Florida State Law Offers Students Great Networking Opportunities

Besides completing your law degree and passing the bar exam, networking may be the single most important thing that a law school student can do to kick-start their legal career. While there is no specific formula for how to go about it, there is also not just one thing that a student must do to build their network. Therefore, a student must learn to recognize and take advantage of their opportunities, include networking as part of their career strategy, and look for ways to nurture the relationships that develop along the way.

Tallahassee: A Great Place to Build Your Legal Network

Catherine Lockhart, Class of 2017

The Florida State University College of Law has positioned itself as an active participant in the community and is located in a perfect area to provide students and alumni with countless opportunities to network. Law students often find themselves at networking events and functions in the hopes of meeting and impressing their dream employers. Home to the Florida Supreme Court, the Florida Capitol, and actively engaged private and non-profit organizations, Tallahassee has networking opportunities no matter what your interest or focus might be.

I have already mentioned the Florida Supreme Court, but Tallahassee is also home to the United States District Court, Northern District of Florida; United States Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Florida; Florida’s First District Court of Appeal; and Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit. Students have opportunities to meet justices, judges, and lawyers from these courts who visit the College of Law as guest speakers and as adjunct professors and who also offer opportunities for students to participate in internships and externships with them.

The annual legislative session brings not only the legislature, but also representatives from organizations highly engaged in public interest. Both legislators and notable figures from a variety of interest areas visit the College of Law to speak about their organizations, their work, and their issues. Many of these speakers come as guests of student organizations which provides students with opportunities to interact with potential employers, mentors, and future colleagues who share their interests.

While networking can often be intimidating it often involves your law school peers with more relaxed surroundings. It can also be as simple meeting at a restaurant or bar or having lunch with someone. To make networking even easier, the Career and Professional Development Center holds regular “Networking Nosh” lunch sessions where students can easily meet and learn from attorneys both inside and outside of Tallahassee. All in all, Florida State University College of Law makes networking as feasible and enjoyable as possible!

Networking Is What You Make of It

Laura Frawley, 3L

Before I started law school, I could list the number of lawyers I knew on one hand and three of them were because of their television ads. Once in law school it became apparent that to be successful I would have to expand my professional network to include more legal professionals and that there were many ways to accomplish this.

Mentoring: One of the easiest ways to start meeting lawyers is to find programs that match students with experienced professionals who have signed-on to mentor law students. Mentor/mentee relationships are great because your roles are defined in advance. Several of the College of Law student organizations can help match students with mentors and some can even match student with mentors in a specific area of law.

LinkedIn: It is amazing how many law students do not take advantage of the amazing networking tool that is LinkedIn. If you do not have a LinkedIn page yet, you need to create one, and if you have an account but do not use it, you need to start using it! Simply adding your fellow law students to your contacts list can vastly grow your network. There are also many interest groups that law students can join depending on the areas of law that interest them.

Networking Events: As cliché as it may sound, it really is all about who you know and networking events are a great way to meet people and build your network. These events can feature an experienced attorney in-person or via videoconference who will speak about a topical legal issue, how they got to their current position, and answer questions from students. Not only is this a great way to learn about different paths and meet people, but sometimes you can get a free meal in the process. After attending an event, I always ask to connect with the speaker on LinkedIn to thank them for taking the time to speak with the students. This simple act has helped me grow my professional network exponentially.

Justices and Judges and Lawyers, Oh My!

Marlie Blaise, 3L

Having access to so many accomplished justices, judges, and lawyers as we do in Tallahassee through the College of Law may seem intimidating, but having so many opportunities to meet them can be valuable, fun, and rewarding. They all love to talk with interested students and share their experiences and listening to what they have to say can be the first step to successful networking.

They also love to hear about what student’s professional interests are. This can be important because it can give a student some control over the direction of a conversation. If you are interested in learning about a certain area of practice, you can also target attorneys who practice in that area during a networking event. If you are simply interested in discussing contemporary legal issues, almost any legal professional will be willing to share their insights as well.

Most importantly, networking with justices, judges, and lawyers can lead to internships, job offers, and even mentoring opportunities. I have observed that students who establish and foster these relationships have an easier time landing a job opportunity directly and indirectly through these contacts.

I also believe that the more you are around experienced legal professionals, the more comfortable and confident you become over time. This will allow you to develop even greater connections, get more assistance, advice, and guidance, and expand your potential opportunities. Overall, a student can gain a great deal from networking with legal professionals and, as l see it, you have nothing to lose!

