In October, we wrote about the possibility of a legal apprenticeship system to better prepare law students. Elie Mystal at Above the Law took a look at another way law schools can help their students and graduates ease their job woes: by investing more in career services. With the cost of tuition rising and the number of employed graduates declining, the issue is worth looking at. It’s no secret that students invest large amounts of time and money in their legal education, so why do many struggle to find jobs even after earning their degree? Mystal takes a closer look at whether career services offices may be to blame.
According to Mystal, “[m]ost law schools lack skilled and robust career services offices, but you could argue that the dean of the career services office is vastly more important to students than their Con Law professor.”
Blazing a new trail, law schools like the University of Oregon Law School are adding career-development classes to their required curriculum. In addition to the 1L curriculum, courses on networking and career development are now mandatory for Oregon Law students. Citing law professor Paul Campos, Mystal argues that career-development classes alone are not enough to cure the problem of unemployed graduates. Though such classes may be a step in the right direction, Mystal believes that career-services centers and students alike must to be more proactive in their job searches. Mystal notes that:
Law students are notoriously poor networkers. They’re awful at it; one of the reasons they ended up in law school instead of business school is because they were bad at networking. I’m not sure that the Oregon program is going to be doing it the right way, but if you could start teaching networking and other business skills to 1Ls right along with their Civ Pro and Property courses, it wouldn’t hurt.
Perhaps funneling extra money into career services alone won’t help students who don’t help themselves, but strengthening students’ understanding of how to navigate the career search certainly can’t hurt. Schools might do well to follow Oregon’s lead in an effort to better equip their students to land a job, the ultimate goal after years of hard work to obtain that coveted J.D.