Inside BC Law’s Career Services Office: A Q&A With Assistant Dean Jen Perrigo

Landing a job both as a law student and post-grad can be stressful to say the least. You hear about all the ways in which your law degree can help you professionally, but how do you really know where and when to begin your search? Law firm or government? Clinic or externship? Do networking coffees really make a difference?

Whether you are a prospective student, current law student, or recent graduate, we can help. We sat down with Jen Perrigo, Assistant Dean of Career Services at BC Law, to answer some of these top-of-mind questions. 

What is the overall mission and strategy of BC Law’s Career Services Office (“CSO”)?

In CSO, we recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to finding a job, and we are dedicated to helping students chart their own paths. We encourage students to think about what they want to do, what they are good at, and what the world (or the market) needs. 

To help students find their way, we focus heavily on data and results. Not only do we listen to the interests of our students, both individually and more holistically, but we also carefully monitor the opportunities in the market and our placement rates so that we know where to direct our efforts. 

How is CSO organized and how does this benefit students?

We have four career advisors–all of whom have practiced law and/or have significant experience advising students and alumni in the law. Their collective experience and contacts greatly benefit students. We are all able to advise on just about any topic, but we have areas of specialization either because of practice background or interest that allows us to stay particularly up-to-date on the legal job market in those areas and provide appropriate advice. These areas of expertise include clerkships, government and public interest, law firms, and in-house opportunities. 

We also have a Director of Recruiting & Employer Outreach whose main focus is to monitor the market, maintain the strong relationships we have with employers and, most importantly, develop new opportunities for students. Our Recruiting Manager manages all of our on- and off-campus recruitment programs as well as our recruiting platform (SAGE), our data collection efforts and reporting functions. Our Career Services Assistant manages all of our Clerkship Letters of Recommendation, assists in our programming efforts and is generally the glue that holds our office together. 

Our entire team enjoys working with students and alumni and feels a strong sense of mission in our work. We all love to celebrate the success of our students when we hear of an internship or post grad job accepted and one can often overhear us congratulating students as you walk down the hall near the CSO Suite. 

As a follow up, what resources are available to students through Career Services?

Our office provides many services to students in addition to individual career advising, resume and cover letter reviews, and mock interviews. We often find ourselves advising students on how to build and manage their network. Whether they have work experience or not, navigating the professional norms in the legal workplace is often new. We help students draft correspondence or coach them through conversations they are often having for the first time. 

We also see it as our role to provide them with introductions to our alumni network– either through personal introductions, creating various programs that bring practitioners to campus or facilitating those introductions through various other resources. For example, our Visiting Advisor Series brings experienced alumni here from various sectors of the legal job market to meet with students for one-on-one individual advising appointments. Hisao Kushi ’92, Co-Founder and General Counsel of Peloton, recently served as a Visiting Advisor for students!

We also recently launched a new Professional Development Series aimed at helping law students on the job or even in the classroom. Our first program was on Public Speaking and Professional Presence and we have others lined up on Resilience, Effective Written Communication in the Workplace, and Basic Financial Literacy. 

BC’s 1L Boot Camp is an extremely unique program. Can you tell me a bit about it and what skills students learn? 

The 1L Boot Camp program was started in 2013 by then Law Student Association (“LSA”) President, Jason Triplett, and his classmate, Jasmin Ali. Since then it has been a collaboration between the CSO and LSA designed to provide a series of programs to teach 1L students the basics they need for their job search, introduce them to various practice areas and facilitate their interaction with practitioners, particularly alumni. One of the reasons it is unique is because of the strong partnership between the LSA and CSO. It provides us with a great feedback loop to make sure students are getting the information they need and that it is presented in the best way possible. 

We have similar programs for 2L and 3L students but they are different in scope and purpose. Our Path to Practice series was launched last year and is meant to help 2L students refine their area(s) of interest so that they can strategically map their path in law school to reach their goals. We do this through an emphasis on self-assessment, various practice area panels and our Visiting Advisor Series. Our second semester 3L Apply with Me program is very tailored to individual students. Each student is assigned a CSO Advisor who is responsible for meeting with that student, identifying opportunities, and helping the student create a personalized job search plan. 

Many students keep talking about the rollback of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) Guidelines. What does this really mean for students? 

