Career Plan

How to Set Up Effective Networking Meetings

It’s fall and you’re getting back in touch with your classmates and friends, finding out what they did over the summer, and asking for advice about classes, professors, and even where great new restaurants are located near campus. Networking operates along the same principles. You’re asking friends, acquaintances, and referrals about career paths, people they know, and job search strategies. It’s really just a conversation. There’s nothing all that complicated or scary about it.

In addition to checking job listings in Symplicity and other locations, you probably want to start setting up networking meetings. Our office is a good place to get tips. The school alumni directory, located in the new Wake Network, is a great place to start. You can also talk to your career advisor about locating a specific alumni in a field and geographic area of interest. With alumni, you both have a connection to the same school, which is a good ice-breaker. Professors can also be a good source of information.

Student memberships in professional associations are another way to find people to network with – since you are a member of the same organization, they have a built in connection to you. LinkedIn groups are also helpful. Of course, friends, family, people you know through sports, campus activities, and other schools you have attended, are another good place to start.

Now that you have some un-intimidating ways to find people, what should you do next? You can send a brief, friendly email asking to chat with them about their career, and mentioning your connection to them. If you want, attach your resume. The email should be more conversational than job search directed at this point.

Next, put together a list of questions for networking contacts. Questions about their own career path are a good place to start. You know that everyone likes to talk about themselves, right? Questions about areas that are in demand, job web sites and professional organizations related to what they do, and predictions about future growth areas and are also good. You can show them your resume, and ask for suggestions to improve it. Questions about referrals to others they know in the industry are fine (but I would wait until the end of the networking meeting to ask for other names). Hold your first networking meeting with someone you know, rather than your dream employer, so you can practice, and work out the kinks.

Plan to conclude networking meetings by asking your contacts if it’s okay for you to follow up with them. Follow up is the key. It takes the pressure off them having to feel they have to come up with an available job for you, but leaves the door open to remembering you when they do hear of an opening.

Once you get into the mindset that networking is a conversation and not a high pressure job interview, it’s a great way to meet people. There are many career studies that indicate it’s the best way to find a job. Need advice on getting a networking plan in place? Make an appointment with your career advisor today.

Prepare to Launch

Photo of Mary Crane

Guest Blog Featuring Mary Crane from MaryCrane.com

Congratulations — as soon as final exams end, you’re about to enter the world of work! This is an important first step in the transition that you will undertake from being a student to becoming a successful professional. Even if you are just entering your summer job, you will still have a plethora of challenges ahead of you. Over the next several weeks, you will begin to learn the intricacies of a new profession. You will start to develop your professional persona. You should begin to lay the foundation for what will eventually become your professional network. Perform well and your introduction to the world of work may lead to a job offer.

You will be prepared to launch your professional career if you undertake the following eight activities:

1. Establish S.M.A.R.T. goals for your summer experience
A S.M.A.R.T. goal is one that is Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-targeted. A summer associate assigned to a firm’s mergers & acquisitions practice group might send the following S.M.A.R.T. goal: by the end of the summer, research, assist with the drafting of bylaws and articles of incorporation, and participate in creating a financing plan for one merger. In contrast an investment bank intern might set the following S.M.A.R.T. goal: once a week, review a randomly selected financial statement and build a leveraged buyout model from scratch.

Identify as clearly and specifically as possible what you wish to accomplish and whom you wish to meet during the summer months. Once you’ve been assigned to a specific department or task, be prepared to revise and refine your goals.

2. Research

Learn everything you can about your summer employer. Understand the products or services that it provides. Get familiar with its culture. Ascertain how formal or informal the workplace appears to be.

Create a work journal in paper or electronic format and add your research results. Throughout the summer, constantly add to this journal, developing an ongoing record of the people you meet and the projects that you undertake. Make note of new skills acquired and lessons learned that you can later add to your resume.

3. Make contact with your new employer
In most cases, representatives from your employer’s HR department will reach out to you long before your summer employment begins. If they do not, take the initiative to contact them. Use these exchanges to confirm attire expectations, your start time on Day One, and any information that might be available regarding your supervisor.

4. Research your supervisor

To the extent you know the department to which you will be assigned or the people with whom you will be working most closely, spend some additional time engaged in research. Google or look up the names of key individuals on LinkedIn and look for points of commonality, for example, you graduated from the same school.

When you undertake this research, be discreet. Don’t get pegged as a cyber-stalker. And it goes without saying that all of your own social media information now needs to be workplace-appropriate.  If it’s not, clean it up now!

