articles

Career Counselors’ Corner: Elizabeth Goodwin

eliz_smallWhy did you decide to work in career services? 

The job of employer outreach seemed like it was a good fit for my personality— I get a lot of fulfillment from meeting new people, working on behalf of my law school, and helping students. I didn’t understand how to best use all the career development tools available to me when I was a student, and didn’t really develop expertise in networking until well after I graduated. It feels good to pass that knowledge on now and help demystify the job search for students.  I love making connections for them.

I also thought that my strengths in organizing and networking would benefit the office and the school. I graduated in 2008 from Wake Forest Law, at the start of the Great Recession. My career advisor was very helpful, but I wish that I could have gone to her and said “I want to do estate planning in Charlotte” and that she would have been able to give me names of a few alums in that practice and geographic area who had already agreed to help students. Part of my job now is to help find those “warm” lawyer contacts, and to educate them on how they can best interact with our students and grads. They usually can’t provide a job off the bat, but they can help connect students with others in the practice area, introduce them around to the local bar, and send any leads on jobs their way.

Having been here several years, I’m consistently impressed with the level of commitment and professionalism I see from my colleagues towards our students— we all truly want to do more than just help them land a job. We want to help them get on the path to a fulfilling career.

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

Don’t treat law school like three more years of college. Approach it as an investment in your professional development, not solely as an academic exercise. That means do more than study. Grades are important, but so is learning how to network and applying those skills to build a professional network that will connect you with potential employers.

Work with intention towards a fulfilling legal career, and focus beyond the next essay or exam. Work just as hard to get that 2L summer job as you are working at writing that brief for LAWR.  Also, work to build a brand and stand out from the crowd.

How do you define success in your current position? 

As a counselor: I feel successful when the advice and guidance I give a student finally *clicks* and they feel like they are making progress in their job search and understand how all the methods of looking for a job work together.

As the employer relations coordinator: When I develop a relationship with an attorney who ends up engaging with the school or one or more of our students in a meaningful way.

What’s your greatest weakness? 

I’m very risk averse, which has its benefits for sure, but sometimes risk is necessary for growth.

Also—this a horrible interview answer— but if I’m being honest, I’m pretty sure my internal clock is permanently set to five minutes behind everyone else’s (so I’m usually late).

What do you do when you are not in the office? 

I joke that I am a professional volunteer.  I used to work on political campaigns full time, so now I volunteer my political expertise to candidates I believe in during my spare time. I also serve on several community boards in Charlotte, where I live. I’m on the board of Generation Nation, a nonprofit that works to educate K-12 students on civic engagement.  I’m the vice chair of the board of Carolina Voices, a community choral organization, and am actively engaged with our Arts and Science Council.

I’m also a movie buff, love to read, and have gotten caught up in the true crime fad we seem to be experiencing now— so I enjoy all the documentaries and podcasts like Making a Murderer, Staircase, and Serial.

What song would you sing at Karaoke? 

I usually end up singing Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” because I can’t think of anything else and it is pretty much the same three or four notes, so it’s hard to mess up. I’ve also been known to belt out some Carly Simon, Miranda Lambert or Britney. Oh and Wagon Wheel — either the OCMS or Darius Rucker versions.

Career Counselors’ Corner: Jordan Lee

Photo of Jordan Lee

Why did you decide to work in career services?

As much as I loved litigation, I also love playing music. I started picking up more and more gigs, and I ran out of time. I couldn’t bill first or second year associate hours while also rehearsing, recording, writing, and performing. So I had to make some really tough decisions. I needed a more stable work schedule, but I also wanted to do something I was passionate about. And I still wanted one foot in the legal field. Back in 2009 I had taught high school for a few years and loved every second of it. So, education, the law, and more stable work hours? Wake Law was the right fit. I hope I can serve as an example for how versatile a law degree can be. Despite competing interests, I was able to find truly meaningful work that I wouldn’t trade.

