In Defense of the Career Development Office

Jillian Cook
J.D. Candidate 2012, UCI Law

When prospective students visit UCI Law or email me with questions about the school, I generally respond by boasting about the kind, supportive culture the law school is developing and the collegiality between the students, faculty, and staff. In the last few months, I have been less eager to talk about campus culture, and recent student assaults on the UCI Law Career Development Office have made me question what kind of law school we are really building.

The last issue of Voice included a scathing article, criticizing the CDO and its staff. When I read the article, I was shocked and dismayed at the author’s tone, message, and personal attacks. As I understand it, the author’s problem with the CDO staff members is that they host too many events for our benefit, send too many emails trying to help us find jobs, and try too hard to help us perfect our resumes. I had heard this sentiment before, both at the law school and broadcast to the public online. Last November, a string of Facebook posts lamented the CDO’s recommendation against using bullet points in resumes with students commenting, “I hate how my resume looks now” and “this legal version looks atrocious.” This type of commentary distracts from real issues that students are experiencing with the CDO and makes our student body appear whiny, self-entitled, and arrogant.

I understand that many students have had negative interactions with the CDO and I certainly do not intend to downplay those experiences. Improvements can always be made and students, as the beneficiaries of CDO services, are ideally situated to notice problems and suggest solutions. However, the discussion around the law school seems to center on the petty and irrelevant. Instead of talking about major issues, like lack of CDO expertise in some areas of employment, student conversation centers around the use of uppercase letters in emails and disagreement over resume changes.

After reading last month’s Voice article, I wondered what CDOs at other law schools do to assist their students, and how students react to their efforts. Students from various schools including USC, Georgetown, Loyola, Southwestern, Yale, Michigan, and NYU all reported that their career offices made “very helpful” formatting changes to their resumes, held various professional development events, and gave personal career advice. None of the eleven students from different schools who responded to my questions mentioned being upset when they received help with application materials or angry because their career offices send emails with words like MANDATORY and URGENT in bright red or bold type. In contrast, all of the students recognized the value in career services and were grateful for the expert input. While we have no obligation to follow the sentiments of students at established law schools, we should consider that we too have career services for which to be grateful.

If you are not interested in professional development events, do not attend. If you are seriously offended by uppercased or underlined words, block the CDO emails. If you want to submit your resume without input from people with experience, you are welcome to do so. However, the law school provides career services because first and second year law students are not actually experts in legal hiring and because we may actually have something (or everything) to learn.There are certainly improvements to be made in the CDO, but the current discussions between students are neither professional nor constructive. They serve only to alienate the people who do the most to help us. We are still in the process of forming the law school culture. We need to change course and take the opportunity to adjust our collective attitude, focus on the real issues, and work to change UCI Law in a positive way.