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

Why Tallahassee for Law School?

The City of Tallahassee offers many great opportunities for students who are attending law school in addition to being an exceptional place to live. Those who will be relocating to Tallahassee for the first time to attend the College of Law may not totally know what to expect, but it is very likely that they will come to appreciate their experience as much as these students have.

Bailey Howard, 3L

Growing up on Florida’s Gulf Coast, anything more than ten miles inland might as well have been on Mars and Tallahassee was a place I drove past on Interstate 10 while on my way to somewhere else. Besides being the state capital, that was pretty much all I knew about Tallahassee. Since coming to study law here, the city has completely won me over, and wish I had discovered it sooner. There were quite a lot of pleasant surprises in store for me here, but here are a few of I would like to point out.

Tallahassee is gorgeous and is home to numerous parks and a very large amount of green space. There are many enormous oak and pecan trees dotting the avenues and shading old Southern houses and there are flowers everywhere. Florida State’s campus is itself a work of landscaping and architectural magnificence and while it may not have an ocean view, Tallahassee is a truly beautiful place to live.

Being home to two major state universities and the state government creates an intersection of talent, curiosity, and opportunity also makes Tallahassee an exciting and engaging place to live. Nearly everyone you meet is working to bring an idea to fruition, and this encourages creative thinking and entrepreneurship. This is especially visible in the culinary scene where gourmet, farm-to-table, and avant-garde cuisines are covered several times over. Even if you confine yourself to small, independent coffee shops (most of which roast their own beans), it would take you more than a week even if you visited just one each day.

Perhaps this is a consequence of the gorgeous scenery and fantastic lifestyle, but folks in Tallahassee always seem to me in a pretty good mood. People say hello to one another in the street, talk to one another in lines, and help one another out, even if they do not know each other. The sense of community is strong here, and it makes Tallahassee a very comfortable. Being a very outgoing city, Tallahassee is a very easy place for a newcomer to make friends and become involved.

Marianna Seiler, 3L 

As a Fort Lauderdale native, I never imagined Tallahassee would ever have as many opportunities and activities as I have discovered. Tallahassee, Florida has something for everyone and is one of the most exciting places for someone to choose to go to law school. You get the best of a professional city atmosphere and a college town with all of the opportunities that come with each. As Florida’s capital city, it is a hub for businesses, government agencies, and law firms and Florida State University (FSU) offers all of the resources you would expect from a major university. Tallahassee also offers many recreational and social opportunities, from excellent bars and restaurants to outdoor activities and parks.

For the law student, Tallahassee offers many openings for networking, internships or externships, or employment in any one of 500 law firms, numerous government agencies, or courts. These organizations provide excellent options for students to apply what they learn in law school to real life. Whether you want to be a lawyer, politician, lobbyist, or business executive, there are endless opportunities for you to meet professionals in these fields through law school events, student organizations, and professional groups.

Being at the College of Law makes one feel like they are in a small college town, but with access to FSU sporting events, campus gyms, the Seminole Golf Course, the FSU Reservation, intramural sports, and all of the plays, concerts, and guest speakers at multiple venues across campus. On top of all of this, a law student also has access to the professors and academic resources of both the College of Law and the FSU main campus. Depending on your interests, you can interact with professors, visiting lecturers, or study and read books in any of the multiple campus libraries.

Some of the areas of Tallahassee that are popular with law students include the recently developed CollegeTown area, as well as Midtown and Downtown Tallahassee. Collectively, these areas offer great restaurants, bars, and places to socialize. The Midtown area, which caters to both young and professional clienteles, even hosts a weekly Food Truck Thursdays event.

There are also many great options for outdoor recreation in and around the Tallahassee areas.  In addition to the FSU Reservation mentioned above, there are also numerous destinations and parks within a short drive of Downtown Tallahassee including the Tallahassee Museum, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla Springs State Park, Maclay Gardens State Park, and more. There are so many options for students to take a break from studying that include options for hiking, biking, rock wall climbing, going to the beach, zip lining, canoeing, or even tubing.  I can guarantee there will never be a day that you cannot find something to do with your friends.

