Use a cover letter to shed light on the details of your resume. A cover letter gives you the opportunity to tell your professional story in a way that’s more personal. For example, you could address a large gap in employment or change in career path. Bring your resume to life by referencing it in a personal letter to your professional contact within a company.

3) Demonstrate your interest

Putting in the additional work of writing a cover letter shows that you value the time of the individual receiving your resume enough to reciprocate by taking the time and effort to write them directly. You’re willing to put action behind entrance into their company. This is the perfect place to express why you want to work for them. Tell the company why you’d be a good fit for the position. Tell them why you want the position.

4) Show you’ve done your research

Use company-specific examples of what made you look to them as an employer, what sparked your interest in them, or any company initiatives that align with your values. Immediately, this approach sets you apart from mass LinkedIn applications, or individuals who have just clicked a button to apply with no care for the company deeper than the position at hand. Employers value loyalty, and this tactic will help set you apart as a candidate that wants a career, rather than to use the position as the next stop in your job hop.

5) Give them a taste of who you are

Depending on your writing style or skill level, you can get really creative with how you let your personality show through a cover letter. But no matter how skilled you are, it’s important to keep your cover letter concise so that the content is impactful. Make sure to sound professional—you can even use borrowed language from the company itself—but ultimately the voice of the cover letter should be your own.

These five benefits will help you as a candidate by providing leverage that an application or resume alone wouldn’t allow. While your resume provides an overview of your skills and experience, the cover letter is your opportunity to express your personality through paper. Give yourself a leg up on competition by supplying your potential employer with a chance to learn more about you.

The Post-Holiday Job Search

Now that the holidays are in your wake, take into consideration that the early part of the year isn’t quite business as usual. Understanding this will let you make appropriate adjustments and use your time wisely. Here are some thoughts to help you get your search back on track:

1. Reestablish your routine. Even the most dedicated job-seeker saw his or her carefully plotted search plan rendered moot around the middle of December. Some, recognizing the inevitability of this, opted to visit family or friends with the idea of starting anew in January. Many, however, made no such conscious choice and found that their search ground to a halt amid unanswered e-mail and un-returned phone calls.

Regardless of which camp you fall into, you may be finding it hard to get back to a routine that seemed largely meaningless for three weeks. But re-imposing discipline will not only ensure that you resume productive behavior but it also will prevent a slow drift into depression. So, start setting the alarm for a reasonable time again. Prepare a written schedule of your weekly activities, including to-do lists. And reclaim the space that you were using as your “office.” These basic tasks will help you recapture the mind-set you need when job-hunting.

2. Be patient. Once you’re back on your routine, you’ll be all fired up. So you’ll find it particularly frustrating to discover that your job-search network isn’t as responsive as it was prior to the holidays. This doesn’t mean that you’ve hit a roadblock. What it does indicate is that all the people that you rely upon for future employment are also laboring to reestablish their own routines, which they also lost control of weeks ago. Even those people who are desperate to hire in early January will still take a week or more to excavate the pile that has accumulated since mid-December. Until they do that, everything else is generally put on hold, including the hiring process — and answering your e-mail and returning your calls.

No matter how much you might like or need the process to move faster, nothing will return to a semblance of normality until mid-January. Remember this so you won’t panic when the world fails immediately to match your renewed enthusiasm.

3. Do other things. Networking may be difficult right now, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be productive. Now is an excellent time to revisit your resume and other marketing materials to ensure that they’re current and reflect you in the best possible light. Think about this not just in relation to your written materials, but to how you present yourself overall. Are you eloquent about your accomplishments, pertinent skill sets, and potential contributions when speaking to perspective employers? If not, now is a good time to work on that so you can make the most of the upcoming opportunities. Practice — on your own or with someone else — until you have your patter down. Are your job-hunting clothes all set? It’s not a bad idea to make sure they still fit after the holidays.

