UCOP attorneys arm law students with job-interviewing skills
That first job interview on the brink of a new career can be one nerve-wracking experience.
Attorneys at UC’s systemwide headquarters in Oakland are pitching in to make the experience a little less daunting and offer law students advice to help land their first gig.
Several attorneys in the Office of the President’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) volunteer annually to conduct mock job interviews with law students through a workshop organized by the Bay Area law firm Hanson Bridgett.
“I remember how important it was for me to have mentors when I was starting,” said Margaret Wu, managing counsel in litigation. “This is a good opportunity to help newer lawyers come along, and to keep the pipeline of good lawyers coming.”
Known as the 1L Interview Workshop, the program starts with a half-day seminar that covers topics such as how to prepare for a job search, finding the right job opportunities and preparing for an interview. Next, each student meets with two or three attorneys to practice their skills in mock interviews. A networking luncheon is the finale.
The law firm promotes its workshop to minority student organizations at law schools to reach an under-represented demographic and increase diversity in the legal profession.
“It’s been my experience that a lot of law students in these groups might be the first to graduate from college in their families,” said Mike Moye, a partner at Hanson Bridgett who started the workshop 10 years ago. “Many have no prior experience with lawyers or the legal field or set foot in a law office before. If we can remove about 60 percent of the intimidation, we can help them develop a bit more confidence and succeed.”
The UC attorneys have helped mentor close to 100 students since they began volunteering — not a surprise given the office’s longstanding commitment and efforts to support diversity.
While the students already have impressive academic qualifications, a number are less studied in the art of interviewing.
“The biggest item is self-confidence,” said Holly St. John, senior counsel at UC who also volunteers on OGC’s Diversity Committee. “A lot of students know how to put their nose to the grindstone, but they may be at a loss when it comes to interviews.”
St. John and other attorneys coach the students on how to best package their skills and present themselves as viable job candidates. This can range from maintaining eye contact during an interview to answering questions directly and clearly to tips on strengthening their resumes.
Some students, particularly those for whom law is a second career, are already polished and may not need a great deal of help. In those cases, the attorneys help the students talk through what fields they are interested in and offer advice on making inroads in the profession.
The attorneys encourage students to call with additional questions or advice after the workshop.
Because Hanson Bridgett does not track the students after they complete the workshop, it is unclear how many are able to use the skills they’ve learned to successfully navigate job searching.
The Interview Workshop has grown dramatically since it launched a decade ago, when it served just 10 students, and all the attorneys were from Hanson Bridgett. Word spread and demand climbed. Last year’s program brought together 115 students and 50 attorneys representing both the public and private sectors.
“Margaret was one of the first people outside the firm to participate and the first to respond when I send out the message to take part in the program,” Moye said. “I’ve gotten very good feedback and rave reviews from the student participants, whenever I’ve mentioned the UC attorneys.”
UC attorney Stella Ngai was the first attorney in her family and sees an information gap between students who are familiar with lawyers and others who have had little or no exposure. Ngai did not participate in a program like the Interview Workshop when she was in law school; she said she was fortunate to have met people kind enough to offer good advice.
“I remember people who helped me then, so I try to give back,” Ngai said.
By Katherine Tam, Communications Coordinator, Internal Communications