advice

Want to work for the federal government? Here’s how!

The federal government has approximately 111,700 employees working in the legal field, including attorneys, law clerks, paralegal specialists, and contract representatives.  Even more employees with JDs work in policy-related positions, legislative liaison roles, etc.

In July 2012, the government implemented its new Pathways programs, streamlined developmental programs aimed at employment opportunities for students and recent graduates in the federal workforce.

Internships

The Pathways Internship Program provides paid internship opportunities for current students to work in federal agencies. Students who successfully complete the program may be eligible for conversion to a permanent job in the civil service. Internships are administered by each individual agency, but some agencies must post opportunities on www.usajobs.gov/studentsandgrads, making searching for these opportunities easier while others post internship positions directly on their website.

The Government Honors & Internship Guide, published by the University of Arizona College of Law, is a great resource for learning more about government internships and keeping track of deadlines.  The Guide, available at http://www.law.arizona.edu/career/honorshandbook.cfm includes information on opportunities at a number of federal agencies. The OCPD maintains an annual subscription – contact us for login information.

Entry-Level Positions

There are essentially three ways to obtain an entry-level position with the federal government: (1) the new Recent Graduates Program, part of the Pathways programs; (2) Honors Programs; and (3) the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program.

Pathways Recent Graduates Program: This program is intended to streamline hiring for recent graduates.  Students are eligible for the program for up to two years after graduation. The program lasts for one year (unless the training requirements of the position warrant a longer and more structured training program). All agencies are required to provide the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) with information about available positions, and OPM posts the information publicly on www.usajobs.gov/studentsandgrads/ about how to apply for specific positions.

Honors Programs: Many federal agencies (including the Department of Justice) hire new attorneys primarily through Honors Programs. These usually require a two-year commitment, after which participants convert to permanent federal employees. The Government Honors and Internship Guide (see above for details) is the most comprehensive resource for these programs.

Presidential Management Fellows (PMF): This is a competitive program that recruits students with graduate-level degrees to policy and management jobs (not attorney positions) in the federal government. Students are eligible to apply in their final year of graduate school or up to two years after receiving their degrees. As part of the Pathways Program, the federal government has streamlined the process and reinvigorated the PMF program for 2012-13. More detailed information is available at http://www.pmf.gov/. (The website has not yet been updated with the application process for the Class of 2013, but last year’s application process began in mid-September). You can subscribe to the PMF listserv to receive updates and keep track of key dates.

For additional detailed information on opportunities with the federal government, consult the 2012-13 Federal Legal Employment Opportunities Guide and additional federal career resources available at http://psjd.org/Careers_in_Federal_Government.

Finding Success in a Tough Legal Market

The Office of Career & Professional Development presents:

Finding Success in a Tough Legal Market: Advice & Perspectives from Richard L. Hermann, Esq., professor, author and speaker

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

12:00-12:50pm

Room 1312 – Courtroom

A program to discuss the effect of the economy on various legal employment settings and to offer suggestions to students on how you can achieve success in the job search.

Richard L. Hermann, Esq. is a graduate of Yale University and Cornell Law School. His diverse professional background includes:

·         Legal Consultant, US Department of Justice, Defense, & FEMA

·         US Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, JAG Officer

·         US Department of Energy, Attorney

·         US Department of Defense, Attorney

·         National Public Radio (NPR), Legal Commentator

Mr. Hermann is currently a law professor and an accomplished author, blogger, op-ed columnist and sought-after speaker on topics related to legal careers and the legal market.  Some of his books include:

From Lemons to Lemonade in the New Legal Job Market:

Winning Job Search Strategies for Entry-Level Attorneys

Landing a Federal Legal Job: Solving the US Government Job Market

 Managing Your Legal Career: Best Practices for Creating the Career You Want

The Lawyer’s Guide to Job Security: How to Keep Your Job – and Make the Most of It– in Good Times and Bad

The Lawyer’s Guide to Finding Success in Any Job Market

Mr. Hermann’s presentation will draw from his career, as well as all of his books including his forthcoming ABA book, Back to Nature: Practicing Law in Small-Town America.

Books will be available for purchase (student discount with student ID) outside of the courtroom, before and after the program.

Book Signing Times: 11:15-11:50am and 12:50-1:30pm

Please RSVP for the presentation by clicking the Events tab and finding this program in Symplicity by Friday, September 7th to reserve lunch. This program is a career education program for the 1L Career & Professional Development Certificate of Completion.

Bar Exam Tips — from those who have been there

Recent grads! As you gear up for the bar exam, the Office of Career & Professional Development has compiled a list of favorite tips to help ease the stress of bar prep…..

Keep up whatever keeps you mentally healthy: exercise, eating decent meals, watching a favorite TV show.  It’s all about time management, and it’s important to build in time for those things that keep you sane.