 Catherine Lockhart, Class of 2017

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Laura Frawley, 3L

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Marlie Blaise, 3L

My First Law School Summer Vacation: From Distress to Delight

After my first year of law school I was very happy with how everything had turned out. I had been elected vice president of our Black Law Students Association (BLSA), had worked as a Student Ambassador since the beginning of the spring semester and I had been crowned Miss Tallahassee. On top of that, I was pleased with my academic performance and was active in my church. However, we were told that legal experience, employment and networking during the summer were important, even if we were taking some classes, so landing a summer job was high on my list of priorities.

While I explored different options, I did not have much luck at first. I participated in an on-campus interview (OCI) with one law firm and thought my interview went great. This was reinforced by the fact that I received a thank you note from the attorney that interviewed me even before I had the chance to send one. I did not get the job, though. I had also met an attorney from the sports industry at an organization lunch during the school year who encouraged me to apply for their summer internship opportunities. He had even offered to walk my resume into their hiring department himself and another contact of mine had arranged for me to talk to the company vice president. I thought I had that one in the bag until I received the rejection letter a month later.

By this point I was really discouraged. I did not understand why I was not getting any offers. I felt like I had the grades, the personality and enough documented leadership and involvement to qualify me for jobs in a variety of areas. So, I decided to enroll in a summer law class and began the on-line event management program offered through the Graduate School at Florida State.

A few weeks later, I was encouraged by Dean Ingram in our Office of Student Affairs to apply for a positions as a mentor for the Florida State University College of Law Summer for Undergraduates (SUG) Program. I submitted the application and got the job. I was very excited because the job included event planning, working with undergraduate students and they were going to pay me! Knowing that it would only be for four weeks, I continued my job search for something to do for the rest of the summer after the program ended.

I really enjoyed my time as a mentor for SUG. I was able to interact with faculty, staff, prospective and current students and even a lot of distinguished alumni who came to visit with the students. So, it also became an opportunity to grow my legal network and gain new perspectives on how to approach my legal education. I also participated in behind-the-scenes tours of the Florida Capitol, seminars with alumni and attorneys and luncheons with faculty and College of Law deans. By chance, I ended up having a conversation with one of my first year professors that turned into an offer to work for him as a research assistant after SUG ended.

I was also offered a job clerking for my BLSA Mock Trial Coach at the Florida Department of Business and Regulation (DBPR) Office of the General Counsel. I started working there too after SUG ended and got a lot of experience drafting administrative complaints, closing orders, motions, correspondence and other legal documents.

As it turns out, my first law school summer ended up being full of many different experiences that were applicable to various areas of my life and future legal career. After the summer ended, I continued working at DBPR and also started working as an assistant to the Director of Membership and Marketing at the Tallahassee Museum.

If you do not get that dream job you thought you would for the summer, do not give up! Just remember that there are other options out there, so keep trying and be open to opportunities you might not have first considered. If your experience is anything like mine, the opportunities you land just might end up being more valuable to you than the one you wanted.

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Lauryn A. Collier, 2L

Balancing School and Outside Activities is Important to Success Following Your 1L Year

You hear all the time that your 1L year is the hardest, and it gets easier after that. It definitely seemed like that to me because I was focused on academics my first year. Now, as a 2L, I also have the freedom to choose my classes as well as what I want to do outside class to supplement my legal education.

There are many different approaches, but it seems that the focus in the 2L year shifts to building one’s resume. One of the many great aspects of the Florida State University College of Law experience is that you have many diverse opportunities to explore as a student. With so many opportunities—clinics, externships, internships, student organizations, and co-curricular activities—how do you determine where to focus your efforts?

For the people who know with 100% certainty what they want to do with their law degrees, the choices are a bit easier. But for those of us who are not even 10% sure, the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming. Either way, it is easy to overcommit and then find yourself booked for every second of every day.

You will not be alone in the crazy endeavor to try and do everything but here are some simple tips for managing the seemingly unmanageable as your look forward to your 2L year.

Surround yourself with dependable people and make sure that you too can be counted on when needed. You cannot do everything yourself, so you have to be able to lean on those around you. This is especially important if you are going to be in student group leadership positions or team activities. Make sure whoever you work with are people you can trust to get their tasks done and make sure that you allot an adequate amount of time to get your tasks done.

Your calendar is your best friend (after caffeine of course). Scheduling and sticking by your calendar is important. Whether it is electronic or hard-copy, make sure it gives you somewhere to write down EVERYTHING in one place so that nothing will fall through the cracks.

