I finally fell off the fence between Florida State University College of Law and one other law school just after a phone conversation with Dean Catalano in the Placement Office, which started with me asking, “If I go here, am I stuck in Florida forever?” In her supportive and enthusiastic way, Dean Catalano assured me that I was not “stuck” anywhere, and all it would take was a little diligence to go anywhere I wanted to go.
While the local networking opportunities available during law school and the concentration of alumni practicing throughout Florida might make it easier for a College of Law student or graduate to find a job in Florida, I knew I had the drive to do anything I wanted to do. So, I took the leap of faith, paid my seat deposit, and made it my goal to eventually land in the Washington, D.C. area, or at least have the opportunity to explore this idea.
Fast forward to November of my 1L year and a conversation I had with my Uncle. He lives near Washington, D.C. and I told him that I was interested in finding a summer opportunity in the area. Instead, he told me about a firm in York, Pennsylvania, that might have a summer opportunity, sent me a link to their Website, and encouraged me to contact them. So, I sent them a copy of my resume and a newly drafted cover letter. As I would be visiting family in the area during the holidays, I was able to schedule an interview at that time. It was not until the week before finals of the spring semester that I was contacted with a summer job offer. So, in three weeks I completed my finals, packed my car to the brim with all of my stuff, and embarked on the 1,250-mile solo road trip to Pennsylvania.
I was the only Summer Associate (SA) in the office and the first SA to ever be hired from out-of-town, let alone out-of-state. In the beginning, everyone in the office was basically wondering, “Who is this girl from Florida, and why is she interested in this small town of York, Pennsylvania?” Eventually, my story circulated the office: That while I was born and raised in Florida, I was interested in moving north after law school and wanted to begin establishing relationships and connections while still in law school to facilitate my ability to make such a move.
My job as a SA was nothing that I expected, but, everything it should have been. My responsibilities were typical of what one might expect from a Summer Associate position: lots of legal research, writing inter-office Memos, office meetings, lunches with shareholders (a.k.a. partners), and attending hearings with attorneys. What I enjoyed most about this position was the exposure to so many diverse topics and legal issues due to the wide-range of areas practiced by the attorneys of the firm. I also discovered just how well my 1L year courses and other experiences at the College of Law had helped prepare me for this opportunity.
There was also an added allure to the practice of law in such a historic venue. York, Pennsylvania, the original capital of the colonies, was supposed to be the venue of the Battle of Gettysburg, and within a few blocks from my office was a symbolic replica of the Historic Courthouse where the first draft of the United States Constitution was written.
The moral of the story is that whether you are committed to practicing in Florida or not, Florida State University College of Law has a place for you. I still am considering Washington, D.C., but I am also now open to considering other areas as well. I also would like to point out that while I was able to find my SA position on my own the Placement Office has abundant resources for helping you find the right opportunities for you, inside and outside of Florida. Just remember that while it may take a little more diligence, the State of Florida does not have to be the be-all or end-all of your legal career.
In the midst of your 1L classes, the end goal of becoming a practicing attorney is often lost in the haze of “reasonableness” and the Erie doctrine. Too often, students forget that there is a future outside of law school and about the importance of obtaining practical experience while in law school.
The ability to apply concepts you have only experimented with in the classroom while simultaneously growing your network of references and potential employers is invaluable. These experiences and references will carry you far in your ultimate goal of becoming a practicing attorney. For this purpose, Florida State University College of Law has an excellent Placement Office that keeps practical experience high on its list of priorities for students.
The Placement Office facilitates On-Campus Interviewing (OCI) for students at all junctures of their legal education. There are a variety of opportunities to facilitate all interests, from classic, big firms to government and private industry. The OCI process allows students to do just what it says: interview for pre- and post-graduate positions on the campus where they attend classes. With the Placement Office doing some of the heavy lifting (bringing fantastic employers to you, the student!), there is little excuse for College of Law students to not pursue practical experience during their time in law school.
Last spring, I took advantage of OCI and the resources and assistance of our top-notch Placement Office in my search for summer employment. From having my resume refined to last-minute interview tips, these perks had never been so important to me.
The process began with e-mail messages received from the Placement Office and a search of the Florida State University job-listing network in Symplicity. Here I was able to find positions based on geographic location, class year, practice area, and much more. From there, I was easily able to submit my application and other materials to my preferred employers. Soon after, another e-mail message from the Placement Office let me know it was time to select an interview slot.
On interview day, aside from a few pre-interview jitters, the process went incredibly smoothly. I walked over from my final class of the day, was quickly photographed by the Placement Office staff (which would be used to jog the employer’s memory), received a quick briefing on the firm and interviewer, and sat in the cozy waiting area until my interview time came up. The interview was conducted by two of the firm’s top attorneys. The entire process was completely conversational and comfortable, and the Placement Office followed up with me after the interview to provide me with the employer’s contact information.