Robert Sylvester, 3L

Adjusting to life in Tallahassee is something I speak about frequently with prospective students who, like me, did not attend Florida State University as an undergraduate. My initial impression of Tallahassee was simply that it was a sports-loving college town that also served as the state capital. After relocating to attend law school, I soon discovered that Tallahassee has plenty of other defining characteristics. There are many small businesses, cafes, and restaurants that are a joy to frequent. One of the things I enjoy is discovering my own local hideouts where I can quietly spend an afternoon away from the library. These spots also double as great places to take your friends and family when they visit.

One of the biggest things that drew me to Tallahassee was sports because of the way it brings the FSU community together. For me this is a genuinely a fun experience, but if you are not a fan of college sports, there are so many other ways to send your time through recreational activities, civic involvement, or participation in student organizations.

If you are moving to Tallahassee for the first time, you may want to consider living close to the College of Law for at least the first year. I personally did so and do not regret it. There are reasonably-priced apartments near the College of Law, and while they may not offer all of the amenities of some of Tallahassee’s newer facilities, they are reliable and clean and living close to the College of Law has several advantages. This will give you a convenient place to learn about Tallahassee and its surroundings. You also do not have to worry about parking and can just walk to class. Once you have become familiar with the city, you can then explore other options that may fit your lifestyle for your 2L and 3L years.

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Bailey Howard, 3L

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Marianna Seiler, 3L

College of Law, Student Ambassadors. Robert Sylvester, 3L

My Summer Internship with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps

After a rigorous first year of law school classes I was looking forward to a change of pace and actually being able to experience the practice of law with supervision. Upon arriving at Naval Air Station Pensacola for my summer internship with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, I had no idea what to expect. When I applied for the internship, I thought that the Navy JAG Corps could be an appealing career, but I was not at all certain of it. Little did I know that my days would be filled with things like paddle-board PT, court martials, and watching the Blue Angels flying overhead.

 My adventure began with a three-hour drive west from Tallahassee and setting up my air mattress in the room that I rented for the summer. I had left my husband and three-year-old daughter behind in Tallahassee, and was already missing them. When Monday morning came, I immediately found myself immersed in uniformed personnel and Navy culture. I was warmly greeted at the gate by an officer dressed in her khaki uniform and sporting an insignia that I did not recognize.

 After locating the office where I would be working, I was assigned to a Captain (O-6) who was the Force Judge Advocate for the Naval Education and Training Command. He had been an attorney as well as a Naval and JAG officer for 28 years. While feeling a bit intimidated with only two semesters of law school under my belt, I also felt fortunate to have been placed with such an experienced officer.

My summer as a Navy JAG intern was amazing, but some of it is a bit of a blur. I quickly acclimated myself to the Manual for Court Martial (MCM), Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), Manual of the Judge Advocate General (JAGMAN), and the vast repository of Navy regulations called “Instructions.” I was then given my first substantive legal work which included reviewing Nonjudicial Punishment (NJP) and Administrative Separation (ADSEP) cases and providing recommendations for action. I also got to review JAGMAN investigations and draft endorsements, which were then sent to the Admiral for approval and signature.

 I had the opportunity to observe an entire court martial proceeding starting from pre-trial motions through the final verdict and sentencing, while debriefing with the trial JAG officers daily. I even had the opportunity to review Navy policies and provide my recommendations for action which were intended to avoid any legal challenges in the future. To my surprise, my recommendations were taken seriously by my supervisor and forwarded up the chain of command.