Concentrate on things that you love. Getting involved in an activity, joining a group, or taking a job just to build one’s resume does not really benefit anyone. There are too many opportunities to be involved in something you will find rewarding. So, do not jump into something that will make you unhappy or dissatisfied.

School comes first. Personally, I love my job more than I love going to class, but one has to graduate and pass the bar to become a real lawyer. So, keep up with your reading assignments and homework and always go to class. Even those classes that begin at 8:00 a.m.

Take care of yourself. It does not do you or anyone around you any good if you are sick all the time or you are too tired to function. So eat well, get your rest, and set aside some time to spend with your friends. You need your health and your sanity to be a productive, so use that handy dandy super calendar I already mentioned above.

Don’t panic. Starting at the end of the fall semester of your 1L year, you will be able to start looking at your options. During the following spring many will be laid out in front of you by the various co-curricular organizations, the placement office, the externship office, and student groups. Just keep telling yourself not to panic because you do not have to do everything.

No matter what you choose to do, you will handle it like a champ if you keep these things in mind. You know what will be best for you, so take advantage of those opportunities that interest you and you will have a great experience!+

Student Ambassadors for College of Law  Katie Harrington, 2L

Law School Presents Many Challenges, But Also Many Great Opportunities

One of the biggest things facing an incoming 1L student is adjusting to law school life and all of the associated challenges. The educational experience is very new and different. While it sometimes seemed like a chore to go to class as an undergraduate, I have never felt the same way about my law school classes. You may already have heard about some of the challenges you will face, but you may not have heard about some of the exciting opportunities you have to look forward to while in law school. With that in mind I thought it may be helpful share some of my experiences.

Challenges

Time commitment: The amount of time you will have to dedicate to your studies cannot be understated. You will find that you will have to dedicate more time in this area than you did as an undergraduate. Good time management is the key to success in this area.

Reading load: The reading load is tremendous compared to what you had as an undergraduate. Professors do their best not to completely overload you with the number of pages assigned, but it is still a lot. You may have three or four classes in a day, each with their own cases and briefs to read. You have to keep up with your readings because of the next challenge.

Cold calls: Professors randomly call on students in class to explain a case or to answer questions. It does take a while to understand how to read cases so that you can be prepared if you are called on in class. Once you have mastered this it will seem like you have learned a second language and only you and your fellow law school friends will understand.

Finals: Final examinations in law school are as tough as anybody has ever told you they are. Finals week is an extremely stressful time and will be very different from what you experienced as an undergraduate.

Opportunities 

Law student community: Being part of the student community at Florida State University College of Law is the most positive thing I have experienced since arriving as a 1L. Students are so nice to each other and everyone tries their best to help each other. You are also now among some of the best students in the country who all have the same goal that you do.

Legal community: Law school students, past and present, have all been in your shoes and know what you are going through. It is almost like a secret society, providing for an instant connection, whenever you are talking with another law student or attorney, and they all know and understand exactly what you are talking about!

Supportive faculty: The faculty is a tremendous help, both inside and outside of class. We are fortunate to have professors who are not only great teachers and expert researchers, but who also make themselves available to students. Take advantage of this!

Activities: Do not expect to just be sitting around studying all the time because you will have some free time and there are many ways to use it. You will have opportunities to gain work experience through externships and clinics and there are so many student organizations that you can join. Some of these activities provide for an opportunity to travel, including overseas opportunities. There are also concerts, sporting events, and other activities in Tallahassee and at Florida State that you will be able participate in. We are also only a short drive to some of Florida’s most beautiful beaches.

The best piece of advice I can give any incoming 1L is to work and play hard. It may seem like you are never going to make it through, but it does get better with time and practice. You will definitely be fine as long as you work hard, do what is asked of you, and always keep a positive attitude.

College of Law student ambassadors. Trey Howell, 3L

Networking Can Give You a Head Start on Your Job Search

One of the most important parts of the job search for new legal professionals is networking. Making connections with established legal professionals who are willing to reach out to current law students is an invaluable part of making progress toward getting your career started. Students at the Florida State University College of Law have many opportunities to do this including participation in Networking Noshes organized by our Placement Office, checking out local events hosted by the Tallahassee Bar Association, and by attending mixers organized by College of Law student organizations. To get the most out of these events you should be prepared to network efficiently and effectively and the following are some simple tips for those of us for whom networking may not come naturally:

Get Organized: Once you begin networking you should set up a contact record to keep track of the individuals you have met. I recommend setting up an Excel spreadsheet that includes their names, contact information, the networking event where you met, their job/position, and the topics you discussed. Whenever I get a business card from someone, I always write down tidbits of information related to what we spoke about for my spreadsheet. The more information you include in your spreadsheet, the more you will be able to remember about the person, how your conversation went, and what details you may need to relate when you reconnect.

