In the face of a bleak hiring outlook, New Jersey’s law schools are devising new ways to lend their students and graduates a helping hand.
Last summer, Rutgers School of Law – Newark, launched a scholars program where graduates can work with faculty on short- and long-term research projects.
Of the 14 unemployed graduates from the classes of 2008, 2009 and 2010 that participated in the program, four have since landed full-time positions, two or three started their own law firms and three are working part time as attorneys, said Rutgers–Newark’s Frances Bouchoux. “That opportunity to work closely with a faculty member boosted their opportunities for employment,” she said.
Rutgers School of Law – Camden, meanwhile, has increased its emphasis on networking, and in 2009 kicked off its first annual speed networking event, which connects 45 students with a comparable number of lawyers, giving each student seven minutes to speak with each attorney.
“It was a chance to get in front of someone they normally may not be able to,” said Rebekah Verona, of the Camden campus. “It was less intimidating than going to a bar association event and going up to someone and handing them their resume.”
The school also established a professional development certificate program in fall 2010, to allow students to supplement their law classes with professional development skills — such as social media or time management — needed for a successful law career.
In 2009 and 2010, the school also offered the Bridge the Gap program, which gives a limited number of stipends to students who volunteer with the Volunteer Associates in Public Service program at the state attorney general’s law division, or another public interest or public service group, for a 20-month period.
A number of students at the schools found jobs through the program, either through connections made while volunteering or because of openings in the attorney general’s office, Verona said.
In fall 2009, Rutgers Law in Camden launched the Per-Diem Law Clerk/Attorney program, where the school shares the resumes of students and recent graduates who have agreed to work at a certain hourly rate to small and midsized law firms that are not able to hire someone full time.
“Even though it’s not full-time work, it gives them the chance to get some experience under their belt, earn a little bit of money — and allows them to network,” Verona said. “You’re meeting people, making connections, and not just sitting at home, waiting for the perfect job to pop up.”
Additionally, the school started a solo practice group this spring for students and graduates who are considering starting their own practices. The group, led by one of the school’s adjunct professors, allows members to share knowledge, generate referrals, be resources and offer support to one another, Verona said.
“Starting your own practice right out of law school or shortly after law school — it’s not the easiest thing,” she said. “But given the way the job market and economy is, we’ve seen a lot of students and recent grads express interest in this.”
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