CCD won’t miss a beat as search for new leader begins
It’s been said that finding a job right out of law school used be a lot like stepping onto an escalator and choosing when to get off. If this were ever true, the Great Recession certainly changed it. The nation’s weak economy, which since 2008 has been frustratingly persistent, has had a major impact on the legal profession and has made the job market for recent law graduates much more difficult. UF Law administrators are determined to build on the recent progress in the office that takes the lead in helping students and alumni with their job searches.
A search will move forward during the spring semester to replace Assistant Dean Pascale Bishop, who left the helm of UF Law’s Center for Career Development last month for a position in career services at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. UF Law Dean Robert Jerry said negotiations to retain a national search firm to work with a college-appointed search committee have been completed, and a national search for a new assistant dean will begin promptly.
“Two years ago, the college search committee worked very hard, but its initial effort to find the right person was unsuccessful, so we retained a search firm to help the committee, which led to a successful search,” he said. “This being an extremely important appointment, this time we will start the process with the help of a search firm.”
Jerry notes that student satisfaction with career development rose dramatically during Bishop’s tenure and under the leadership of Associate Dean for Student Affairs Rachel Inman, to whom the Assistant Dean for Career Development now reports.
Jerry cited the national Law School Survey of Student Engagement that UF Law participates in every other year and to which half the college’s students responded. Student satisfaction improved significantly for career services from two years earlier. “But we are committed to continuous improvement in all of our services, so there is still more that we will do,” Jerry added.
“We’ve got a great team over there now but we need one more person to serve as their coach and representative, manager and leader,” Jerry said. In the meantime, “we have a plan. Our office will not miss any beats.”
Rob Birrenkott, who has been appointed to serve as interim assistant dean for career development, says the Center for Career Development remains focused on serving students.
“The roadmap (students) can expect first and foremost is outstanding customer service,” Birrenkott said. “Making sure each student is treated with the utmost respect and courtesy and the time and attention that they deserve is going to be priority No. 1.”
Services that will continue include a jobs database, making electronic resume books available to employers, on-campus interview sessions and individualized counseling with students assigned to their own counselors, all of whom have practiced law.
Career services is also experimenting with residency programs for UF Law graduates that can serve as a bridge for a young lawyer. Hopping, Green & Sams in Tallahassee will provide a year-long postgraduate fellowship to a UF Law graduate who specializes in environmental and land use law. The Center for Career Development has also initiated a Central Florida Law School Consortium that brings together law school representatives with law firms to exchange information about job openings and student recruitment data.
But students can also do much to help themselves. And now is the time to do it.
Birrenkott said 3Ls should engage in planning and effort at the start of the spring semester to improve their chances of securing a job by the time they emerge from the bar exam in the summer. Birrenkott notes that as the semester progresses tests and assignments pile up culminating in finals and then students head straight into preparations for the bar exam during the summer.
He recommends laying out a strategy by determining where you want to practice or what specialty you want to practice. Relaying this information to a career services counselor allows them to recommend mentors, bar associations and employers that fit with career goals. Then students can make the contacts needed to get that first job.
“The earlier you start it the better off you’re going to be. Nobody tries to run a marathon by showing up the day of the race and expects to do well,” he said. “Every student should almost consider themselves to be taking an extra course in this semester, and it’s called their job search. And we’ll be here to help with it.”