By Matt Walker
Back in 2008, the legal job market was reaching all-time peaks, according to statistics compiled by James Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement. NALP fi gures indicate that by February of that year, the employment rate was 91.9 percent for 2007 law school graduates — a rate higher than any point in the previous 20 years. But like so many other fi elds, the legal world was dealt a serious blow by 2008’s fi nancial meltdown. The same report for 2009 shows the fi rst decrease in employment rates for recent law school grads since 2003.
Pascale Bishop, UF Law’s assistant dean for career development said employers today are looking for “students and graduates who have already received practical experience, who are prepared to take a file and run with it, and who know how to interact with clients, other attorneys, judges, support staff and the professional world at large.
“There is definitely more pressure to be ready to practice from day one with little training or handholding, in order to prove (new employees’) value to the law fi rms,” Bishop said.
Bob Maland (JD 75), a civil, trial and personal injury lawyer in Miami understands.
“Now, more than ever, Gators need to help Gators get that critical fi rst law job,” Maland said.
Maland isn’t just talk when it comes to helping Gators — he recently made a donation to UF Law that will bolster Symplicity, the CCD’s online jobs database. The database allows the CCD to connect UF Law students and recent graduates directly to UF Law alumni who are seeking young Gators for hire.
“If an alum or law fi rm can use some help, or hear of a job opening of any type, it will now be easy for UF Law alumni to immediately post that information on the CCD job board — before the job is taken by a non-Gator,” Maland said. “I remember how important that fi rst job was to me,” he said. “So I think it is important to help our law students and recent grads secure job opportunities on a priority basis.”
The CCD also maintains an extensive collection of career-related legal websites that provide career development aids, resources to assist in career transitions and even an alumni job “hotline,” which provides alumni with a direct link to job opportunities and networking events.
For those still in school, the goal of the Center for Career Development is to make it easy for employers to fi nd and hire UF Law students. In addition to the Symplicity jobs board, the CCD maintains Resumé Books that can be distributed to employers (the books are organized by class year and areas of interest), an on-campus interview program by legal employers, and plenty of networking and off-campus recruiting opportunities.
CCD Director Rob Birrenkott emphasized the value of the services provided to current and past students.
“Gator lawyers have a strong tradition of excellence and leadership within the legal profession, the CCD is a bridge that can help connect alumni and the next generation of legal leaders,” he said.
Bishop said in addition to increasing reactive job-seeking methods like Symplicity, the CCD employs a number of proactive approaches as well.
“We work one-on-one with each student to create a proactive job plan involving identifying contacts in the legal community and honing the students’ networking skills,” she said.
This multi-level approach works well for UF Law students, as they remain high in job-placement rankings in Florida. “UF has consistently out-performed its peers in Florida in terms of overall placement numbers, and is well-known as the Florida school with the most graduates in the state and local government,” Bishop said.
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