USD Law Career and Professional Development Q&A

USD Law Career and Professional Development Q&A
By Career and Professional Development

Considering the still challenging legal job market, students understandably ask what their Career & Professional Development office can do to help them.  Although we cannot communicate all of our efforts in this article, we want to take this opportunity to answer some pressing questions.

What is going on in the job market?

While it is too early to track statistics for the recently graduated class of 2013, the National Association for Law Placement (“NALP”) reported in June that the employment rate for 2012 law school grads as of February 2013, was 84.7 percent, down slightly from 85.6 percent in 2011. NALP announced there were some bright spots in the report on 2012 graduates, including more overall private sector jobs being obtained than the class of 2011, increased hiring at large firms with more than 500 lawyers, and a median starting salary for the new graduates of $61,245, up from $60,000 in 2011.[i]  James Leipold, NALP’s Executive Director, also notes that despite continued challenges in the market, many aspiring lawyers are also taking advantage of the growing number of “law-related” jobs in fields such as technology and finance, sectors that are relevant players in San Diego (especially technology).[ii]

These encouraging trends are backed up by our own recent recruiting statistics, evidenced in part by the 2008-2013 lifecycle of our Fall Recruiting Program.  Between 2008 and 2011, USD School of Law’s Fall Recruiting Program (otherwise affectionately known as “OCI”) attracted an average of 140 employer participants per year as the legal market suffered a sustained retraction. As a result of an improving economy as well as more intensive outreach to employers by our office, the last two years have snapped that slump: 2012 saw 174 Fall Recruiting employers and the 2013 program that just wrapped up held strong with 179 participants.


More evidence of a turnaround can be found on Symplicity. Job postings on our internal student and alumni Job Board have increased markedly since the lows of the recession. As of October 1, 961 jobs had been posted on our site in calendar year 2013, a 20% posting increase during the same ten month period in 2012 (747 positions), 42% more posts than 2011 (553 positions), and a 55% increase from 2010 (425 positions).


Employers frequently tell us they are more likely to use our online job board or their own internal referral procedure to fill positions opposed to the traditional on-campus recruiting model.  Part of the explanation for this is simple resource management (it is expensive to pull an attorney away from their work all day to travel to campus for interviews). Another reason is that many employers do not enjoy predicable hiring cycles as they did in the past.  It is no longer feasible for many organizations to project in August that they will need two summer associates the following May or two entry level associates in November of the following year.  Instead, employers are taking a “wait-and-see” approach to hiring and filling positions on an as-needed basis.

What type of employer outreach does your office conduct?

Each semester, we reach out to several thousand employers across all sectors, including small and large law firms, government agencies, public interest organizations, and corporations to encourage them to recruit at or through USD for students and graduates.  Three times per year, we call every federal judge in Southern California to capitalize on all judicial externship opportunities, and each spring we contact public defender, city attorney and district attorney’s offices throughout the state to identify potential hiring opportunities. To support our corporate counsel internship program, we contacted over 1,000 corporate counsel attorneys this year both in San Diego and across country to discuss our program and encourage participation.  Recent successes in recruiting for the corporate counsel program include partnerships with Sony, Verizon, Qualcomm, Union Bank, Provide Commerce, Rady Children’s Hospital and the San Diego Padres, to name a few.

What are you doing to find job in markets other than San Diego? 

The office of Career and Professional Development works hard to retain and expand our presence in markets outside San Diego; we are constantly exploring other viable legal markets to which we can send our students and graduates.

For example, this past September we continued our recruiting efforts in the Bay Area by hosting a second consecutive “USD in the Bay” event in San Francisco.  Students had the opportunity to apply for OCI-style interviews and resume collections with Bay Area government offices, law firms, corporations, and public interest organizations.  Over 40 students made the school subsidized trip to San Francisco to interview, and several great summer and post-bar jobs were secured by their efforts.

We also look beyond California for job opportunities.  While we have limited resources to fully explore the entire country, we try to stay abreast of internships and job opportunities in non-California cities popular with graduates including Washington, D.C., New York, Denver and Las Vegas.  In conjunction with our new Washington, D.C. Externship Program, our office continually cultivates relationships in the capital to help secure positions for students and alumni. Applications are currently being accepted through the Job Board for dozens of Washington, D.C. internships, but students interested in the program are also encouraged to research and apply to organizations on their own. There is no lack of opportunity for young attorneys in our nation’s capital and the work experience you can gain there is truly world class. If you have particular questions about how you can break into cities outside of California, we are happy to talk to you about networking and research strategies.

What Does Career and Professional Development do to prepare students for their job search?

Career and Professional Development is always available to help students in their job search.  We review and edit thousands of resumes and cover letters every year and conduct hundreds of mock interviews with students.  We encourage students to use our expertise; interviewing, resume and cover letter drafting are skills that need to be practiced and we have decades of combined experience with these critical aspects of job searching.  Our career advisors not only practiced law in the areas of litigation, real estate, tax, corporate, project finance, and public interest sectors, they were also involved in the hiring processes at their past employers and have great insight into what will make you a successful candidate.

We also run two mock interview programs every year in which over 150 students interview with practicing attorneys and judges to refine their critical interview skills.  In addition, we routinely hold specialized workshops to help prepare for the very different law firm and criminal law interviews.

Equally important to interview prep and submission material drafting, we passionately encourage students to cultivate their networking skills from the beginning of their law school careers and to put those skills to use throughout their time at USD.  Approximately 80% of all legal jobs are not publicly posted and about 50% of our recent graduating classes secured their post-graduate employment through a self-initiated contact or referral.  There is no greater job search tool than effective networking (“you have to network to get work!”). Accordingly, we provide recurring networking and social media programs including LinkedIn workshops and professional networking etiquette and advice forums.  If you are anxious about networking or need advice on how to get started and be effective at it, our advisors can give you excellent tips on that as well.

What should I be doing now to position myself to find a job later?

As the recent popularity of our Job Board indicates, things are beginning to improve in the job market and we anticipate they will continue to do so. However, the typical path to employment might be different than it was even a few years ago. If you are a 2L or a 3L, working during the school year to gain practical experience is one of the most valuable things you can do to secure future employment. Often times, employers use part time semester positions to vet a student for summer or post-bar employment.  Moreover, your part-time work will also impress attorneys who will become important recommenders for you in your job search. Make sure you are prepared to apply to part-time semester or summer opportunities now and check the Job Board frequently for openings that interest you. If you have not had your resume and cover letters reviewed by a Career and Professional Development advisor (or have not had them reviewed recently), send them to us at lawcareers@sandiego.eduso you can be ready to apply quickly. Often, the first few applicants to a Job Board position are the ones that get an interview. Finally, make an appointment with an advisor to discuss your employment strategy. We are here to help!

[i] Full NALP 2012 employment report available at:

[ii] Leopold interview available from Bloomberg Online at

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