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

To be fair, I got a lot of great advice. I had incredible mentors including our very own Alvita Barrow, my trial coach Mark Boynton, Professor Wilson Parker, and Professor Mark Rabil. I’d highly recommend using the faculty and staff here. It’s such a tight community. Take advantage of the professors’ accessibility.

Dean Scott wrote that she wishes someone had told her to pursue work she really enjoyed. The advice I wish I had received is similar. I wish someone had told me to choose to live and work in the geographical location I really wanted. I wanted to stay in North Carolina upon graduation, but I tricked myself into thinking I wouldn’t miss it that much, so I moved home to Texas. Don’t get me wrong, I love Texas. I’m still licensed there; I’m from there; my family is there; but I missed North Carolina in a way I can only describe as love sick. (It’s funny, but Mark Rabil actually told me to trust my heart and even pointed me toward part time work in North Carolina so I could stay after graduation. So the advice was given; I just didn’t listen.) The point is this: go where you want to go. Live where you want to live. The exception is if a specific practice area requires a certain geography. In that case, there are decisions to be made. Aren’t there always?

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

I can’t remember where it came from, but I want to say Butchie (my dad) told me this once: working hard and keeping your head down is a fantastic way to get overlooked. Although I may have forgotten the source, I have never forgotten the point. This idea that your employer will reward you so long as you stay quiet and grind it out is at best misinterpreted and at worst simply not true in the 21st century.

It’s imperative to keep your employer apprised of the work you do and the value you provide. For example, if I stayed at the office until 9:00 pm, then I sent my supervising attorney an email (about anything) at 8:45 pm just so he knew I was still there. If I had an idea regarding how to deal with a difficult issue, I shared it with him instead of filing it away in an in office memo. Another example, if a client were to send me a small gift or thank you card, I would, as humbly as possible, tell my boss something like this: “Thanks for helping me with Mrs. Client’s case. Mrs. Client was happy with the service the firm provided. In fact, she left a thank you note for me at the front desk today. It was nice to know she thought we did alright.”

Some might argue and say that your billables will do the talking, but that isn’t necessarily true. First, flat rates are becoming more popular. Second, clients (especially insurance companies) are allowing the attorney to bill for fewer and fewer tasks. And third, as a new associate, billing is an art that takes time to learn. In the beginning, your bills likely won’t reflect the effort you’ve put in.

Keep in mind, you’re not bragging or complaining. Think of it as making a record. You’re making a record of your achievements and accomplishments so they’re not lost amidst the chaotic and fast moving nature of a law firm.

What’s your greatest weakness?

I tend to obsess on things. Sometimes I get hold of an idea or a problem, and I can’t let go. I was once drafting a brief requesting summary judgment, and the law was kind of circular. I couldn’t let go that there was not a firm starting to place to build an argument. In an attempt to pin down this circular argument, I wound up writing in circles. Before I knew it, I’d burned up the ten hours the client had allotted to spend on the brief. Sometimes done is better than perfect–especially in the law when there are deadlines to consider.

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

My wife and I have three dogs that keep us pretty busy and miserable. We also play live music. Our duo is called the Couldn’t Be Happiers, and we play a blend of Americana, Folk, and Country. We gig out about twice a weekend, and if we’re not performing then we’re rehearsing or recording in the studio.

If you could be reborn as any musician, who would it be?

Probably Guy Clark. He’s arguably the greatest songwriter of the 20th century. He lived a life of food, love, and music. Doesn’t get any better.

Career Counselors’ Corner: Alison Ashe-Card

Photo of counselor Alison Ashe-CardWhy did you decide to work in career services? 

I come from a family of educators, so I knew that if I wasn’t practicing law that I likely would have been an educator. When I decided to take a step back from the practice of law, I actively sought out positions in academia. The position in OCPD seemed like a natural fit to combine my passion for helping others and my strategic thinking skills to assist students with creating a meaningful and fulfilling career path.