I also experienced other aspects of JAG life unrelated to legal cases and procedures like physical training (PT). I was welcomed, and highly encouraged by my JAG colleagues, to join them for Command PT. I commend the JAG in charge of weekly Command PT for keeping it interesting. One week we were paddle-boarding, which was awesome, and another week we were sprinting through Mario Kart relays, which is not as much fun as it sounds. I was also invited to a spin class twice a week with my supervisor and that was the first time in my career that I have been asked to leave the office early to head to the gym with my boss. This balance of work and physical well-being was definitely one of my favorite parts of the internship.

At the end of the summer my externship supervisor at the College of Law asked me about the impact of my internship on my personal and professional goals. I cannot possibly emphasize enough the enormous impact that this internship had on me. From the newest JAGs to the so-called “last-tour” JAGs, who had served for nearly 30 years, I was welcomed into the Navy JAG Corps family with open arms by everyone with whom I worked. The legal work was interesting and challenging and all of my colleagues were open, engaging, and honest. By the end of the summer I was also speaking in Navy acronyms and knew what almost all of those insignia on the uniforms meant.

After returning to Tallahassee I applied to the Fall 2016 accessions board for a commission and have been selected for a professional recommendation. I sincerely hope to make the Navy JAG Corps my career following law school. Currently, I am in the process of working through the medical and security screening and hope to be commissioned (inactively) by this summer. If successful, I would remain on inactive status until I pass the Bar Exam, at which time I would be sent to Naval Justice School and then to my first duty location.

College of Law. Student Ambassadors. Valerie Chartier-Hogancamp, 2L

Corporate Externship Program Provides Valuable In-House Experience

The Corporate Externship Program at the Florida State University College of Law is a 9-week summer program that places 10-15 College of Law students in the legal departments of corporations throughout the Southeastern United States. The program requires 20 hours per week of time in the office and a weekly conference call with Professor Benham and all of the other participating students.

Anyone interested in serving clients in businesses of any size should consider applying. The opportunity provides a great way to get business law-related experience early in your legal career. Not only will this experience provide you with college credits, but it can also be used to meet the practical experience requirement of the College of Law’s Business Law Certificate program.

While the work may vary depending on the company, participants also have some similar experiences as well. Substantively, students work in a variety of practice areas including real estate, corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, and compliance, but all assignments involve researching, reviewing, drafting document, having meetings with attorneys or outside counsel, and interacting with the company’s stakeholders. The work product completed by the students is actually used by the company. The weekly conference calls allow students to share their experiences and allow them to discuss a variety of common issues like employment law, intellectual property, contracting, and more. 

Ultimately, students also get the opportunity to see what a “deal” and litigation looks like from the inside of a corporation. Most law students do not have access to this type of hands-on opportunity and many practicing attorneys have to wait for years before they get to perform this type of work. So when it comes to looking for a job after law school, being able to showcase this type of experience can be invaluable.

Another benefit of the program is that each law student is surrounded by a large group of successful attorneys. This not only means that you are going to get a lot of attention, work, and feedback during the externship, but you are also going to form relationships as you network with these individuals. During and after the externship, they are only too happy to provide career advice and discuss job search strategies.

Overall, this program is tailored to provide a unique experience for anyone interested in pursuing business law. Not only will it stand out on a resume, but it also offers a very rewarding experience that can be drawn upon in a future career.

Seifter, Chris Chris Seifter, 2L

Co-Curricular Teams and Journals – How to Prep for Success Starting In Your 1L Year

Co-curricular activities are a very important part of your law school experience. By being a member of a co-curricular journal, the Mock Trial Team or Moot Court Team you will develop vital skills that will help you succeed in your future legal endeavors while also receiving college credit for your efforts. Many employers look for involvement in these types of organizations when hiring interns and associates. There are various ways to effectively prepare during your 1L year to receive an invitation to join one of these organizations.

Mock Trial

The best way to prepare to make the Florida State University College of Law Mock Trial team at the end of your 1L year is to join the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) or Phi Alpha Delta (PAD) mock trial teams at the beginning of your 1L year because they allow students to compete in mock trial competitions as 1Ls. By participating in the BLSA or PAD teams, you will become familiar with the intricacies of mock trial competitions while also gaining invaluable experience that will give you an advantage when you are trying out for the Florida State Law team.