Read Activities #5-8 Here – Responding to Employers, Your Day-One Outfit, Commute Test Runs, and Your Work Kit

Making the Best Use of Spring Break

beach chairLaw students the world over look forward to breaks from law school. Some students view these breaks as a holiday—a time to get away from the intense daily demands of their studies, travel, and visit with family and friends. Other students have ambitious plans for catching up or getting ahead in their studies. Regardless of which approach you take, you are probably pretty happy when you see Spring Break finally approaching. There is nothing wrong to either approach to Spring break, at least in the abstract. In fact, the best Spring Break plans should probably include some of both. The key is to come back to law school after the break in a better place than you were before—and accomplishing this task takes just a little advance planning. Here are a few tips for making the best use of your Spring Break this year:

Set reasonable goals for studying during the break.  Often, law students say that they are going to outline for all of their classes during the break, do practice exams for each class, get ahead in their reading assignments, and read a bunch of supplements. Spring break can be the perfect time to work on getting caught up in your studies, but it is important to set realistic goals. After all, Spring Break usually only lasts a week! You aren’t superhuman, and you can’t do everything. When you set unrealistic goals for yourself, it is easy to get defeated and give up when you realize that you can’t get everything done. Instead, decide what your highest priority items are, and focus on those first. Create a study schedule for yourself during the break, and set reasonable goals for what you intend to accomplish during each of those study sessions. You will be focused and productive, and your efforts will build momentum for the weeks leading up to final exams.

Visit the city where you wish to work. Planning a trip to the city where you want to work, either in the summer or after graduation, will prove useful in the long run. By scheduling informational interviews or even coffee or lunch meetings with attorneys and alumni in the area, you can accrue connections to help you learn the ropes in a new area. On these informational interviews or meetings, ask plenty of questions so that you may acquire tips and best practices about important topics such as how to get your foot in the door at a particular place of employment.

Give yourself permission to take some time off. It isn’t particularly healthy to work long days every day during the break, including weekends. There is still a lot of time before the end of the semester, and you don’t want to burn yourself out. If you take a little time off from your studies, you will come back refreshed and ready to tackle the hard stuff. At the minimum, give yourself a couple of days off entirely. Do something fun. Get out of the house. See your friends and family. Read a fun book. Go to the movies. On the days that you study, take regular breaks. If you set realistic study goals for yourself and create a study plan to achieve those goals, you will be able to build in some time to relax as well.

Make vacation plans that recharge your batteries, not leave you even more tired. Maybe you are caught up on your law school studies, and you’ve decided to go on vacation during Spring Break. (Or you are making it a combination study/travel break!) It’s important to make sure that your vacation plans don’t leave you exhausted as you are heading back to classes. It’s still a long uphill climb to final exams, and you won’t be setting yourself up for success if you have run full speed the entire break.

Above all, think balance. As with everything in law school, taking a balanced approach to Spring Break and other holidays will help to keep you on the right path to academic and personal success.

How a Law School Specialization Can Help You Obtain Employment

Guest Blog by Ashli Irene Weiss from Ms.JD.com 

Specializing while in law school is a valuable tool. As a law student, I specialized in intellectual property and focused on trademark law. My specialization helped me land amazing intellectual property career opportunities within a field of law I enjoy and that my peers are equally as passionate about. I wrote this article to share the benefits I learned that come with a specialization, to quell the fear that many students have of specializing while in law school and to provide advice on how to choose a specialization.

A legal specialization can be work experience in a job interview.  ”Why do you want this job,” is a question I received at every job interview. As a new graduate, I always incorporated my specialization. A specialization requires certain courses to help prepare a student to practice in a specific type of law. I wrote articles on intellectual property, completed projects that simulated attorney work product and discussed new issues in IP with my peers in class. This translated to my potential employer as experience, because it aligned with some of the job qualifications required for the position. Similarly, a new graduate can use their specialization to demonstrate experience. This may help the new graduate stand out from other applicants who also have limited work experience, but no specialization.

Specializing shows to potential employers that you have a passion.  As an interviewer for an intellectual property job position, I favored those applicants that showed a passion for IP. In general, a passionate employee is dedicated to completing the task at hand, more pleasurable to work with and tends to have innovative ideas in that area of law. A specialization is a straightforward way to show an employer that you have a passion towards a particular field of law. It signals that you wanted to take specific courses in law school to prepare you for a specific career. It suggests that the employer can speak with you about breaking issues in the law, because you keep up-to-date on the news in that area. An employer may also be more confident that you will put in the hours required to solve the issue and have a better work product.

A legal specialization helps create new contacts.  In law school, I reached out to IP lawyers via email and introduced myself to IP lawyers at events I attended.  Under these circumstances, I always mentioned my specialization in IP.  My specialization was something that could relate with the IP lawyer.  People connect more willingly with one another if it is based upon a similarity.  Conversation between the two people flows more easily, because they can exchange thoughts and new ideas on a common interest.  If you practice in the same field of law, there is also a likelihood that the lawyer will run into you in the near future.  With a chance of crossing paths again, a lawyer may be more willing to help so they can maintain their reputation.

