Response to: “Making CDO Better: Heard Throughout the Courtyard”

Catriona Lavery
J.D. Candidate 2015, UCI Law

I hear a lot of criticisms about the Career Development Office that are either unreasonable or inaccurate, and frequently both. I think much of this angst comes from the unfortunate reality that students feel it is their law school’s job to find them employment—an attitude that I’ve definitely heard around the courtyard, as in “well, they have to find us jobs so that students will continue to come here, right?” While this is probably an inevitable sentiment when law schools charge six figures for a degree, it’s troubling.

Last year’s final issue of The Voice included an unsigned piece entitled “Making CDO Better: Heard Throughout the Courtyard,” (https://ursavoice.wordpress.com/making-cdo-better-heard-throughout-the-courtyard/) which embodied this attitude in places. The author made some valid points, but several struck me as unfair.

First, the anonymous author presents a proposal: “the initial interview between counselor and student should include a full assessment of the student’s interest and his current life situation and future goals” so that the counselor can connect the student’s skills and interests with different practice areas. I can’t imagine an initial meeting with a CDO counselor that didn’t aim to be exactly this. I can’t imagine that a CDO counselor would not ask a student what his goals and interests are. The practical problem with this is that many students don’t yet know their strengths or interests. While CDO counselors can and, in my experience, do suggest certain areas to explore, there is no substitute for trial and error on the student’s part.

The author also laments never being introduced to practicing attorneys with knowledge of a particular practice area, but I simply don’t believe this. UCI Law pairs every 1L with an attorney-mentor for this very reason and painstakingly strives to match students and mentors by practice area. There is also the plethora of networking events and bar association mentoring programs CDO promotes through its newsletter and unending, but appreciated, listserv emails. There are practicing attorneys on campus every week between CDO events, the Speaker Series, and panels organized by student groups. It’s particularly troubling that students feel they don’t have access to practicing attorneys when many of these events are poorly attended.

But my biggest issue with article was that it was published anonymously with no explanation. And this is a criticism not only of the article but also of The Voice. In my opinion, very few things should be published anonymously. Fears that someone will be mad at you or not hire your should not be acceptable reasons for The Voice editors, even if this means publishing fewer submissions.

I do agree that I wish students could see whichever CDO counselor they preferred and that CDO, or anyone, shouldn’t ever discourage students from applying for “reach” positions. However, I worry about particular counselors being overworked. I don’t think it’d be reasonable to have every student work with the counselor specializing in large law firm practice during OCI, for example. However, perhaps incorporating some way for students to indicate their preference for the practice area of their assigned counselor would be doable. As for those “reach” positions, apply away! I am always hearing about students who are shocked to receive interviews for jobs they never thought they had a chance at getting. I hope any discouragement I’ve heard about was merely misstated or misunderstood attempts to dissuade students from putting all their eggs in one basket.

The CDO, and the law school generally, can give us opportunities, but it’s up to all of us students to put in the work too.

 

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