Early January is also an ideal time to do research on industries, companies, and individuals that are crucial for your search. If you think you might be interested in an area where you haven’t previously worked, use this time to investigate it. Or if you have a big meeting later in the month, use this time to bone up on the industry, the company, and the people you’ll be talking to. Make sure that you use this time wisely so you’ll be fully prepared when the working world reengages and turns its thoughts to new hires.

4. Be optimistic. The old year is gone — and so is the fiscal 12-month period. Many companies that didn’t have the budget to hire last year now have the funds to do so. In fact, there’s often pent-up demand owing to the fact that managers who were eager to hire four to five months ago now have the resources they lacked. On top of that, the New Year brings a sense of renewal and optimism to many companies, which makes the first quarter a particularly good time to secure new employment. So even though you’re unemployed, you can feel cautiously optimistic about your professional future.

Land A Law Job by Volunteering

Are you currently in the hunt for a legal position? Consider volunteering. It could be just the ticket to a rewarding career. And it doesn’t even matter so much where you volunteer, as long as you show up with open mind and a good attitude. One study showed that volunteering increases your odds of getting a job by 27 percent.

Volunteering is not about earning brownie points or padding your resume. It’s about doing something for the sake of doing it – and because it’s the right thing to do.

“Volunteering allows you to try on different organizations, roles, issues, etc., without job-hopping,” according to Ideal Careers. “Of course, volunteering isn’t the same as being on staff, but it can expose you to the work of an organization in a deeper way than becoming a member, following it on Twitter, or even conducting an informational interview with an employee.”

And the best part: random acts of volunteerism can open doors to all sorts of new career opportunities. Read More or check out the many volunteer activities with the NC Bar Association. Here are some of them:

  • 4All Statewide Service Day
  • Law-Related Education Partners
  • Lawyer on the Line
  • NC Lawyers For Entrepreneurs Assistance Program (LEAP)
  • NC LEAP Inventor Assistance Program (Patent Law)
  • Veterans Pro Bono Network
  • Wills for Heroes

Lay the Foundation of Your Network Now. Reap the Rewards Later.

Networking is the process of building relationships with professionals and other relevant contacts in your field of interest. While relevant to the job search, engaging in targeted networking has far more benefits. Meeting and connecting with professionals helps you assimilate into the profession, learn about the day-to-day life of various areas of practice, and start to build the relationship skills that will ultimately benefit you in practice.

Some students cringe at the term “networking,” imagining awkward cocktail parties with individuals competing to get noticed and exchange business cards. For other students, the prospect of getting outside the classroom and meeting professionals is invigorating. The good news is that networking can take many forms, and we encourage students to engage in a networking process that plays to your individual strengths.

Networking can mean attending formal events like Inn of Court, bar association receptions, and law firm cocktail parties. But networking often takes place more informally, through one-on-one connections with professionals. This can be a pre-arranged informational interview, conversation over lunch or coffee, or simply a brief exchange following a law school panel or program. What’s important is to recognize that all encounters with professionals have an impact, whether it’s developing your own professional identity and reputation, or providing leads in your job search.

The process of building relationships takes time. In our culture of immediate gratification and instant messaging, it’s important to view networking as a long-term investment. The time you spend speaking with one person rarely leads directly to a job opportunity, and sometimes you have to spend time talking with someone who may not be practicing in your area of interest. But these connections can lead to other connections, which lead to other connections, which ultimately can help you reach your goals.

A Distinguished Career Starts With Networking

Law school contains fertile networking grounds. That’s where law students may have the opportunity to “network” with: other law students; the alumni; adjunct professors, full time faculty members and the administrative staff, guest lecturers, suppliers to the school, parents of other students and even possibly paying and pro bono clients of the faculty practicing law. But there are numerous other places to network to maximize your growing professional network beyond just law school contacts. These include bar association events, CLE meetings, social events, and more. But why is all this networking so important?