I cannot imagine an easier process or more supportive staff. I was happy to accept an internship position this past summer all thanks to the On-Campus Interviewing program and the support of the Placement Office. Students at Florida State University College of Law are lucky to have the support of such an involved Placement Office that wishes to provide these types of opportunities to all College of Law students.
Florida State University College of Law promotes expertise in the areas of business, environmental, international, and criminal law in brochures, booklets, and on its Web site as well as through curriculums leading to the attainment of certificates in business, environmental, and international law. The College of Law’s Web site also provides guidance through recommended core courses and course lists in the areas of administrative law, business and commercial law, civil rights law, criminal justice, environmental and land use law, family law, international law, and litigation.
This should not be taken to mean that you are limited or that you should focus your preparation to practice in one of these areas if you choose to attend here. If we were to poll all of our 8,500+ alumni, you would find someone practicing in almost every imaginable area of law. This also does not mean that the expertise is not there to prepare you to practice in another area. The College of Law’s faculty is among the nation’s best and the number of options beyond the 1L required curriculum exceeds 225 different courses and numerous opportunities for clinics, internships, and externships. What it does mean is that you have to take matters into your own hands, be a little more creative and resourceful, and take some initiative to formulate a curriculum that will meet your needs. You also have the resources of the College of Law, its faculty, Externship Office, Placement Office, and Alumni Affairs Office to help you.
So, for example, what if you want to be an entertainment lawyer? Well, the J.D. degree requires 88 credit hours with 36 of those hours being required coursework and 4 being “guided” coursework. That leaves 48 hours of elective credit that you can use to design a custom curriculum. Before getting into course selection, note that four of your required hours are the 1L Contracts course. This is perhaps the most important class for any budding entertainment lawyer and the contracts professors at the College of Law are top notch. One of our newer instructors, Professor Bruce Markell, has been published in law review articles and books and has even written his own book on contracts.
The “guided” coursework requires a skills training course and an upper level writing course. The skills training course for this build-your-own entertainment law curriculum is an easy one, Contract Drafting. This is a wildly popular course and could not be more relevant to practice as an entertainment lawyer. More importantly, this course is offered almost every semester.
The upper level writing course choice is not as obvious, but there are two readily available options. The first is Cyber Law. There is no doubt that the entertainment industry is inexorably intertwined with the Internet. Because this course ends in a paper, you are free to make that paper about whichever field of entertainment law that interests you (sports, music, etc.). The second option is not actually a course, but rather pursuing an instructor guided paper. These papers can be on any subject that a professor is willing to supervise. Because entertainment law touches so many other fields of law, it is fairly easy to make entertainment law relevant and of interest to one of the professors at the College of Law.
For the remaining elective courses, start with the namesake course, Entertainment Law. This course is not offered every semester, but should certainly be a part of your ad hoc curriculum. Entertainment law is taught by entertainment industry experts like Robert McNeely, who has represented bands selling millions of records and who has engaged in nearly every facet of the entertainment industry including management contracts, rights management, and etc. Because entertainment law is an amalgam of other areas of law, the following courses should be considered: Sports Law, Closely Held Business Organizations, Copyright Law, Trademark and Unfair Competition, Taxation, Taxation of Business Entities, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Legal Negotiations, and Anatomy of a Deal.
This still leaves some additional electives, and that is a good thing. Even when you know which area you want to practice, it is important to balance your legal education. The benefits of this include comparative analysis and most notoriously: issue spotting. As an entertainment lawyer, you may end up having to diagnose a client’s other legal problems. This will be a lot easier if you have taken courses such as Criminal Procedure: Police, Family Law, Bankruptcy, Gratuitous Transfers, or Gambling & Pari-Mutuel Law.
There is no doubt that any up-and-coming attorney could also benefit from field experience while in law school and this build-your-own curriculum should be no different. During the summers, the world is your oyster and you should use the time after your first and second year to volunteer and/or work somewhere in the entertainment industry. Opportunities in New York City or Los Angeles would be optimal, but if you are looking for opportunities closer to home, Nashville, Atlanta, Orlando, or Miami could also provide great opportunities. The Placement Office, Externship Office, and Alumni Affairs Office can be a huge help in this area, so make sure you get to know them as early as you are able and let them know what kind of opportunities you are looking for and in what areas you would consider going to gain this experience.
