Smart career counselors will tell you law students need to network and learn about career options from their first day on campus.
But with the pressure of course work, most 1Ls put off building out their list of contacts. And some are intimidated, being a plebe, to ask for an informational interview or to shadow a practicing attorney.
For transfer students, or those who miss On-Campus Interviews (OCI) because they are studying abroad or have an externship, it can be tough to catch up.
Enter Women of UC Hastings, the brainchild of 2Ls Joy Siu and Emily Goldberg. They partnered with Ms. JD, a nonprofit designed to support and improve the experience of women law students and lawyers, to host a speed networking event for women at UC Hastings.
Co-sponsored by Jones Day, Latham & Watkins, and Sedgwick, the March 6 event featured 16 women lawyers and judges who shared their experiences of work-life balance, how they got their first jobs, and how best to steer a legal career toward a specific goal.
Building a Base
1Ls sat at round tables with a pair of professionals, and had a chance to pepper panelists with questions. Every seven minutes the students rotated, so by the end of the evening they met all 16 professionals. Speed networking has become increasingly popular as a way to broaden professional connections by increasing exposure in a very short time frame.
"As a 1L, it can be challenging to envision how your strengths and interests in law school will best translate to a legal career,” said Lesley Hamilton, who attended the event. “Opportunities like the Women of UC Hastings event to candidly engage with inspiring legal professionals has been instrumental in honing my career goals while cultivating a network of support among women in the legal community."
Panelists included The Honorable Donna Ryu, a federal magistrate judge who was clinical professor of law at UC Hastings before being appointed to the bench. At a separate table was The Honorable Laurel Beeler, a federal magistrate judge who teaches Criminal Procedure at UC Hastings.
Some panelists were alumnae, such as Natassia Kwan ‘13, an associate in Sedgwick’s Commercial Practice and Complex Litigation groups; Julia Graeser '13, a post-graduate fellow at the Oakland City Attorney’s Office; Nicole Sugnet ‘06, an associate at Lieff Cabraser; and Jamie Dolkas ’08, Associate Director of Women’s Leadership at the Center for WorkLife Law.
Other panelists included Katie Colendich, HP’s Senior Counsel for Corporate, Securities and Mergers & Acquisitions; Roberta R. W. Kameda, Vice President, General Counsel and Assistant Secretary at Dodge & Cox, a mutual fund company; Barbara Gregoratos, a transactional real estate partner at Jones Day; and Molly Kaban, a partner at Hanson Bridgett.
Learning to Pivot
Several speakers made big shifts mid-career, and shared their secrets. Those include Geralyn Busnardo, who now works in international legal reform, including several positions for USAID, after working as a deputy public defender in Los Angeles.
And some, like Leeja Patel ’11, shared their experience in the job market now. Patel recently completed an Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by Verizon and DLA Piper, and previously worked at Asian Pacific Island Legal Outreach, helping survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.
Participants had a chance to have longer discussions over appetizers and wine after the structured networking drew to a close.
A Committed Community
“It was wonderful to see so many young women come out to not only meet attorneys and draw from their experiences but also to begin seeing their peers as a valuable part of their support system, too,” Graeser said. “As a student you're around roughly equal numbers of male and female students, and academic success is very merit-based and gender-blind. In the real world though, that's not the case.”
“The sooner we see ourselves as part of a community committed to helping each other, the better off we'll be. Joy Siu gave a great introductory speech that put that in context--our fate as women attorneys is bound up with one another.”