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

I went into law school knowing exactly what I wanted to do, public interest law. And that is exactly what I did coming out of law school. I wish someone had encouraged me to explore other areas of law outside of the required classes to expand my horizons. I took Federal Income Tax the second semester of my 2L year and really enjoyed the class. I took another tax class my 3L year, but I wish that I had been encouraged to explore more of the business side of law because I may have found that I liked it more than I thought. In fact, during my 14 years in big law, I found that I enjoyed business/corporate law more than I ever thought. I came to realize that I loved being a lawyer and simply found the practice of law engaging. 

How do you define “success” in your current position? 

There’s an old saying often attributed to Confucius that says, “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.” Often students come to our office asking for lists of alumni and/or lists of employers in a certain city or practice area. It is very easy to give a student a list; however this is equivalent to giving the student a fish. I believe that my role as a career counselor is to teach that student how to fish so that I am preparing them for life beyond law school. Thus, I will often take the time to show students how they can develop their own lists by utilizing the various resources that they have available to them through martindale.com, Wake Network, LinkedIn, etc. I also realize that strategic referrals to individuals play an important role in our students’ success. 

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

When I worked in legal services in Chicago, I was a member of a labor union. Two months prior to leaving my position to move to North Carolina, the union went on strike when contract negotiations reached an impasse. We knew that a strike was likely and in the months leading up to the end of our contract term, we were encouraged to set our court dates toward the end of the month following the contract expiration date. Local judges and opposing counsel were aware of the situation and accommodated our requests. So, for approximately three weeks in April 1997 when it did in fact snow in April as the Prince song says, I walked the picket line in downtown Chicago. Not many attorneys can say that they have had this extraordinary experience. 

What was the last book that you read? 

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row, by Anthony Ray Hinton. In 1985, Hinton was arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder in Alabama. He knew that it was a case of mistaken identity and believed that the truth would prove his innocence and ultimately set him free. But with no money and a different system of justice for a poor black man in the South, Hinton was sentenced to death by electrocution. He spent his first three years on Death Row at Holman State Prison in agonizing silence—full of despair and anger toward all those who had sent an innocent man to his death. But as Hinton realized and accepted his fate, he resolved not only to survive, but find a way to live on Death Row. For the next twenty-seven years he was a beacon—transforming not only his own spirit, but those of his fellow inmates, fifty-four of whom were executed mere feet from his cell. With the help of civil rights attorney, Bryan Stevenson, Hinton won his release in 2015. And it wasn’t new forensic technology that ultimately exonerated him. It was the perseverance of a handful of men and women willing to turn a mirror on the system itself. This book should be required reading for all law students.

Favorite vacation spots? 

Aruba, Dominican Republic and Tybee Island, GA 

Favorite family recipe? 

I love to cook and I am constantly looking for new recipes, so it’s hard to pick one favorite recipe! My Pinterest account is full of recipes! Most recently, I have been utilizing my crockpot quite a bit and the following recipe has become a family favorite:

Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Honey Lime Chicken Tacos

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup mild salsa verde (I use Herdez in the jar)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Rub chicken breasts with olive oil and place in the bottom of your slow cooker. Add all of the remaining Slow Cooker ingredients except for the hot sauce. Cook on high for 2-4 hours or on low for 6-7 hours or until chicken is tender enough to shred.
  2. Remove chicken to a cutting board, and let rest 5 minutes before shredding (there will be a lot of liquid remaining). Return shredded chicken and let cook on low for an additional 20-30 minutes to absorb some of the liquid/juices. Drain excess liquid before serving or use tongs to remove shredded chicken.
  3. Stuff taco shells with chicken and top with desired taco toppings.

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

5 Ways to Perform Well on Law School Exams

Feeling overwhelmed with all the new information you’re learning in your classes? Not sure how you will be able to do well on your exams in law school? Performing well on law school exams is essential to law school, and exam writing is a “specialized art that takes skill and practice.”