Moot Court

Your 1L appellate brief will be one of the most important factors in your Moot Court tryout. I would recommend dedicating a lot of time to researching and writing your brief, getting input from your legal writing professor and completing your brief early. The Moot Court team will grade your written brief, which is why it is so important to write a great one! You also will be required to argue both sides of the issues included in your brief. This will be made easier if you finish writing it early and have time to become familiar with those issues.

Journals

By doing well during your 1L year you will improve your chances of becoming a member of the Florida State University Law Review, Journal of Transnational Law & Policy or Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law. There are two ways to accomplish this:

Grading-On: The journals operate their grade-on policies in a slightly different manner. Florida State University Law Review invites the top students from the entire 1L class, while the Journal of Transnational Law & Policy and Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law invite the top students of each legal writing class. The students with the best grades overall and who excelled in their legal writing classes have the best chance of grading-on to a journal.

Writing-On: There are two write-on competitions: winter and summer. For both, students are given a prompt and have to write a case note answering a proposed question. This requires them to use writing and citation skills learned in their legal writing classes and illustrates how important it is to diligently work on one’s legal writing memo and appellate brief. The Journal of Transnational Law & Policy and the Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law allow 1L’s to compete in the winter write-on competition and all of the journals participate in the summer write-on competition.

The Florida State University Business Review, while not a co-curricular activity, also offers students opportunities to grade-on or write-on. They follow the same procedures as the Journal of Transnational Law & Policy and the Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law and participate in both the winter and summer write-on competitions.

For all of these activities, current and prospective students are encouraged to reach out to current members to get more specific advice on how to succeed in making it onto a team or journal. If one is extremely passionate about joining one of the teams or journals, it is also never too early to start preparing.

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Abby Altman, 3L

Summer Law Clerk Opportunities Offer Great Experience at All Government Levels

Working as a summer law clerk can be very rewarding and there are many opportunities to accomplish this type of work in all types of government agencies. These placements also offer a great opportunity to expand your network and sometimes a summer clerkship can turn into a longer-term clerkship or lead to a job after law school. The following individuals worked as law clerks in very different government agencies both in Tallahassee and elsewhere.

Christina Smiekle, Class of 2016 – Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Tallahassee, Florida

During the summer following my 2L year I worked for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) in Tallahassee, Florida. DBPR is the state agency charged with licensing and regulating businesses and professionals in the State of Florida. After the summer I continued working with the agency as a law clerk in the Construction Division. My experience at DBPR gave me an opportunity to learn more about administrative law as well as how government agencies work.

Alex Sarsfield, 3L – Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida, Tampa, Florida

I spent the summer after my 1L year clerking for an administrative circuit judge in Tampa, Florida. While clerking I was able to write bench memos, perform legal research and acted as a medium with state prosecutors and public defenders in communicating with my judge. Although I do not intend to pursue criminal law as a career, I highly recommend clerking for a judge no matter what your legal interests may be. It was an invaluable experience for honing my legal writing skills as well as an opportunity to work in a professional environment with attorneys.

Christopher O’Brien, 3L – Florida Office of the Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida

During the summer after my 1L year I started my first job in law school as a law clerk with the Florida Office of the Attorney General. I was surprised by how much I learned in such a short period of time, and I truly enjoyed applying what I had learned as a 1L. As the summer was winding down I was asked by my supervisor if I wanted to continue working during the fall semester, which I happily accepted.

Travis Voyles, 3L – United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 4, Atlanta, Georgia

I approached the summer after my 1L year with a desire to get regulatory agency experience on a federal level and earned an opportunity to be a law clerk for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in their Region 4 office. Assisting within the Office of Regional Counsel offered many opportunities working with the attorneys and other EPA staff in case meetings, negotiations, and policy updates from the very first day. I was able to work on numerous substantive assignments from attorneys dealing with ongoing issues and areas of concern that needed further research.