Read more on other ways specialization in law school can benefit your career.

Still Undecided? What Bar Exam to Take If You Are

It’s a question that many students have, particularly when entering their 3L year: what state bar exam do you choose if you are still undecided? Choosing a state bar exam is a deeply personal decision and may involve input from family, friends, your law professors and/or law school career advisors. Start with this: Where do you see yourself in five years? (Don’t you hate that question!) Interviewers tend to ask it often during the interview process. The purpose is to gauge your commitment to the company or agency you are pursuing. For the bar exam, it is a similar commitment question. To help, here are a few things to consider when making your decision:

Location — When considering state bar exams, target (and research) where you’d like to live most. Are you willing to practice law in another jurisdiction or move to another jurisdiction? Some law graduates are not set on living in one place. If you don’t have anything tying you down, moving can open up new opportunities with the bar exam and with other work. But make sure you think carefully about this! Passing an individual bar exam does tie you down quite a bit.

However, now that the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) is gaining in popularity, moving between jurisdictions is getting easier and easier wherever the UBE is accepted. Do your research and see if moving is the right decision for you. What if you are trying to get a job where your bar exam membership doesn’t matter? Sometimes attorneys want to be licensed somewhere but don’t intend to practice law. Or they get a job with the federal government where it doesn’t matter which jurisdiction you are licensed in. Most graduates and attorneys only want to take only one bar exam if they can help it, so choosing wisely when thinking about location and job requirements is best.

Bar Admission requirements — Examine the bar exam subjects tested, the bar’s format, test dates, CLE requirements and fees associated with maintaining good standing. You can visit www.ncbex.org and www.ncble.org to obtain these details. Some bar exams may be more difficult than others for some individuals. Perhaps it is the weight of the writing portion. Or perhaps it is the availability of getting testing accommodations. If an exam just seems impossible for you, then you may want to investigate taking a different state’s bar exam.

But taking a new bar exam will come with its own set of challenges: You will need to learn new state-specific law. If you switch jurisdictions, you are going to have to start all over again which can be a daunting task for some. Those moving forward with this choice will have to face more substantive review than if they studied for the same jurisdiction over again. Depending on how much time you have to study for the exam, this may make changing jurisdictions overwhelming.

Deciding which bar exam to take is a challenging decision to make. Weighing the pros and cons of each possible plan will help you make a decision you can be happy with. Be sure to also keep these other key points in mind as you narrow down which bar exam to take:

  • Legal industry — Is the market saturated with attorneys and is the legal industry of your choice in your area/region of the country?
  • Family obligations — Do you want to go back to your hometown? If so, why?
  • Professional Network — What professional contacts have you made? Does your school have an alumni network that would allow you to pursue your goals? Do you have access to mentors in that state?
  • Family and friends network — Do you have the support your need to pursue your goals?
  • Reciprocity — Most states allow admission on motion after practicing for a number of years.

Our Advice on How to Choose a Practice Area

It can be hard to decide on a specific practice area while attending law school, especially during your first year. The choices can seem endless! Throughout the year our office will present informational programs and events with participants designed to inform you about different legal careers & practice areas. Check the Upcoming Events section of our newsletters and web site, as well as the law school calendar regularly for events that may interest you or advance your career. In addition, programs are publicized by Twitter and Facebook so be sure to stay connected.

Conducting informational interviews is also a great way to explore different practice areas and to develop professional networks. Make a list of people you know (or who family members or friends know) who have a law degree. Contact them and introduce yourself as a law student and see whether they would be open to meeting or talking with you over the phone (at a convenient time) about their work and their unique career path. It is important to start building a network of colleagues. Not only can they be a source of jobs, but a source of future collaborations. They can also be a source of valuable advice on what steps you should take to learn more about a particular field or who else to contact to gain information and expand your network.

In addition, alumni/ae, faculty and lecturers are an important source in building your network and obtaining information about different areas of practice. Search the new Wake Network or contact your career advisor for assistance in identifying/contacting appropriate alums. Don’t forget that fellow students are an excellent resource. Talk to current students about their summer experiences and how they were able to obtain their summer position. To the extent you can (especially as a 2L and 3L), consider classes in areas of the law that genuinely interest you and may help you explore a particular area of the law, rather than loading up on “bar” classes.

You may even want to consider a field placement, clinic or externship for academic credit. A great way to research public interest/public sector employment is to enroll in a field placement for a semester.  A number of public interest/public sector employers offer students an opportunity to work in their office in exchange for academic credit. Similarly, if you’ve taken a class you really enjoy and think you may be interested in pursuing a career practicing that area of law, a practicum extension may be another option to choose. Talk to the professor of the class and see if s/he would be willing to be your faculty supervisor. Please note that approval is required for any placements for which academic credit is sought, so be sure to check with the point of contact for each individual externship or clinic for details.