Attorney, editor and legal writer Sally Kane shares 5 tips for crafting a successful law school exam response. Her advice provides some insight to students about how to demonstrate both substantive knowledge of the subject matter in written form.

  1. Plan your response
    It’s hard to not get caught up in the “hurry up and start” pressure. Before starting immediately, plan an outlined response, which will help organize your thoughts and allow you to address the question clearly.
  2. Craft a well-organized essay
    Clear and concise writing will gain you points even if you fail to spot all of the issues. By crafting a well-organized essay, you will make the professor’s job easier. With this being said, be sure to include an introduction stating the rule of law, supporting paragraphs that apply the rule and mention any counter-arguments. 
  3. Remember “IRAC”
    Issue. Rule. Analysis. Conclusion.” This is the formula for law school writing exams which has been the most successful approach. Even if there is no clear answer, be sure to list several alternative conclusions and explain why each is logical. 
  4. Review past exams
    Many professors maintain a file of exams they have given in past years. While past exams don’t include the answers, they will give you an idea of the style and format of the professor’s exams. You can then brainstorm responses to the questions with other students. Some professors may even be willing to critique your answer or give advice on how to best answer the question.
  5. Budget your time
    Oftentimes, professors may plant a difficult question in an exam to test the student’s ability to manage his or her time. There will be some questions on the exams will be harder to answer than others. Skip harder questions to spend time on the other questions. 

 

The Key to Unlocking USAJobs.gov

The clearinghouse for job opportunities with the government.

USAJobs.gov is the clearinghouse for job opportunities with the government.

If you are interested in government jobs, you might already know that USAJobs.gov is the clearinghouse for job opportunities with the government. Listings on the site include student and non-student jobs which makes it a good resource for temporary summer positions and permanent positions.

Janice Johnson (JD ’17) had first-hand experience with using USAJobs during her extensive career prior to attending law school. After completing her undergraduate studies in Boston, Janice worked in Europe and with the U.S. Department of State. In this blog post, Janice offers her advice and personal tips on how to navigate the USAJobs web site and ultimately land a government job.

Tactics on How Best to Start

USAJobs has countless agencies, departments, and sectors that you may not even have thought about or knew existed. Interested in energy law? There are energy specialists in each agency, not just in the Department of Energy. As a rule of thumb: start big. It’s also wise to start by picking your geographic preference and then just browsing the listings for that area. You should also be attentive to jobs that are not categorized as attorney positions, but where your law degree will give you an advantage and/or help you meet the other position requirements.

When It’s Time to Apply

In order to apply for any job on USAJobs, you will first need to have available your complete, thorough work and volunteer history. From the time you click “Apply for this Position,” you will be prompted to the site’s resume builder. A time-consuming ordeal, yes, but once you use the resume builder, you will be able to save the resume profile in the system, so it will be easy to apply to future jobs.

Important Application Tips

Use the keywords in the job description when filling out the resume builder. There is a meticulously designed computer program that scans through the resumes on USAJobs and ranks resumes on several different factors such as keywords. These keywords will get matched in the computer system, making you a better match for the job than those applicants who do not use keywords from the description. For example, if the position is looking for drafting experience, be sure you have the word “drafting” in your resume profile.

Also, think broadly when it comes capturing your years of experience for certain listings. For example, let’s say the position in which you are applying is asking for a number of years of leadership experience. Leadership experience can include things such as cheerleading coaching, retail management experience, Boy Scout and Girl Scout leadership, etc. So if you’re comfortable talking about it in an interview, then use it.

If there is a requirement or an option to add a cover letter or transcript, be sure you upload those documents. Always cater your cover letter to each job just like you would if applying to a law firm or any other employer. A carefully crafted cover letter can be the difference between your getting an interview or being passed aside. And don’t worry about your resume being too long. The government is okay with long resumes as they would rather know too much, than not enough.