Treat bar review as a full time job: bar review classes may be 3-4 hours a day, then completing all the assigned work will make it a full work day (or longer).  On the plus side, it will get you prepared for entering professional life as an attorney!

You are paying a lot of money for your bar prep course, so take full advantage of their expertise.  They’ve done this for a long time and there’s a reason they charge so much — because they know what they’re doing.  The course will provide you with an easy-to-follow calendar, just stick to it and plan ahead.  If you know you have an event coming up during the summer (like a wedding), budget your time accordingly.

 Practice makes perfect: nothing gets you prepared like doing the practice essays and practice multiple choice tests.  Force yourself to sit down and write out essay answers.  If you can get your hands on past bar exam questions, do them too (hint: several states have been known to repeat questions).

Don’t listen to anyone else (well, except us!).  Some people will tell you that you MUST study 23 hours a day to pass. Some people will tell you that you don’t need to start studying until after July 4.  You have successfully completed law school and you know what study method works for you — stick with it. Don’t worry about what “everyone else” is doing.

Remember, you don’t need to know EVERYTHING about secured transactions.  You just need to have sufficient grasp of the subject to be able to spot issues and craft an intelligent response.  If you have perfectionist tendencies, keep this in mind: you don’t need to make an A, you just need to pass.

That said, if you’re a procrastinator, keep this in mind: the bar exam requires knowledge of a LOT of information. Much more than the average law school exam.  It is VERY difficult to cram that amount of information into a short period of time.  If you’re a last-minute crammer, at least be sure to give yourself enough time to get it all in!

When the big day comes, do whatever you need to do to go in confident and relaxed.  You may want to focus on nothing but the exam, and review your notes up to the moment you enter the exam room. You may need to build in time to take a break (some of us may have gone out for ONE beer between test days).  You may feel better having your meals planned out ahead of time.  Again, you know how to make yourself successful.  Give it some thought and plan ahead so that all you need to worry about is the test itself.

Best of luck from all of us in the OCPD!

Free Webinar: Getting the Most from Your Summer Public Interest Experience

On Wednesday, May 23 at 3:00 PM EDT, NALP is presenting “Summer Success: Getting the Most from Your Summer Public Interest Experience.”

During this free webinar, you’ll learn practical tips on how to develop professionally and personally while interning at a public interest office this summer. Also, you’ll get insider advice from public interest attorneys and community leaders.

Deb Ellis, the Assistant Dean of Public Service at NYU Law School, and Lindsay M. Harris, Tahirih Justice Center’s Equal Justice Works Fellow and Immigration Staff Attorney, will be leading the webinar.

Don’t delay, register today!

Register here:  https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/824680642

FREE Webinar: The Summer Public Interest Job Search

NALP and Equal Justice Works have teamed up to offer students this FREE webinar with insight into the key elements of the summer public interest job application process.  Attorneys with years of experience will highlight do’s and don’ts, explain how and why public interest application materials may differ from law firm materials, and explore the dynamics of personal interactions in interviews and networking situations.

If you are looking for work in the public sector, don’t miss out on this valuable information and advice!

Part 1: Wednesday, January 25  at 3pm: Best Practices in Drafting Cover Letters & Resumes

Part 2: Wednesday, February 1 at 12pm: Best Practices in Interviewing & In-Person Networking

 

To register, go to https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/953896682

For more information, visit http://www.nalp.org/

Making the Most of Your Winter Break

As the semester is winding down, it is important to think about ways to make the most out of your time off over winter break. These few weeks off provide a great opportunity for you to work on your career plans without the time demands that you face throughout the semester.

Here are several things to do over winter break to make effective use of your time.

Finalize your resume and cover letter. You’ve probably already met with your career coach (and if you haven’t yet, try to fit it in before break!). Use your down time to make sure your resume and cover letter are polished, incorporate suggestions from your career coach, and be ready to hit the ground running in January.

Set up informational interviews. Winter break is a great time to meet with professionals in the field(s) that interest you.  Start researching employers as soon as possible, then contact them to set up a time to meet during your break.  Keep in mind that many people take time off over the holidays, so the sooner you contact them to schedule a meeting, the better.  Also, try to be as flexible as possible as to the day and time of your meeting to make it convenient for the professional.  Don’t forget to follow up by sending a personal note to the person who took the time to meet with you.

Set up a job shadowing opportunity. Ever wonder what asset securitization lawyers do all day? Following one around might be the perfect opportunity to determine what type of practice you’re drawn to.

Join professional associations. Affiliating with professional associations provides access to networking contacts, educational opportunities, and information about local job markets.  Consider a student membership to the American Bar Association, your local bar association, and other specialty bars such as the American Intellectual Property Association or an association of women attorneys.  Most groups have a minimal cost for student membership.

Create a master job search “to do” list and develop a job search tracking method. This can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet or Word chart, including the name of the employer, contact information, date of application, and notes on follow-up.  See page 41 of your Career Planning Guide for an example.

