Early Interview Week at Nebraska Law Part of Job-Placement Success Formula

Nebraska Law student Maureen Larsen, center, makes a point before Nebraska Supreme Court Justices, from left, William B. Cassel, Michael G. Heavican and Stephanie Stacy during the 2018 Thomas Stinson Allen Moot Court Competition. The Nebraska Law program was recently counted among the nation’s best in terms of graduates earning jobs. (Courtesy UNL University Communication)
Scott Stewart
The Daily Record

Second- and third-year law students at the University of Nebraska College of Law have spent the last few days interviewing with potential employers before they return to class next week.

Early Interview Week is one of several initiatives at Nebraska Law that helped the college have one of the nation’s best job placement rates after graduation.

Nebraska Law finished No. 6 out of 201 law schools in the 2019 American Lawyer 100 rankings, tabulated by Law.com using American Bar Association data.

The school saw 94% of its 2018 graduation class employed within 10 months of earning a degree. Part of that success can be attributed to its job-placement efforts, including Early Interview Week, which ran Aug. 12-14.

Employers are given the chance to meet with “our rising 2Ls and 3Ls before classes begin,” the law school says on its website. Prior to the on-campus interviews, the students are given information about how to build connections and seek judicial clerkships, negotiate for a job and otherwise make their resumes stand out.

In 2016, Nebraska Law began requiring third-year students to check in with the college’s Career Development Office to assist them with job searches and, once they have a job, make sure they feel prepared for the workplace.

Tasha Everman, assistant dean and director of career development for Nebraska Law, said the check-ins have changed the way her staff interacts with students.

“They allow us to reach out directly to students when they begin that third year,” Everman said. “The conversations about where they want to be and what they want to do help students focus career goals, putting them on a path to make the most of their last year in law school.”

Everman said the scheduled 15-minute check-in sessions sometime turn into an hour, depending on where the student is at.

Focusing on just that last year isn’t enough, though. The college begins working on job placement before its 1Ls even walk through the door to begin classes.

Everman said she sends letters to students accepted for the fall to help them begin creating a legal resume, which tend to be conservative and more rigid than resumes in other industries.

During orientation, incoming students take the CliftonStrengths assessment from Gallup to identify their talents and how they can best work alongside others.

“Everyone wants well-trained people who know the law, but they’re also looking for those softer skills,” Everman said.

First-year students are offered a variety of opportunities to explore different careers, including learning about what life is like for litigators and transactional attorneys.

“It starts to help them think critically about what opportunities are out there and what might be the best fit,” Everman said.

They also explore opportunities outside of law firms, such as with banking and insurance companies. The college also encourages them to look for jobs in the nonprofit and public sectors, and it offers a Public Interest Law Fund to pay stipends to Nebraska Law students who pursue a summer position that serves the public interest.

Every February, the college has mock interviews, and students can job shadow during spring break. First-year students are encouraged to do something in the legal field during their summer break – even if that’s pro bono or volunteer opportunities.

Everman said she and Kala Mueller, director of public interest programs, will help students who are interested in seeking out-of-state employment, rural jobs or who want to convert current jobs into permanent positions.

Gregg Moran, a 2018 Nebraska Law graduate, said the Career Development Office was key in helping him get hired as an associate attorney at Constangy, Brooks, Smith and Prophete in Tampa, Florida. He was an early adopter of the career office’s services, starting regular visits in his first year on campus.

“I constantly went to the CDO seeking advice about how I could become a practicing attorney at a large firm in Florida,” Moran said. “Everman and the other CDO staff members were beyond helpful in providing advice. Their feedback on my forms and resume was invaluable.”

For MacKenzie Hertz, also a 2018 law graduate, career assistance led her to become a judicial clerk in the United States Court for the District of Nebraska.

“CDO advisers were among the first to encourage me to apply for judicial clerkships,” Hertz said. “They provided me needed assistance in maneuvering the judicial clerkship application process, including supplying guide materials and in-person meetings.”

Richard Moberly, dean of the College of Law and interim executive vice chancellor for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said he’s pleased by the national ranking but not surprised because of how well-prepared Nebraska Law graduates are for the workforce.

“Employers within Nebraska and around the country recognize that hiring a Nebraska Law graduate means they are getting a smart, hard-working and thoughtful lawyer,” Moberly said.

Nebraska Law’s programs also recently earned a more board recognition. The college was named among the top law schools nationally by Above the Law, coming in at No. 36 in the U.S.

Above the Law’s rankings look at quality employment prospects outside of the school’s region and for graduates who aren’t at the top of their class. It looks at law jobs, quality full-time positions, costs and debt and alumni satisfaction.

“Three data points should be paramount to prospective law students and law students: cost, bar passage rate, and job placement rate,” said Anna Shavers, acting dean at the College of Law.

Nebraska Law has been consistently named an A+ best value law school in preLaw Magazine for bar passage rates and employment relative to the cost.

The college’s total cost for Nebraska residents is under $50,000, which is the nation’s lowest resident tuition cost among U.S. News’ top 100 law schools.

“Above the Law’s ranking is important because it is based on data points that matter,” Shavers said. “We are proud to be recognized for having a low-cost legal education while still achieving high rates of bar passage and employment.”

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