Word of Mouth & Networking Bonuses

You can’t discount the potential value of knowing someone within government agencies whether it’s a friend, former classmate, family member, or colleague. Personal connections still work and knowing someone can make a huge impact on your application status and getting called in for an interview. Connections can put in a good word for you, despite the HR department having to go through the whole stack of resumes. News regarding upcoming positions also travel via word of mouth, often before they are even posted on USAJobs.gov so knowing someone in the department or agency can give you advance time to gather all of the necessary application materials.

After Applying

After applying and interviewing, you may receive an offer (YAY!). Just note that there will still be a security clearance and credit check you will need to pass. Your job offer will be for conditional hiring only, contingent on this background check. The length of the security clearance process varies and sometimes the process can take up to a full year to complete. This is why many summer internships open up in November so that they can close out in December to allow enough time to complete the full process. At this time, the government is okay with credit card debt such as retail store cards and personal credit cards. However, any delinquent debt, especially student loan debt, will likely delay the clearance process.

The entire USAJobs application process can be a long one. Fortunately, the system’s email notifications do help inform you on whether you will proceed to the next step or if your application has not been accepted. Whatever you do, do not get discouraged! Apply. Then apply again, even if it’s the same job you applied to before. Human resources will not notice that you’ve applied 8 times, nor would it make a difference in your hiring. There is no limit to how many times you can apply to a position. Perhaps you might have been ranked lower before and now you have more experience under your belt so be sure you are updating and adding new experiences often to your USAJobs profile. Your efforts will eventually be rewarded for all your time and hard work!

A Candid Interview with Alumnus Vlad Vidaeff

Vlad Vidaeff, Wake Forest University JD/MBA ('13)

Vlad Vidaeff
JD/MBA (’13)
Wake Forest University

We recently spoke with Mr. Vlad Vidaeff, a 2013 JD/MBA graduate of Wake Forest University, about his unique career path and journey to success. His extensive resume includes co-founding the retail company 20 Pirouettes and acting as the Social Media Manager at the REFUGE Group. Mr. Vidaeff has also been involved with multiple business endeavors in Texas, New York, and North Carolina. In this interview, you will find out how he uses his legal background in a business setting, what his day-to-day work involves, and how other business-minded students can pursue a similar career track with a JD.

Biography

Vlad Vidaeff was born in New York.  After moving around quite a bit growing up, he spent most of his childhood in Boston before moving to Houston in 8th grade. He attended high school in Texas and subsequently pursued his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan.  Straight out of college, Vlad began the JD/MBA program at Wake Forest University.  After graduating in 2013, he returned to Houston and accepted a marketing position at eCardio.  Vlad spent almost a year with the company before starting his own company, 20 Pirouettes, with a business partner.  Now that most of the grunt work is out of the way, Vlad has recently accepted a marketing manager role with The REFUGE Group.  The REFUGE Group is a full-service advertising agency located in Houston.  In his free time, Vlad enjoys exercising, watching sports, and watching movies and TV shows.

What is your job title?

I am the Co-founder of 20 Pirouettes and the Social Media Manager at The REFUGE Group.

What do you do at your position?

While my position at The REFUGE Group is interesting, I think my role at 20 Pirouettes is the job where I more directly use my legal background.  Starting my own business was a lot more work than I could have ever imagined but also one that gives me a great sense of satisfaction.  There were many tasks that had to be completed before going public: writing a business plan, registering the business as a legal entity, filing for trademark protection with the USPTO, applying for a federal tax ID and any permits needed, etc.  Being a licensed attorney was invaluable in handling the legal and tax aspects to my business, areas that often make entrepreneurs uncomfortable.  Since we are a retail business that sells hand-made jewelry made out of precious gemstones and crystals, another huge focus of our business is marketing/promotions.

What’s the typical day like?