Work the Room: Networking events are sometimes very short and you will want to maximize your time and meet with as many professionals as possible while also making a lasting impression. Spend about five to ten minutes with each person, depending on how your conversation goes, and always be prepared with your “30-second sell”. Your pitch should include your competencies, areas of interest and any other educational or career-oriented information that you would want people to remember. Do not be afraid to ask for tips on entering the area of practice you are interested in pursuing and about the types of things these professionals deal with in their practice. You can even get their perspective on the legal job market both in the city where they practice and in their area of practice if that is important to you. After you have had an opportunity to effectively present yourself and learn something about an individual, politely excuse yourself before moving on to another person. Also, do not forget to get a business card from each person you meet so that you can contact them after the event.

Establish Relationships: The most important reason for making each of these contacts is that you are establishing business relationships. During networking events do not just go through the motions of a conversation and then move on. You should make an effort to get to know and learn a little about each person you speak with. A kind, warm approach is normally well-received and will help you stand out. You should also actively show an interest in the other person and what they have to say. Asking questions, being excited, smiling, and asking for details are good ways to show that you are engaged. Even if you are nervous, be upbeat and friendly and people will respond!

Follow-up: After these events, it is extremely important that you always follow up! If you never follow up with a person you meet, you are effectively cutting off the professional relationship that you established during an event. You should always write, call, or e-mail a thank you to people who give you information, advice, and referrals. If you spoke about something specific, bring it up, or send a copy of an article you may have run across on the topic – it will be very well received and will show your dedication to the relationship.

Networking is extremely fun once you get into it and have the opportunity to put some of these tips into practice. You never know who you may meet or what you may have in common. It is extremely important to make these networking connections because they are an investment in your future. It is not uncommon for College of Law alumni to attend these events and sometimes they are looking for people they may want to hire in the future. Letting yourself shine through, staying organized, and following up on these relationships will give you a leg up on the job search and help you solidify your future.

Student ambassadors for the College of Law Jaycee Peralta, Class of 2015

My Transfer Experience: Simple, Straight-Forward, and Seamless

For any prospective law student who is interested in Florida State University College of Law, but for one reason or another will begin their law school journey somewhere else, do not give up. When it came time for me to apply to law school, I felt that my chances at getting into a law school ranked in the top 50 were limited. My grades were fine, but I had some difficulty with the LSAT, despite taking it three times. So, in my case, I was happy just to get into any law school.

I started at a small, private law school and was immediately stunned by the amount of work I was assigned. Despite this, I worked very hard and when I received my grades I was happy to see that my efforts had paid off. Halfway through the second semester of my 1L year I started to seriously consider transferring and started researching schools. I knew about Florida State’s great reputation, and as I looked closer, I was immediately impressed with the College of Law’s employment numbers, faculty, and facilities. I contacted the Office of Admissions, and the more I learned, the more I felt this was the right place for me.

The Office of Admissions staff explained how the transfer process works, what I needed to do to apply, and they provided me with clear instructions, checklists, and deadlines to make the process as smooth as possible. I was surprised at how simple it was. Coming from out-of-state, I was also pleased to learn that I could also be reclassified as a Florida resident for tuition purposes after one year and the Office of Admissions provided me with instructions for this process as well.

I finished my 1L year and decided to apply as a transfer student to Florida State. I was thrilled when the Office of Admissions called me to tell me that I had been admitted. A few days later I visited the College of Law, made my decision to transfer, found an apartment, and started to make my plans to relocate to Tallahassee, Florida.

The transfer process during my first semester at Florida State was seamless. The College of Law does a great job making transfer students feel at home and gives us every chance to succeed. This includes the opportunity to compete for positions on journals and the Mock Trial and Moot Court teams. Not all law schools offer these types of opportunities to transfer students. There were also numerous student organizations for student involvement, more than at many other law schools. I immediately joined the Transfer Student Organization, and met other students with similar situations to mine.

Now that I have graduated, I consider my transfer to the College of Law to be the best decision I could have made for myself and could not be happier with my experience. I received an excellent education, and will always be grateful for having been given this opportunity. I encourage all who are interested in Florida State University College of Law, including potential transfer students, to give it a serious look. For those students who may be starting at another law school, know that it does not have to be the end of the road!

??????????????????????????????????????????  Wil Sinor, Class of 2014, Attorney with Jemison & Mendelsohn in Montgomery, Alabama