Law students seek edge in competitive job market



As the economy makes the prospect of finding a job upon graduation more difficult for undergraduate and graduate students, the University of Minnesota Law School is responding to the challenge by introducing new programs aimed at preparing its students for the increasingly competitive job market.

“It’s important to make sure people are doing what they can to make sure they’re putting themselves in places to get those opportunities that are out there,” said Alan Haynes, director of the Career and Professional Development Center at the Law School.

In response to the economic downturn, the Law School has created a new post-graduate fellowship program designed to give 2009 graduates the field experience necessary to build up their credentials.

“It’s a really good way for our folks to get out and help the community and, at the same time, develop their skills,” Hayes said of the program.

Through the program, 25 Law School graduates will work in a wide variety of legal positions, including assisting state judges and public defenders, working for the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis and doing policy work for various public interest organizations.

Students who receive the fellowship will work between 15 and 30 hours a week for a total of 400 hours and also receive a $5,000 stipend. Currently, five of the 25 spots remain open, with the application period ending Sept. 30.

In addition to the fellowship program, the Law School will hold a series of programs beginning in the next few weeks that will focus on employment skills such as writing cover letters, creating résumés and interviewing.

“At some point, the economy gets better,” Haynes said. “They need to position themselves to make sure that they’re developing skill sets.”

Last spring, the Law School created a new employer recruitment coordinator position, hiring Dana Bartocci to improve employer relations and help students tap into less obvious job markets.

“Instead of having all of the employers come to us, we’re going to them,” Bartocci said.

Both Bartocci and Haynes agree that the biggest change the school is seeing is in the shift from private firm hiring to government sector hiring.

While there has been an overall decline in private sector recruitment, there will be tremendous growth in government sector hiring over the next few years, Haynes said.

Haynes encouraged law students to get as much experience as they can and suggests students get to know their legal community through volunteering, meeting with lawyers and being active members of bar associations.

Current law students are being forced to expand their areas of interest in hopes of being more employable upon graduation.

Due to the economy, third-year law student Erin Schobe said she is exploring jobs outside the legal field that she wouldn’t have considered before.

“I’m optimistic long-term in that things will work out,” Schobe said. “Short-term, I’m not so sure.”

Ben Kaplan , a third-year law student, is trying to expand his job search geographically, opening himself up to new job markets.

Both Schobe and Kaplan said they also volunteer for local legal-related organizations in hopes of becoming more attractive job candidates.

“You can be hopeful but not too comfortable,” Kaplan said.

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