As we are not yet public, each day brings new tasks and challenges.  We are hoping to have our website up and running by the end of April.  But to give you an idea of some of the major activities we’ve been working on over the past couple of months, here are some examples.  We have worked with an advertising agency on creating a logo for the brand.  Since we are an online business, we have bought our shipping materials in bulk and designed some promotional flyers to be included with each package.  A major task facing 20 Pirouettes in the next month will be taking photos of our products with a professional photographer so they can then be uploaded to our website.  There are a ton of small responsibilities here and there that I won’t go into detail to bore you!

How did you got to this position in your career?

I feel like I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and having the opportunity to attempt to build a brand from the ground up is something I really enjoy.  My business partner and I had discussed opening a business for many years but the timing was never right.  I was busy in school and was living out-of-state.  Moving back to Houston and then leaving eCardio gave me the extra free time I needed to help get things off the ground.  Starting your own business is all about having an idea, whether it is a product or service, and having the courage to dive in and make your dreams come true!

What recommendations do you have for students who want to be in your field?

While my path has not been the traditional one that most law students follow, I believe my legal education has been a great tool in my field.  Do not be frightened to take a non-traditional path as there are many avenues to success and by going to law school, you have developed many transferrable skills. Having strong communication skills, both written and verbal, are essential to being a successful entrepreneur.  Moreover, having an attention to detail is also important as you are making major decisions frequently and cannot afford to make mistakes due to carelessness.  I had the added benefit of gaining a business education in addition to my JD, so I would recommend that students interested in entrepreneurship read books or take online courses in entrepreneurship, marketing, and finance.

Are there any specific courses you would recommend students take in order to be more marketable for a position like yours?

Legal courses that are business-related would be most helpful.  Some of the most valuable courses that I took include contracts, business organizations, intellectual property, and business drafting.

The Perks of Attending Conferences

Chris Salemme2nd Lieutenant, U.S. Army J.D. Candidate, 2017 Wake Forest University School of Law

Chris Salemme
2nd Lieutenant, U.S. Army
J.D. Candidate, 2017
Wake Forest University School of Law

Attending legal conferences can be daunting especially if you’re attending your first one, or don’t know anyone attending the event. It can also be quite difficult to plan if the event is being held out of state. Those feelings are understandable; however, conferences are a great way to gain insight into your own career path and network with the legal experts. It also demonstrates to professionals how interested you are about the specific practice area featured at the conference.

Just read this real-life experience from a WFU Law 1L, Chris Salemme, on his decision to attend the Georgetown Law Symposium this past February and how it benefited his career:

            On Monday, February 9, I read in the Office of Career & Professional Development 1L Newsletter about an upcoming symposium at Georgetown Law entitled “Trial and Terrorism: The Implications of Trying National Security Cases in Article III Courts.” This program immediately caught my eye because, given my career goal of becoming an Army Judge Advocate, I have a strong interest in national security law issues. The one caveat: the symposium was on Wednesday of that week, less than 48 hours away. I thought it over, met with my career advisor, and, with some hesitation, made the last minute decision to book a flight to Washington, DC to take advantage of this opportunity.

            I am glad I did. The symposium featured three panels of federal judges, US Attorneys, professors, defense attorneys, and other experts in the field. They discussed Miranda rights for terror suspects, special administrative measures (SAMs) in pretrial confinement, race-based targeting, interrogations, and more. Some of the judges had presided over notable terrorism cases such as those of Ahmed Ghailani and Zacarias Moussaoui, giving them great insight on this area of law. Additionally, I was seated at a table with the chief and deputy chief of operational law for the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps and was able to gain valuable advice from them on pursuing a career in law and the military.

            While it was a split-second decision to attend this symposium, it had greatly exceeded my expectations and I would undoubtedly go again. Reading about issues that are important to you can be helpful, but actually listening to experts discuss and debate these issues is incredibly more informative. I strongly encourage my peers to seek out such opportunities for issues they are interested in and I am confident that they will find them as rewarding as I found the Georgetown symposium. 

To find out about other upcoming legal conferences or events that might be of interest to you, be sure to check the weekly OCPD student newsletters as well as the WFU law school event calendar.