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Students Must Take More Active Role in Job Hunt, Law Schools Say

Law schools officials say it’s not their job to get students hired, but some students seem to disagree.

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An E-mail from a career services official at University of Mississippi School of Law to Ole Miss students who refused to provide their summer employment information is raising questions about whether students and law schools are seeing eye to eye on the role of career services offices.

In the E-mail, the text of which was published on the blog Above the Law, the career services officer wrote that the students in question had arrived at "some type of agreement ... to refuse to supply this information in some form of protest against Career Services not 'doing our job'—apparently misconstrued as 'finding people jobs.'"

Staci Zaretsky, assistant editor of Above the Law, says law students at Ole Miss and other schools see things very differently than the Ole Miss career officer.

"I feel like these days, especially given the weak hiring market for recent law school graduates, law students expect career services staff members to actually find them jobs," she says. "If not that, then they expect that [career offices] will at least be helpful and provide them with some suggestions on where to apply."

Several Ole Miss students would only confirm receiving the E-mail on the condition of anonymity, and the university didn't respond to queries about the message.

"I think that some students expect to randomly get E-mails from the [career office] that say, 'Show up at firm XYZ on Monday. I found you a job,'" says one Ole Miss student. "I don't think our [career office] was trying to say, 'It's not my job to find you a job,' but instead, 'Hey, I can't help you if you won't give me the chance to do so.'"

[Read about law grads who work in nonlegal professions.]

Brian Hoffman, a third-year law student at University of Maryland's Carey School of Law, admits that his impression upon entering law school was that the school's Career Development Office ought to find him a job. He said he has since realized that jobs don't just present themselves to law students.

While his experience with his school's career office has been positive, he says peers have told him visiting the office was a "waste of time." He speculates that they might not have visited the office at all.

Law school officials agree that students need to take initiative in their job hunts. "No law school or career services office can guarantee any student employment at a particular type of organization or at a certain salary level," says Markeisha Miner, assistant dean of career services and outreach at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

[See which law degrees have the most financial value at graduation.]

Miner says her role is to help students identify goals, become aware of the realities of the hiring market, and apply for jobs. "Success is measured not only by post-graduation employment rates, but also by students' employment in the types of roles and sectors in which they are genuinely interested," she says.

According to Kasey Phillips, director of admissions and marketing at St. Francis School of Law, applicants and entering law students at the online school erroneously think the role of the career services office is to get them a job right away. "The ultimate role of the career services office is to help a student find a career, not just a job," she says.

"[S]tudents need to realize that law school career services personnel are not magicians," she adds.

Adam Ribock, a 3L at Ole Miss and president of the law school student body, has a different perspective. He says most students understand the role of career services.

[Read a law dean's view that jobs exist where students don't look.]

"I think the students who voice their complaints about the career services to outlets such as Above the Law have a different expectation of the career services office compared to that of most law students," he says. "Most law students know the career services office is there to support and help them out with the job search, but it is ultimately up to the student to get the job."

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