Visit prospective employers – If you are applying for jobs at home, your winter break is a good time to follow up in person with potential employers.  An in-person visit to the employer’s office can leave a lasting impression and can make you stand out from other candidates.  Of course, you want to make sure that you are leaving a positive lasting impression, so be sure to dress professionally and be considerate of the employer’s time.

Check e-mail and Symplicity over break. The OCPD staff will continue to update job postings over break and may send out emails with important announcements.

This article and more detailed advice can be found in the OCPD weekly newsletters:

1L Newsletter4

2L Newsletter11

3L Newsletter11

Use Thanksgiving to Help Your Job Search…

If you’re going home for Thanksgiving, here are three effortless things you can do to further your job search.

You might be asking, how can Thanksgiving dinner help with my job search? Can’t I just enjoy my turkey and football and not think about the job market for one day? Of course you can.  But there are a couple of simple things you can do that don’t require leaving the comfort of your home – you never know what might pay off!

First, tell people that you are looking for a job. You should be doing this anyway.  Your kooky Aunt Sally might just happen to know someone in the field of your interest.

Second, share what you’ve been learning.  You can pull this off without seeming obnoxious.  For example, if the turkey is dry, don’t start talking about what section of the UCC you can sue under.  But if there’s a subject you enjoy, getting into a debate with your cousins about it might just highlight an area of practice that interests you and help you focus your job search.

Finally, manage the expectations of your family and friends. Are you feeling pressure from them about the job search? Do their expectations seem unrealistic? Be up front about your plan and tell them about your strategy.

Most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy the holiday! Take the time to listen to what’s going on in other people’s lives and get some perspective on life outside of law school.

More information is included in the OCPD weekly newsletters, available here:

1L Newsletter2

2L Newsletter9

3L Newsletter9

Networking 101

This is a recent article from our OCPD Weekly Newsletter, sent to 2Ls and 3Ls.

You’ve heard it over and over again.  Networking is the key to success. Networking will help you find a job.

If one more person tells you networking will solve all your problems, you’ll scream!

Take a step back. Think about all that networking entails.  It is a skill – much like analyzing a case or presenting an argument.  Like all skills, these take education, practice, and time to develop.

Networking is not just about finding a job. It’s about building relationships.  This is a skill that you will use throughout your professional career.  Employers – whether law firms, government, or public interest – expect law graduates to not only have excellent analytical skills and writing ability, but also be able to develop connections with coworkers, clients, and potential clients.  By building rapport with colleagues, community members, and other professionals, you begin to establish the trust that is the foundation of a business relationship.

You already do a lot of networking. Are you on Facebook? LinkedIn? Twitter? These sites are about building relationships.  People who are active in social networking generally enjoy personal engagement, enjoy getting to know people.

Nevertheless, you’re not going to get very far if you limit yourself to online networking.  You have to get out there, attend professional events, volunteer, take part in community activities.  Just show up.

Once you’re there, here are some tips for “working the room.”  The more events you attend and the more actively you participate, the more skills you will build.  As you get more comfortable in this type of environment, you will see that building relationships gets easier. Who knows, it might even turn out to be fun!

Have something to talk about. If you’re going to an event sponsored by a specific group, see if that group has been in the news lately (it’s easy to run a news search on Lexis or WestLaw). If you know who is going to be there, read up on their bios. Keep up on what’s going on locally – what are people talking about outside of the law school bubble?  None of these things may come up in conversation, but you’ll feel more at ease knowing you have something to break an awkward silence.

LISTEN.  This may be the most obvious, but hardest to do. You’re nervous, you’re thinking about the next thing you want to say in the conversation. Focus on what the person is saying and let the conversation flow naturally.

Get over your distaste for “small talk.” Small talk is the foundation of any relationship. How did you meet your significant other? Chances are you didn’t immediately start out with discussion of serious issues like money and children. Small talk allows you to find the connection on which you will build a deeper relationship.

Finally, DON’T check your Blackberry/iPhone, text anyone, or look at your phone in the middle of a conversation. Nothing says “I’m not interested in what you’re saying” more than this.  If you check your messages out of nervous habit, leave the phone at home (or in the car, at the very least).

