In this Career Brief, PDO continues its focus on landing jobs through networking—which simply means building professional relationships (not just asking people for jobs). The following article features Heidi Goebel and George Burbidge, local litigators and hiring attorneys. Heidi is also co-chair of the Attorney-Student Mentor Match Program, and will be a panelist on How to Get the Most from Your Mentoring Relationship, this Wednesday at the College of Law (for details, click HERE).
Heidi G. Goebel-Shareholder and Hiring Attorney at Christensen & Jensen, P.C.
Where did you go to law school? Indiana University School of Law – Bloomington.
Why did you go to law school? I went to law school in part just because I loved school and had always known that I would go on to do graduate work of some sort. Law, and in particular, litigation, seemed interesting to me because even after you start practicing, you are still continuing to learn about various subjects for each case you handle.
Have you ever gotten a job through your networking efforts? A chance meeting where you impressed someone? Yes. In law school I ran the moot court program, which gave me reasons to talk with professors, lawyers and judges in a slightly less formal setting. Through this I became close with one of my professors. Because he had gotten to know me as a person as well as a student, he took it upon himself to send out letters of recommendation on my behalf, one of which resulted in my first job. Since that time I have moved to several different states. I have also gotten job leads and introductions from in-house counsel for clients with whom I have had good working relationships. And finally, I have used my own law school’s career services office to find alums from my law school and have relied upon that network.
As a hiring attorney, have you ever decided to interview someone because you met them at a networking event? What influenced that decision? Yes. As I am often known to say, the most important part of a job search (whether seeking a position or an employee) is to find a good match of personalities and people. The rest of it generally falls into place. As a result, people that I have met at networking events that I have hit it off with end up on the list of people I look to for employment. I also regularly forward their information on to the hiring partner with a note of recommendation. Now that I am on the firm’s hiring committee, I have even taken the initiative on a few occasions to contact people to solicit their application for positions we are filling.
Any advice for jobseeking law students? Take advantage of each networking opportunity you have and be open minded. Someone once told me it takes 100 resumes to get 10 interviews to land one job. I’ve been fortunate enough to have better odds than that, but this guideline helps to make the disappointment of rejection easier to swallow.
Try to focus on getting to know potential employers as people. People can sense if you are really interested in them and what they do, rather than just what job may arise from knowing them. Focus on building relationships with people.
And, if you are working as an extern, intern, law clerk, or summer associate take the time to make sure the work you do is your best work – as that’s the number one thing that will help you secure permanent employment. Make sure you re-read it for typographical or grammatical errors. Ask questions to ensure that you understand the assignment.
George W. Burbidge II, Hiring Attorney and Director at Christensen & Jensen, P.C.
Where you Went to Law School/Why Did You Go To Law School? I went to law school at the University of Utah. I went to law school because I did not know what I wanted to do when I grew up, and a friend of mine who was in law school told me that a law degree was very flexible.
Have you ever gotten a job through your networking efforts? A chance meeting where you impressed someone? Yes, I found several different positions this way. Once I was at a gas station getting a drink with my mother when we ran into an attorney she knew. He said his firm had a branch office they were trying to decide what to do with and asked if I was interested. I was and ended up getting a job there. In another instance, I was working for a small firm and had several cases where opposing counsel was from Christensen & Jensen. I developed a good relationship with them. One day, out of the blue, one of them called me and asked if I was interested in working at a medium sized litigation firm in downtown Salt Lake City. Christensen & Jensen needed to hire a lateral. Rather than advertise for the position, they contacted attorneys who they had seen practice who they thought would be a good fit with the firm. I interviewed with them and got the position. I had applied to work at Christensen & Jensen while in law school and soon after graduation but had not been offered a position. I got on with Christensen & Jensen because the attorneys at the firm knew me and my work.
As a hiring attorney, have you ever decided to interview someone because you met them at a networking event? What influenced that decision? I have decided to interview someone because I met them at a networking event because (1) at the networking event we had a conversation where they asked good questions (i.e., “Do you have any recommendations for classes or extra-curricular activities for a law student who is interested in a career in litigation?”) or engaged me in a conversation that was different from everybody else; (2) when they applied at the firm they mentioned in their cover letter meeting me and our conversation and, if appropriate, how they followed up (i.e., “As you suggested, I have taken classes that will allow me to improve my legal research and writing skills.”).
Any advice for job-seeking law students? Get as much exposure to as many people as possible. Get the best grades you can and take classes that are relevant to the areas of law in which you wish to practice. Get involved in extra-curricular activities, especially in clerkships, externships, and other activities that allow you to meet lawyers, judges and others who may be able to hire you or serve as a reference. Do your absolute best at every job, even if you do not like it and you want to do something else. Employers are looking for people who can do high-quality work. I will hire someone who does high-quality work in an area of law different from what we do at my firm, but I will not hire someone who does poor work.