By Lynn Mason,
Typically, law students graduate from school and hopefully pass the bar on the first try. However, some remain jobless for months even if they did pass the bar. This is extremely hard because loans are due six months after graduation. So what’s the solution?
Students are not always prepared for what comes after the long, hard journey of law school. You know the old saying, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Recently, I participated in the annual Mentor Jets program at WMU-Cooley Law School which gives students some exposure to the Lansing legal community in hopes of building their professional networks and reducing post-graduation unemployment.
This program is significantly underrated especially if you want to practice in Michigan. It’s a networking event like speed dating. You essentially speak to local attorneys and judges for three minutes and ask them questions about their careers and how you, as a law student, can achieve your career goals. If there is one drawback, I think it is the lack of out-of-state professionals because, if you are not planning to practice in Michigan, Mentor Jets is not the best networking program. However, it does give you a perspective on different legal disciplines. There were criminal defense attorneys, family law attorneys, a judge from Circuit Court, who formerly worked for the Attorney General’s office, and a Circuit Court Judge who presided over sobriety court. The legal professionals even passed out business cards if anyone had further questions or needed additional guidance. It was a pleasure to see where some of us will end up in the legal profession.
Eventually, maybe the powers that be can persuade some alumni who practice in other states to attend the event and advise students who are not from Michigan about what can be done to secure post-graduation employment in their home state. As a matter of fact, we need that desperately. There are a lot of students who are not planning to practice in Michigan but attend WMU Cooley. Thus, we come full circle with the issue on which we began- the inability of students to find jobs although they passed the bar. How do we solve the issue of networking in the state in which you plan to practice? I don’t have the answer, but suggestions would be very helpful from faculty and students.
Another event WMU Cooley sponsored was Pro-Bono day. This experience gave students the opportunity to hear how attorneys begin the initial stage of taking on clients and giving advice. How it worked was that anyone in the community could come into the Cooley lobby and get legal advice without having to pay legal fees. There were greeters at the door to pair the person seeking assistance with the appropriate attorneys and, just like Mentor Jets, there were various types of attorneys. There were family law attorneys, criminal defense attorneys, immigration attorneys, probate attorneys who handled wills and estates, and landlord-tenant attorneys. As law students, not only did we assist the process of initiating the attorney-client relationship, but we also observed the interviews.
Cooley offers numerous opportunities of which students need to take advantage. Just going to class and passing exams will not get you where you want to be in long run. Networking is a huge part of this process. Remember, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Well, you never know who knows who. The legal community is small and, just by talking to someone here in Michigan, there is a strong possibility they may know someone in your home state. I hope this article helps to answer some networking and employment questions.