This week’s student newsletters are available in their entirety here:

 

3L Newsletter6

2L Newsletter6

 

Government Hiring is Down, But There is a Glimmer of Hope

This recent post from the PSLawNet blog discusses the most recent hiring statistics from federal government honors programs.  While the numbers are troubling, it’s important to focus on the good news – there are federal agencies with new or reinstated honors programs:

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a new federal agency devoted to safeguarding the economic strength and vitality of America’s families.  The Louis D. Brandeis Attorney Honors program is a two-year fellowship that gives graduates an opportunity to participate in enforcement actions under consumer financial and fair-lending laws, participate in court proceedings defending Bureau rules and regulations, provide analysis for fair-lending compliance examinations, and develop policy.  The application deadline for the 2012 program was October 5, 2011, and will probably be in early October 2012 for the 2013 program.
  • The new Department of Energy Honors Program is a 6-12 month rotation during which graduates are assigned to individual Assistant General Counsel offices.  The offices offer a wide variety of legal practice areas including environmental law, legislation and regulation, litigation and enforcement, international law, procurement, intellectual property and others.  Honors Attorneys may be eligible to compete for permanent positions in DOE after passing the bar exam.  The deadline for the 2013 program will likely be late September 2012.
  • The Federal Communications Commission’s Attorney Honors Program is a two-year program during which attorneys participate in various aspects of federal administrative practice as they relate to the FCC’s oversight of television, radio, cable, wireless, wireline, satellite, and other communications services and facilities. Attorneys at the FCC draft decisions in adjudicatory and rulemaking matters, work with internal and external constituencies to resolve complex policy issues before the agency, participate in international negotiations, represent the FCC in dealings with other government agencies, Congress and the private sector, and defend FCC decisions in the federal courts.  All Honors Program participants will work at the FCC’s headquarters in Washington, DC and will be assigned to one of the agency’s bureaus. At the end of the two-year program, Honors Program attorneys will be eligible for consideration for continued employment at the FCC. The deadline for the 2013 program will likely be late September 2012.

The PSLawNet blog post also offers some valuable advice on making yourself competitive for these government positions – tips include showing a commitment to public service, enthusiasm, and a demonstrated interest in the agency’s area of law. Foreign language skills and experience in the agency’s area of law (including internships) are also a plus.

How do you show these things?  By doing volunteer work, participating in community service activities, and taking part in events that demonstrate your commitment to a particular issue or cause.  In addition, attend conferences and take classes in the particular area of law that interests you.  If you are interested in working for the government, there is still a lot you can do to make yourself a competitive candidate, and it starts with being aware of what that agency is looking for.

2L Job Search Myths

MYTH: All my friends have jobs already.

TRUTH: Very few students have summer jobs lined up this early in the year. Many 3Ls will tell you that at spring finals, they still did not have a job for the summer.  The summer job search can be a long process for many reasons: smaller firms and businesses may not know their hiring needs yet; organizations may not be able to predict future demand for services; some nonprofits may be waiting for funding.  The key is to be patient and methodical. Keep checking in with your contacts. Don’t give up!

MYTH: I want to work out of state but can’t get anything without connections.

TRUTH: There is a big difference between “connections” and “contacts.” Yes, it’s nice when a parent or family friend can put you directly into a job, but this is unusual.  You are far more likely to succeed by making contacts in the legal community in which you want to work.  Join the local bar association. Call local alumni and ask their advice.  Attend a career fair in that state.

MYTH: I want to stay in NC but I’m not from here so no one will hire me.

TRUTH: You’re already in school in North Carolina—this means something! Employers want to see that you are committed to the state, so give them reason to believe this. Emphasize your involvement in the community, your knowledge of current local and state events, your interest in remaining here.  You are not the first Wake Forest student who has come to NC and decided to stay.

MYTH: I didn’t get an offer through OCI so I’m out of options.

TRUTH: Only a small percentage of students get summer jobs through OCI, because only a small percentage of employers participate in OCI.  There are numerous other avenues to pursue.  This is where networking is key—contact firms and alumni who practice the type of law you are interested in. Consider seeking out judicial externships, government internships, volunteer work with nonprofit organizations.  OCPD updates Symplicity regularly with job postings.  Your OCPD career advisor can help you identify resources to find options in your area of interest.

MYTH: There are no advertised jobs that interest me.

TRUTH: Don’t limit yourself to posted job listings. Plenty of firms and organizations do not advertise positions. Networking is essential.  Talk to lawyers, alumni, anyone you know. Let them know you are looking and what you’re interested in.  Some firms have work to be done, and would be happy to have a competent student available.  Your willingness to work is a foot in the door, and your quality of work may mean a future job.

MYTH: Networking is useless. People won’t respond if I just call them up out of the blue.

TRUTH: There is one universal truth in networking: people love to talk about themselves.  Success is all in the approach. Be polite. Ask if this is a good time.  Offer to take them out for lunch or coffee.  Have a list in mind of what you want to learn from them.  Show your appreciation with a written note.  Follow up if you can—mention a CLE or recent article that relates to something you discussed.

MYTH: I’m just going to wait tables and enjoy one last summer of freedom.

TRUTH: Your 2L summer is an important opportunity to get valuable work experience.  Not only are you building professional skills for your resume, but you also have an opportunity to “test the waters” in different practice areas, types of work, and even locations.  Use this opportunity, it will benefit you in long-term career planning