Q&A with USD Law Career Services

by Cara Mitnick, Assistant Dean for Career Services, and Lakshmi Paranthaman, Employer Outreach and Communications Manager

The current legal job market is one of the most challenging we’ve seen in decades.  After two years of net losses, the national legal sector netted only 1,200 jobs in 2010.1  While the market is beginning to improve, students understandably ask what their Career Services office is doing to help them.  Although we can’t communicate all of our efforts in a newspaper article, we want to take this opportunity to answer some of your questions:

1.     What types of employer outreach do you conduct on behalf of the school?

                Each semester, we reach out to over 5,000 employers across all sectors, including small and large law firms, government agencies, public interest organizations, and corporations, to encourage them to recruit at USD.  Three times a year, we call every federal judge in Southern California to capitalize on all judicial externship opportunities, and each spring we call every public defender, city attorney, and district attorney’s office in California, Arizona, and Nevada to identify potential hiring opportunities.   In conjunction with the Dean, we reach out to all registered USD alumni, encouraging their organizations to hire our graduates and follow up with over 1,000 alumni phone calls.  Similarly, to jumpstart the school’s new corporate counsel internship program, we called, e-mailed, and met with over 200 corporate counsel attorneys and presented to the local Association of Corporate Counsel to inform and answer questions about our internship programs.

                In addition to our fall and spring recruiting programs, we coordinate job fairs to make it convenient for employers to recruit USD law students.  Last year, we organized the “USD in LA” interview program to increase hiring opportunities in Los Angeles and worked with other law schools to coordinate Government Career Day, Public Interest Career Day, the Patent Law Program, and the Tax LLM Fair.  For students pursuing job searches outside of San Diego, we process law school reciprocity requests for their target markets.

                As you know, approximately 80% of job opportunities are never posted.  To stay abreast of unannounced job openings and to further strengthen employer relationships, our staff members attend an average of 25 networking events each month outside of business hours.  We refer qualified USD students for these positions, many of whom are subsequently hired.

2.     Have your outreach efforts been successful?

                Last year, the number of fall recruiting employers at USD Law increased 30% over the previous year, followed by a 15% increase in spring recruiting participants.  Other California law schools reported fall improvement rates ranging from (-7%) to 12%.2 

                We are in the process of completing our class of 2010 employment statistics.  For the class of 2009, approximately 47.8% of USD graduates reported receiving their jobs through OCI or the Symplicity job board.  This is higher than the national average of 38.7%3 and that of peer schools like Loyola Law School (39.6%).4

3.     What about current employers?

                In addition to new employer outreach, we maintain a high employer retention rate.  We call every employer participating in formal recruiting over the last three years and encourage each to recruit again at USD.  When employers are slow or reluctant to re-register, we complete the forms for their approval.  When large employers decline to participate in our recruiting programs, Assistant Dean Mitnick and Dean Cole take hiring managers to lunch to encourage continuous recruiting relationships. 

                We also work to retain employers by ensuring an exceptional interview experience.  We treat employers who interview on-campus to breakfast and lunch, provide them with customized applicant facebooks5 and thank-you gifts, accommodate all scheduling requests and changes, and make student reminder calls to ensure a full interview schedule.

4.     How do you determine which job listings appear on the job board?

                Unlike many law schools that repost unsolicited, commercial job board listings, we have generally restricted job board listings to actively solicited employers or employers seeking USD Law students, directing students to useful websites for unsolicited positions.  While this results in fewer listings, our postings garner a much higher rate of return.  Whereas 2.5% of commercial job board listings result in employment,6 our job board opportunities derive internship and job offers more than 43% of the time. 

5.     Are there any other programs you offer outside of our formal recruiting programs and the job board?

                Each year, we host over 250 panels, programs, and events to inform students about career prospects and provide networking opportunities with potential employers.  We also conduct spring and fall alumni mock interview programs and update the Symplicity alumni directory to make sure contact information is accurate. 

To assist with judicial clerkship applications, we work with faculty, faculty assistants, and employers to ensure that recommendation letters are submitted on time.  In 2009, we formatted and uploaded 8,631 recommendation letters into OSCAR and processed 7,782 printed recommendations.  In addition, we offer the Fall Government Mailing Program to assist with federal government mail request applications. 

                Finally, we are always happy to meet with you individually, review your application materials, conduct mock interviews, and help you create a custom job search plan.  To accommodate the schedules of working students, we are open Wednesday nights until 7:00 p.m.  If you would like to schedule a career counseling appointment, further discuss our outreach efforts and programs, or share new ideas and suggestions, please contact us at any time by e-mailing lawcareers@sandiego.edu or calling (619) 260-4529.

1 Tom Huddleston, Jr., January Jobs Report: Marginal Growth in Legal Industry, American Lawyer, Feb. 4, 2011, http://www.law.com/jsp/tal/PubArticleTAL.jsp?id=1202480813627&hbxlogin=1
2 Sara Randozzo & Kari Hamanaka, Firms Signaling Recruiting Optimism, L.A. Daily Journal, Aug. 17, 2010, cited in David Lat, Fall Recruiting Glitters in the Golden State, Above the Law, Aug. 18, 2010, http://abovethelaw.com/2010/08/fall-recruiting-shines-in-the-golden-state.
3 See Nat’l Ass’n of Legal Prof’ls (“NALP”), Class of 2009 National Summary Report (2010), available at http://www.nalp.org/uploads/NatlSummaryChartClassof09.pdf (total percentage calculated by adding “Fall OCI,” “Job Posting,” and “Spring OCI” statistics).
4 Loyola Law Sch., Final Employment Report for the Class of 2009 (2010), available at http://intranet.lls.edu/careerservices/stats/employmentstats.pdf (calculated as number of students reporting Career Services job postings, referrals, or OCI as job source divided by number of question respondents).
5 As requested by employers and agreed to by interviewees, we create printed handouts of selected interview candidates’ Student Faces headshots for employer reference.
6 NALP, supra note 3.

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