Getting experience during the school year is admittedly tougher, but then again, so is cracking into the entertainment business in general. In fact, the challenge of getting your feet wet in a town with fewer entertainment industry options may serve as an advantage later on after you have learned how to open doors in an industry where most doors often seem closed or even unavailable. If you want to get into entertainment law, you have to look to where the entertainment is. Tallahassee hosts a variety of nightclubs and bars that feature regular entertainers or guest artists who either need representation, or who already have representation, but could use some help.
Florida State University and Florida A&M University are also home to multimillion-dollar sports programs and programs in arts and entertainment, so rubbing elbows with the booster organizations, sports marketing departments, or representatives from the different sports and entertainment programs could open doors. There are also great organizations that meet, organize, and host events throughout the state, including our very own Entertainment, Art, and Sports Law Society; the Florida Bar Entertainment, Arts, and Sports Law Section; and the Florida Chapter of the Grammy Recording Academy.
Why go through all of the trouble to create your curriculum when you could go to a law school that advertises one or has a certificate program in the area of law that interests you? Because the quality of the faculty and experience at Florida State University College of Law is unmatched, especially in Florida, and when you are picking a school, quality matters. So, just because Florida State University College of Law does not have your explicit curriculum does not mean that you will leave any less ready to practice.
The Placement Office at Florida State University College of Law is working around the clock to make sure every single one of us succeeds. During my 1L year, I was worried about obtaining a summer internship that would provide me with a good amount of experience. Luckily, the services and networking events that the Placement Office provides for us are geared towards helping us do just that.
Early in the spring semester of my 1L year, I received an e-mail message from the Placement Office notifying me that Robert Wesley, Public Defender for the 9th Circuit of Florida, was going to be visiting us here, at his alma mater, to talk with students about internship opportunities in his office. After receiving this e-mail, I was beyond excited.
I made sure that I stopped by the Placement Office a couple of days prior to his visit to get some pointers and to make sure everything would go smoothly. I had worked myself up and was anxious about speaking with Mr. Wesley, but one of our J.D. Placement Advisors helped me find my confidence and told me how to best take advantage of this opportunity. They sat down with me and told me everything I needed to know, from how to dress, how many resumes to bring, and what questions to ask. We even went over my resume together and I was given some formatting tips to spruce it up.
Mr. Wesley’s meeting with a group of students in the Advocacy Center began with him describing his career experience and outlining the responsibilities of his office. He asked us questions about our experiences at the College of Law and recalled his time here quite fondly. He then asked how many people were from the Orlando area and began telling crazy stories about past clients he had encountered there. When he asked who was from Kissimmee, I was the only student who raised a hand, and he talked with me about his hometown for a few minutes.
Towards the end of his talk, Mr. Wesley invited all of us to e-mail him personally with any questions we might have. Additionally, he said that if any of us were interested in an internship position over the summer, we should note this in an e-mail and include the dates we would be available, a weekly schedule, and he would place us in the office of our choice.
Later that week I e-mailed Mr. Wesley, relayed my summer plans, and asked whether I could work at the Kissimmee office during the 6-weeks I would be at home that summer. I was pleasantly surprised by a prompt response from him affirming my schedule and letting me know the next steps in the “employment process.”
I had found the summer internship I wanted, and it all started with that one e-mail from the Placement Office! Needless to say, my six weeks at the Public Defender’s office were tremendously helpful in terms of honing my legal researching skills, drafting memos and motions, recognizing and overcoming legal issues, and working in a professional environment. I still keep in touch with many of the Assistant Public Defenders I worked with in Kissimmee and that internship was definitely the biggest determining factor in my continued interest in criminal law.
If there is one thing you should take away from my experience, it is that our Placement Office is one of the best resources for helping you find employment while you are at the College of Law and when you are seeking employment after you have graduated. You remember that e-mail message that I got from the Placement Office notifying me that Mr. Wesley was coming to speak? The reason I received that e-mail was because I had completed a profile on the College of Law’s Simplicity Web site. The Placement Office manages this Web site and notified me because I had noted my interest in criminal law when I completed my profile. The site also includes a listing of jobs that you can apply for directly through the site. This is how I found another internship in the General Counsel’s Office of the Florida Parole Commission.
I would encourage any current or incoming student to create a detailed employment profile on the College of Law’s Simplicity Web site as soon as you can or are able. Going to speak with the placement advisors about your resume, your experience, and where you want to end up can also be very useful in helping decide what you want to do and how to meet your career goals. The Placement Office also plans many events, like Mr. Wesley’s visit, to give students an opportunity to meet professionals, network, and make their job search much easier…and less stressful!
