By: Philip Guzman, Esq., Director of Public Service Programs,
North Carolina Central University School of Law
Leaving the practice of law and returning to teaching was a desire that I had for over 10 years before I finally took the plunge. What better job for a former high school teacher and community college professor? Not only would I regain an element of “balance” in my life, but I would again be able to work with a diverse and interesting population of our next generation of lawyers. However, let it be known that the life of an attorney career counselor has not panned out to be just a relaxing 9-5 existence.
Try as I might to have what passes as a “normal” and “regulated” day, it simply rarely happens. No two days are the same and that is exactly what I like about the job. The central most important thing that we do in our Career Services Office is to meet directly with our students and map out career strategies and goals, both short and long term. Short term goals start with asking the most basic question of the student — “Why law school?” Initially, I was surprised to find that so many law students are unable to give a logical and cogent reason. However, as I get them chatting on their life and “passion” (what drives you on?), a student will usually begin to open up and explain his/her law school decision. Even in a very difficult economy, the reason that a student chooses the rigors of a law school education involves a life changing moment, or simply a “love” of the law and its nuances. Now, with their reason for attending law school established, the student plunges into the revision of their resume (I spend the most time on 1L resumes as they are the group that often still has their old college resumes in hand) with the next short term goal in sight –landing that first (or second) summer internship. Finally, in the case of 3Ls, we get to the long term goal: the attorney job and how to go about getting it.
This leads to the next aspect of my job that I really enjoy: cover letter writing, the “mock interview” and all the skill sets that go into the identification of a prospective employer for an internship or permanent job. After fully researching the prospective employer (I expect the student to the bulk of the research), I assist students with the general flow of a cover letter, its writing, along with the appropriate follow-up etiquette. When the cover letter leads to an interview, the next step for me is the mock interview. I role play all interviews and don the persona of the employer and act out a twenty minute interview. Subsequently, the student and I will have another half-hour session where I provide feedback and help the student with the improvement of their interviewing technique. In my view, there is no more important role for a career service attorney than to walk with the law student in all aspects of the career search path.