As a law clerk I also had the opportunity to participate with the head Regional Counsel and Director in several case update meetings and EPA initiative discussions. It was a great experience due to the desire of the attorneys and staff to expose us to all the different aspects of legal and policy matters that the EPA deals with on a daily basis. While I may not end up working within a federal or state regulatory agency, the experience provided me with an understanding of not only the perspective and responsibilities of federal agencies, but also the work life that is typical of a public sector legal job.  I highly encourage law students interested in any type of law with a connection to regulation to seek out positions similar this with the EPA where you can expand your understanding of the regulatory environmental and how it functions from either side of the interaction.

Student Ambassadors for the College of Law Chistina Smiekle, Class of 2016

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Alex Sarsfield, 3L

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Christopher O’Brien, 3L

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Travis Yoyles, 3L

 

My Summer at the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida

During the summer following my 1L year I had the privilege of working as an intern for United States District Judge Beth Bloom. Judge Bloom is one of the kindest, most caring, brilliant and inspiring women and I cannot rave enough about the opportunity I had to learn from her. “Are we learning?”, “What did you learn today?”, and “What can I do to help you learn more?” were Judge Bloom’s three favorite questions for her summer interns.

Judge Bloom works out of both the Fort Lauderdale and Miami federal courthouses. Depending on what might be scheduled on a given day, we could be working in either one or both locations. Having a change of scenery with different courthouses, different judges and different interns was extra fun.

As interns we received assignments from our supervising law clerks and were encouraged to go to all of Judge Bloom’s hearings, trials, and sentencings. Throughout the summer I completed memos and draft orders for six motions to dismiss, two Daubert motions and a motion for summary judgment. For one of the motions to dismiss, I even got to request a hearing and was allowed to sit in the Law Clerk/Courtroom Deputy chair since I had done the research and had discussed it with Judge Bloom prior to her ruling from the bench.

On top of the duties that come with being a United States District Judge, Judge Bloom spent every single day trying to make sure her interns were able to experience and learn as much about the legal system as possible. She believed that the best way to learn was through hands-on experience as well as by experiencing as much of the legal world inside and outside of the courthouse. She took us with her to a luncheon where she spoke to the North Broward Bar Association, to the Federal Bar’s Summer Associate Law Day, and to a Naturalization Ceremony she presided over. At the Naturalization Ceremony I was brought to tears by the stories of United States immigrants who had been through it all just to achieve their dreams of becoming United States citizens.

We watched several of Judge Bloom’s cases and those of other U.S. District judges as well as proceedings in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, family court, domestic violence court, and even a mob murder trial. I watched the detainment of twenty-seven members of the Latin Kings and the sentencing of two Al-Qaeda terrorists to whom Judge Bloom sentenced the maximum stating, “You are a terrorist, evil in nature and evil in your deeds.” We also got to go on a tour of Miami’s Federal Detention Center and the women’s prison in Homestead, Florida where we were able to see what goes on in criminal cases outside the walls of the courthouse before and after detainment, bond hearings and sentencings.

Even with all this, Judge Bloom planned special events for us. She and her law clerks also helped us plan a dessert reception, a sweet meet, and movie nights to get to know other judges, law clerks and interns in each courthouse. We had the dessert reception early in the summer and every other Tuesday night we invited interns to join us in watching law-related movies such as Paper Chase, Twelve Angry Men, Run Away Jury and My Cousin Vinny. We also had a sweet meet where we brought in Judge Robin Rosenbaum, United States Circuit Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

As you can see, I could go on forever about my amazing experience but I suggest taking the time to work for a judge at some point during your law school career. Not only will you learn about the law and work on real cases, but many judges make it their mission to help you learn and to show you as much as possible both inside and outside of their courtroom and chambers.

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Marianna Seiler, 3L