Extraordinary! If I was asked to come up with one word to define my student experience at the Florida State University College of Law, it would have to be “extraordinary.” This school and its faculty, at least as far as every subject or department to which I have been exposed, are so far beyond what I ever would have or could have expected. Frankly, they exceeded “ordinary” before I ever even received my acceptance letter. Now that I have finished my first year of law school, and even after I have come to expect “extraordinary” as the norm, I have been absolutely blown away by the opportunities made available at the Florida State University College of Law – particularly through the externship program!
Approaching the summer after my 1L year, I had not yet received my Bar clearance to become a Certified Legal Intern (CLI), which is a credential required for several externships. I expect to receive my CLI authorization sometime this fall, but I knew it was important that I gain some experience in the interim. More to the point, I wanted REAL experience! I did not want to be a coffee-getter and copy-maker at some law firm. I did not want to be sidelined as an observer to a practice-based externship program with clients I could not advise or cases I could not argue because I did not yet have CLI clearance. I wanted to jump into the deep end of real-world legal practice and solve real problems for real people, and that is exactly what I did!
Between the Placement Office and Externship Office, the College of Law was instrumental in making that happen for me. They narrowed their catalog of hundreds of externships available coast-to-coast down to just those for which a non-CLI rising 2L would be eligible. I looked for something that would give me a more hands-on research and writing experience – the kind of thing that would put me in top contention for my dream job during the summer after my 2L year – and I found it! Actually, I found THEM!
I had my choice of externships doing real work on real cases for real people, without having to be a CLI. Ultimately, I settled on Legal Services of North Florida – a community-based non-profit organization offering legal services for people in need. I wanted to get a broad range of experience working in multiple areas of law, and that is precisely what I got with this opportunity. Over the course of my externship, I worked on cases ranging from landlord-tenant to domestic violence, divorce and child custody, bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, and everything in between. I used my legal knowledge, life experience, and creativity to plan and execute case strategies for the firm and its clients. I did the research. I wrote the motions. I filed the briefs.
It was pretty amazing, and it was real. When I helped stop an illegal eviction, I helped a family from being forced into homelessness. When I helped save a family’s home from foreclosure, they weren’t forced to seek shelter at the expense of their family, friends, and community. When I helped a victim break the cycle of domestic violence, I helped protect her and her child from further abuse and set them on a path to economic and social stability.
If I were to trace this invaluable opportunity back to its source, all the credit goes to Florida State University College of Law. Like I said before… Extraordinary!
I suspect that many law students do not have a clue about what they want to do when they grow up, and those who think they know often change their minds. The important thing is to have a law school experience that helps you make the right decision for yourself. Sometimes it comes from the classes you love and sometimes the classes you did not think you would like turn out to be the most valuable. It can even come from the people you meet or the organizations you join. Either way, try different things before narrowing down your areas of interest and most importantly, remember to keep an open mind!
When I first came to law school I thought I knew exactly what type of law I wanted to practice. I just knew I wanted to be an international lawyer. I wanted to be involved in international trade with a Chinese company. As an undergraduate, I spent my summers in China and even minored in Chinese. I was definitely on the international track. During the fall semester of my 2L year my focus began to change and my current career path could not have been further from international trade law. From that point I began to develop an interest in family law and now that I have graduated I will be working in a law firm handling domestic relations cases.
As I prepared for the fall semester of my 2L year, I enrolled in two classes, International Trade and Family Law. I learned very quickly that I did not have an interest in the business aspects of international law, but to my surprise, I loved my Family Law class. Professor Cahill taught the course and she was fantastic! The material was interesting, really grabbed my attention, and I started thinking that family law might be for me. Fast-forward to the spring semester of my 3L year, and I enrolled in the Public Interest Law Center’s Family Law Clinic, which provided me with the opportunity to practice with actual cases before I graduated. While I was working under the supervision of an attorney, the clients and the cases were mine and I handled each of them from the initial interview through the final hearing. I cannot say enough about what a great opportunity this was to get hands-on experience!
Another great opportunity was the Mock Trial Team. As someone who will be directly advocating for clients, this experience was huge for me. Mock Trial is basically a group of students who work on teams and simulate a trial. There is a plaintiff (or prosecution), a defense team, and participants make opening statements, examine witnesses, argue evidence, and offer closing arguments. While I never really saw myself as a trial lawyer, I now know that after this experience I have the tools to enter any courtroom and hold my own.
Some people really have a calling for what they want to do, and that is great. If you do not know, one of the best ways to help you decide is to try different things. There are plenty of courses offered at Florida State University College of Law each semester, as well as many activities and organizations you can participate in that will help you determine where you might fit. Even though I thought I knew what I wanted to do, I took a wide range of classes and became involved in different areas. I think all of these experiences were very important in helping me determine what I really wanted to do as well as what my future career will be.