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Young Lawyers DivisionThe newsletter of the ISBA’s Young Lawyers Division

June 2010, vol. 54, no. 6

What can I be with a J.D.?

I hope you enjoyed reading the last article and learning about James P. Carey, Professor of Law, and Director of the Advocacy Center at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. In this issue we will focus on Laurel A. Hajek, Assistant Dean for Career Services at the John Marshall Law School.

ALTERNATE CAREER # 20

Laurel A. Hajek

Assistant Dean for Career Services, The John Marshall Law School

Laurel A. Hajek holds a BA in economics and political science from Northwestern University, a JD from Vanderbilt University Law School, an MBA from the University of Cincinnati, and she is currently working on an LLM in Employee Benefits from The John Marshall Law School. After graduating from the Vanderbilt University Law School Laurel was an attorney with a litigation firm in Florida. After three to four years she decided to leave the firm, but she was not sure whether she wanted to still practice law. Laurel took a year off and obtained an MBA from the University of Cincinnati. After completing her MBA degree Laurel became a manager with Ernst & Young for three years. When the assistant dean of career services position at The University of Dayton School of Law became available in 1999, Laurel applied for the position. Although she had never considered a career as a law school administrator, she was intrigued by the job posting and thought it would be a wonderful chance to return to an academic environment and work with law students. In 2004 Laurel left Dayton to accept the assistant dean position at The John Marshall Law School.


Considering the importance of career services assistance, especially in the current job market, I asked Laurel to explain what she does as the Assistant Dean for Career Services.

“I am the Assistant Dean for Career Services at The John Marshall Law School. I have been an assistant dean for over 10 years—the last six years have been with John Marshall. I am responsible for coordinating the career counseling needs for all JD, LLM, and MS students at the law school. My staff and I also serve as a resource to the 16,000 alumni from John Marshall when they have job search and career questions. We oversee the on-campus recruitment process, career fairs, employer outreach efforts, the federal work study program, job postings, and the application process for judicial clerkships.”

Laurel and her career services colleagues are quite busy. Laurel’s typical day consists of talking with students and alumni about their career plans and job search strategies. She also assists employers who contact the career services office with their hiring needs and seek out job opportunities to share with students and graduates. Laurel’s days are filled with student/alumni appointments, meetings, school events, and bar receptions. Throughout the year Laurel and her staff give speeches and workshops on different topics to students. They also coordinate over 60 programs and receptions. As a member of the decanal staff, Laurel also performs various administrative duties for the law school. Laurel’s office employs seven career counselors, an office manager and an office coordinator. Newer attorneys enter the office at an assistant director position. Attorneys with extensive legal and/or recruiting experience enter the office at an associate director level. There are also student workers and two committees of faculty members who assist the career services office. 


Laurel loves working with the law students. “Their enthusiasm and energy is contagious and they definitely make me laugh every single day. I also enjoy how every day is different at my job. No matter what I have planned for the day, it rarely turns out how I expected. A student stops by my office, an employer needs help hiring, or an alumnus calls with a question about his career – all these things are possible. Every day I feel like I am making a difference in peoples’ lives. That is why I went to law school.”

However, every job also has its drawbacks. For Laurel, the worst part of her job is worrying about the students. “You get to know students very well and sometimes it is tough to go home at night and stop thinking of the students you met with that day. The recession has made it so difficult for students to find work and they leave law school with so much debt – how can you not worry? Meeting with attorneys who have lost their jobs is also very difficult. No matter how many times you have met with people struggling to find work, it never gets easier.”

I asked Laurel if she had any suggestions for attorneys interested in following her career path.

Laurel believes that law school administration jobs are very popular with attorneys since many want to return to the law school setting.

“Newer lawyers should maintain strong ties with their law school as well as other law schools in the city where they practice. For career services positions, I would encourage attorneys to try to participate in recruiting and mentoring activities for your employer. Also, offer to volunteer your time at the local law schools—offer to review resumes, conduct mock interviews or give workshops to students on various topics dealing with job search and career development. Don’t forget to become active with the alumni office at your law school and continue to stay in touch with professors and staff.

Moreover, let career services people know you are interested in what they do. Ask for an informational interview with career services professionals. Use networking to become involved in different activities with bar associations that deal with mentoring or coaching law students/newer attorneys. Also consider becoming a recruiter with a law firm, government agency or legal placement organization. Legal recruiters bring excellent skill sets to career services offices and often have an advantage in the hiring process.” 
 

Of course, I asked Laurel to explain what a beginning position at a law school career services office would entail. Laurel suggests that if you are interested in counseling law students and do not have a background in career services/recruiting, you would probably enter a law school as an assistant director. At that level, you will have direct contact with students on a daily basis and may also have an opportunity to work with alumni. “At John Marshall, assistant directors are responsible for counseling a group of students. They are assigned to students their first semester and continue to work with those same students throughout law school and even after they graduate. These counselors will help students with determining their career path and job search strategies. They will also provide advice on volunteer opportunities, externships, clinics, school activities, bar associations, classes, and any other topic that may assist a student.” In addition to counseling students, assistant directors are also responsible for teaching workshops, scheduling career-related programs, and overseeing various office initiatives.

However, even if you have no experience with career counseling, you may still be a strong candidate if you bring a specialized background. To make yourself a stronger candidate, Laurel encourages you to volunteer at a local law school. “Offer to do mock interviews, review resumes or give a workshop to students on a career related topic. Also, stay connected with your law school and get involved with your Alumni Office. Being actively involved in bar associations is also a plus when considering candidates because networking is an important part of the job.” 

Before you move into the career services field you should talk with attorneys who have made this career choice and make sure it is truly something you would enjoy. “Leaving the practice of law for an alternative career is a big step so make sure you are ready. It takes time moving to a career services position so start networking and building your resume now. Also, definitely listen to all the good advice you received from your law school career counselor on how to find a job and apply it to your search and do not be afraid to seek advice from career coaches and other experts. You can’t help others with their career searches until you master your own.”

Finally, the best way to learn about opportunities in career services is to contact the career services office at your law school. Contact the dean of the career services office and request an informational interview. Laurel also suggests you visit the National Association for Law Placement Web site (www.NALP.org). NALP’s mission is “facilitating legal career counseling and planning, recruitment and retention, and the professional development of law students and lawyers”. Laurel believes that “anyone serious about career services should review the wonderful resources available through NALP.” The NALP Web site also posts available recruiting and career services jobs at law schools, law firms, and legal organizations. You may also contact Laurel A. Hajek, Assistant Dean for Career Services the John Marshall Law School at 315 S. Plymouth Ct., Chicago, IL, 60604, or 6hajek@jmls.edu. ■


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