Still unsure of how to start deciding on a practice area? Make an appointment with your career advisor to discuss what options you are considering and they will help guide you throughout this process as well as your journey through law school.

Which OCI Offer to Accept?

You’ve aced the OCIs. You’ve convinced multiple employers that you’re the one for them, and you’re now in the enviable position of juggling offers for that coveted summer position. Now time to choose the employer that is actually right for you with some careful advice:

1. You have 28 days from the date of the offer letter to decide whether to accept or not, assuming the firm is a NALP member. Once you’ve made your decision, let employers know and don’t wait until day 28 just for the sake of it. (Read NALP’s General Standards for different timeframes depending on circumstances.)

2. Speak to current and former lawyers at each firm, though bear in mind that experiences of the same company can vary dramatically and things may be different when you (hopefully) join as an associate in two years’ time. Many employers are happy for you to revisit them during the offer period and some may even invite you to dinner (go if you can).

3. Focus on the work. What is each company’s core business? Which practices have been expanding/contracting? How will work be allocated? Will you rotate through practice areas as a junior associate or stay in just one? If you don’t know or care what work you’ll do, try to keep it broad – choose an employer that will keep doors open.

4. Be honest with yourself about your personality and genuine interests. What vibe did you get with your interviewers during OCIs and the callback interviews? Who did you really click with? Would you rather work downtown or in the more rural areas? Do you value a world-wide legal company or close ties to the region?

5. It’s never too soon to consider your exit options. Where do departing associates move to next? How would this employer look on your resume – to help your long term career goals or not? If you think you might want to join private equity, or government, or a corporation in a few years then join a company that excels most at what you want to do.

6. Decline offers as soon as you can, thanking each employer for its time. This could be the person you receive the offer letter from, the interviewer or recruiting director. We’d advise that after phoning it’s best to send a short follow-up email too. Try to speak to the person and don’t just leave a voicemail. Your paths may cross again in future, so leave a good impression.

“Select a good initial experience. Get the best training possible. Those first few years of training and legal practice are more important than people realize. If you have a clear sense that you want to be a tax, corporate, litigation or administrative lawyer, then go to a law firm that will give you a well-rounded experience in that area. If you don’t know what area you’re interested in, go to the best law firm you can get into and learn how to become a general lawyer, while you figure out what your passion is.”

– Rudy Giuliani, Bracewell & Giuliani

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, a Wake Forest Law 2L, 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!

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.

The Law Student Holiday Count Down

At this moment, every successful law school student is hunkered down in preparation for final exams. Library caddies, study rooms, and hallway chairs are all full of studious individuals, hoping to pass their upcoming exams with flying colors. But during this time of year, don’t let those tests consume you. Beyond exams, focus on a series of other strategies that can help you build your professional network and launch your career. At a minimum, look to accomplishing the following five activities the next weeks following exams as a boost to your network and career path:

1. Shortly after exams, invest time sending holiday wishes to every professional and prospective employer you encountered during the previous 12 months. For more casual acquaintances, emailing those wishes can be perfectly appropriate. In the case of a prospective employer, past employer, or alumni of the school, consider sending a holiday card with a brief personal note. Just writing one or two lines will help you become memorable, and being remembered in a positive light is exactly what every student should want.

2. During the winter break, you may return to a city where you worked as a summer associate or intern just a few months ago. Use the upcoming holiday break to reconnect face to face with contacts you established in that city, especially contacts with potential employers. On more than one occasion, a quick coffee or lunch has revealed a previously unknown job opportunity.

3. In addition to meeting with prospective employers, use the winter break to build your professional networks. The holiday season can be the perfect time to reconnect with peers who have gone off in other directions. Search out college classmates who have headed to business school. Eventually and inevitably business people will need lawyers and vice versa. Use this holiday season to start creating those relationships.

4. In many cases, many organizations experience their quietest time of year between Christmas Day and New Years. That means key decision-makers, who have chosen not to take a vacation, have more time than usual to meet with students who have expressed an interest in a particular company or industry. Take a risk this holiday season. Reach out to every prospective employer with whom you have an interest and don’t stop until you’ve scheduled at least one meeting during the holiday break.

5. Spend some focused time during the winter break setting SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-limited) goals for the upcoming year. Begin by asking a series of questions, including: Who do you need to know? Who can help you make a connection with a potential key employer? How should you best reach out to that person or persons? When? And what specifically should you say to that individual or ask of them? Remember, you never accomplish a goal that you don’t set.