Why Network? Why Bother?
The real payoff from being an exceptional networker and developer of sustainable relationships will impact every aspect of your life including your career, your personal life and your family’s lives. If you do a weak job of developing as a skilled networker, you definitely will limit your professional growth. The more robust your network, the more access you have to other special people and their unique contacts, experiences, knowledge. You leverage your life through your clusters of connections.

Keys to Being a Successful Networker
Being great at networking isn’t hard. We are all capable of excelling at doing it. And in today’s digital/social media age, you don’t necessarily have to be an extrovert to be great at it. Maybe the most important factor in determining how good of a networker you are is simply having a strong, sincere interest in learning about and adding value to other people’s lives. You have to get comfortable talking with everybody, everywhere, all the time, whether it’s via email communication, on the phone, or in person. Practice pays off when it comes to developing strong networking abilities.

Where to Start?
Start slow. Try out your networking skills at your next social gathering whether it’s golf outing, group dinner, or party. Get a feel for working the room, thoughtfully introducing yourself, and ultimately conquering the networking jitters. Then move on to bigger events such as law school events, NCBA Table Talk, or area luncheons and CLEs. After the event, seek feedback from your peers and colleagues on what networking skills you need to brush up on and in time, you’ll be ready to tackle a larger, professional networking event. Soon after, you’ll be expanding your network and adding tremendous value to your career.

7 Tips for What You Should (And Shouldn’t) Do at Your Callback

Not only did you make it through the hectic OCI season with some excellent interview experience, but employers are now inviting you back for additional interviews. Great job! Now is the time to be excited! It is also the time to plan. You hit it off with the on-campus interviewer and now you must plan for the next round of interviewers at the callback. Keep in mind some of these dos and don’ts for the callback, courtesy of the hiring director at an AmLaw 100 firm:

1. Wear a suit-even if the firm insists it’s a relaxed, casual place. This applies to both men and women. Don’t get fooled by the “business casual” stuff. According to this hiring director, go for business formal — though pants suits are perfectly fine for women these days. She also advises: “Iron your shirt or blouse and steam out the wrinkles in your suit. Use a lint brush.” Unsure about something you are wearing? Best to not wear it.

2. Do not wear perfume or cologne. Take a shower and use deodorant — that’s enough. “I’ve been in offices a few hours after lawyers meet a candidate and sometimes you can still smell the cologne,” says this hiring director. You want to be remembered for your skills and great talent, not your scent.

3. Find out who’s interviewing you, then Google them. Don’t just read the employer bios. Google them, too. “Note any recent cases or clients [because] attorneys do love to talk about themselves.” The employer didn’t tell you who will be interviewing you? No sweat: Just call the recruiting department and ask! But be prepared for last minute changes.

4. When you show up, treat everyone nicely. “Be friendly and engaging to the receptionist or whoever is greeting you. This shows that you can work and interact with staff and attorneys alike.”

5. During the interview, ask questions, then more questions. ”Even if you’ve asked the same questions six times, ask them again.” And never ever say, “no I don’t have any questions.” Moreover, if the interviewer asks you a question, “don’t use one word answer; always elaborate.” You should also know your own resume-inside and out as you can potentially be asked questions about your activities, clubs, awards, classes, etc.

6. But don’t ask mundane questions. Save questions about salary, recruiting process, maternity/paternity leaves, reimbursement of travel expenses, retirement plans, etc. for the hiring director or coordinator. “Use your time wisely with the attorneys-talk about you, their practice, and their company.”

7. Send a brief thank-you note. You don’t need to pull out your monogrammed stationery. Email is now acceptable. But it’s always a good idea to include something about your discussion with the interviewers. “It shows they made an impression on you.”

Even if you decide to forgo a callback from the start, or you go to the callback, get an offer, then decide to cross the employer off your list, you should promptly and gracefully decline the invitation or offer with a call, followed by an email confirmation. (It’s also a nice touch to tell the employer where you end up.) ”You may want to work at the company [you've turned down] one day, and the recruiting director might remember that you didn’t return her call!”