February 5, 2013

Law School Students Reflect on the Job Hunt

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Amid recent concerns about a hiring crisis for young lawyers, Cornell law school students who will be graduating this year and have already secured jobs shared their job search experiences and emphasized the need for proactivity in the job search.

“There was a time when anyone who went to Cornell was guaranteed a job on Wall Street — sort of like the ‘roaring twenties’ of hiring,” Chris Engler law said. “I don’t know if hiring will ever return to pre-recession levels.”

Engler — who will graduate this May and has a position waiting for him at a midsize firm in Hartford, Conn. — said he found the law school’s career services “pretty helpful,” although he said it was targeted more at students working in larger cities. As someone primarily interested in working in smaller cities, like Hartford and places in upstate New York, Engler found he was required to do more research on his own.

“There’s a well-oiled machinery for students who want to work in New York [City],” he said. “There’s definitely a different recruiting cycle for people interested in smaller markets.”

James Pyo law — who will be working at the firm Davis Polk & Waldwell in NYC after graduation — said he made use of the law school’s career services in looking for employment. In August of his second year, Pyo attended a law school-sponsored career fair in Manhattan, which brought in representatives from a variety of firms for a three-day, nonstop cycle of first-round interviews.

“Cornell is tuned into all of these firms, so they know each one’s marketing schtick,” Pyo said. “But a lot of it has to be figured out on your own — talking to attorneys you know, going on the firm’s Web site, doing your own research.”

Pyo said that he was part of the “majority” of the students in his graduating class who are primarily interested in corporate law.

“Cornell is more skewed toward a corporate environment than some other top-tier law schools,” Pyo said. “I don’t know if it’s self-perpetuating or if there’s something about Cornell that does it.”

Although Pyo and Engler successfully found jobs, Engler said that some of his friends are still looking for employment.

“In my class, some of my friends who don’t have jobs were more upset about it last semester but have had a new burst of optimism this semester,” Engler said. “Some of them are trying new things or tailoring their search really well to what they’re interested in. ”

Scott Burnett law, who will be working for the Comptroller of the Currency, said he found that searching for public sector jobs was markedly different from finding jobs in law firms.

“Entry level positions for government are hard to come by. Firms have a lot of resources to get you up to speed, but the government doesn’t,” Burnett said.

Burnett found his professors to be one of the most valuable resources in the job search.

“I wish I would have realized earlier in my career how helpful the faculty are for finding jobs and getting feedback. A friend was having trouble getting a job, and a faculty member took it upon himself to do mock interviews with him to help him find a job,” Burnett said. “Not to discount our career services, but in certain respects, faculty are just as useful.”

Burnett said that government agencies tend to be more conservative in their hiring than law firms. He was one of seven applicants accepted to a government position to which thousands applied. Burnett said he found that government jobs tended to require a higher level of academic specialization than private firms.

“Government jobs want to see that you have an interest in their particular field,” Burnett said. “Sometimes, there’s a misconception that government jobs are easy to get, but that’s misguided.”

Still, all three law students expressed gratefulness that they had secured jobs.

“Some of my classmates were unhappy [with their experience finding jobs], but a lot of this process is self-guided.” Pyo said. “You do everything in your power and the school’s career services will help you, but it’s mostly up to you. They can make a phone call or give you a first-round interview, but beyond that, it’s all you.”

Original Author: Sarah Meyers