The elimination of the NALP Guidelines last year was quite a surprise to law schools and legal employers throughout the country. The silver lining was that it was a good opportunity to reevaluate the entire recruiting process. These Guidelines historically governed when 1Ls could meet with Career Services, when they could apply for jobs, and how long they had to decide whether to accept an offer. Like many schools and employers, during this first year we took a conservative approach and adopted interim policies that largely mirrored the old NALP Guidelines. That was the right approach for the time, but we know the market will continue to change. 

As predicted, within a few months after the elimination of the Guidelines, we saw law firms approach students more directly, and earlier. There was also an increase in “pre-cruiting” this summer, with law firms inviting students in for callbacks and extending offers before any formal job fairs took place. 

Knowing that recruiting may start earlier this year, we sent 1Ls information on how to write a legal resume and cover letter before they even arrived on campus and opened up 1L career advising earlier. We want our 1Ls to be ready should they see an opportunity of interest. I think there will always be a dotted line around the timing of the recruiting season as some employers are still wary of extending job offers without having at least some grades. 

As the market changes–and no doubt it will–we need to adapt. We need to strike a balance between optimizing students’ opportunities through preparedness and competitive timing as well as ensuring that they place priority on their academic experience. We know that everyone comes to law school to get a job but it is our job to make sure students know their market power and take the time they need to make a thoughtful decision as to where they want to work. 

What are some of the best networking tips you have? 

The first is to network in a way that fits your personality. If you are an introvert, there is no need to attend every large cocktail reception if you don’t find them productive. Students should attempt to step out of their comfort zone every now and then, but do what makes you feel most comfortable. For example, scheduling individual meetings with attorneys, attending practice area panels and other programs and/or taking advantage of the CSO Visiting Advisor Series is a great way to network in a setting that is more low-key. 

The second is to make it easy for busy lawyers–by offering to meet over the phone, offering to meet at a time that works for their schedule and by only asking questions to which they might actually know the answer. I think students often hear the advice that “lawyers love to talk about themselves.” This may be true, but lawyers also genuinely like to be helpful. For example, ask questions such as “what type of coursework or experiences do you look for when hiring a junior lawyer? Are there classes or clinics that would position me well in your practice area”? “I see that your office has doubled in size over the past few years, what is driving this growth?” Attorneys may also find it helpful, (not presumptuous) for you to send along your resume in advance of a networking meeting for background purposes. If they decide to recommend you to their employer or colleague for a job, it’s already in their inbox.

Third, don’t be afraid to pick a practice area or industry of interest. Sometimes students want to show an employer that they are flexible and hedge over practice areas or geographic areas of interest when networking because they worry they will miss out on potential opportunities. Flexibility is great, but too much seems as though you are unfocused at best and at worst, are not motivated enough to give it the thought it deserves. Desperation is not a good look for a job seeker. Find attorneys whose work is genuinely of interest to you and ask questions that you genuinely want to know the answers to. CSO can help you find those lawyers and help you pose the appropriate questions. You are then setting the stage for an authentic connection and are on your way to building a solid network.

What jobs are typically available to students for summer internships, both 1L and 2L year?

There are a wide range of jobs available to students not only during the summer, but also during the school year through externships, internships, pro bono opportunities or part-time work. Students have six semesters and two summers to gain marketable legal experience during law school. BC Law students work in a wide range of public interest and government positions, law firms (big and small), as judicial interns, and increasingly in-house or in other business roles.

In a competitive marketplace, we are constantly searching for new opportunities in every sector of the legal job market in formal and informal ways. Most people are familiar with our On Campus Interviewing program (“OCI”), but we also have a robust Small & Mid-Sized Firm OCI (“SMOCI”) and started what we think is the first In-House and Business on campus interview program (“BIDz”), in the country. Both programs were launched approximately four years ago and have grown each year. This year we are also hosting the Massachusetts Law School Consortium’s Government and Public Interest Job Fair during which over 50 employers will be interviewing BC Law students and others for summer and post graduate positions. 

Whether students obtain their jobs through a formal interview program, a job posting, or their own network, they excel on the job and employers return to hire again. My greatest hope is that students secure a job during the summer or after graduation that they enjoy as much as I enjoy mine.  

Can you speak to the BC alumni network and how this impacts job placement? 

The BC Law alumni network is truly extraordinary. Each and every time I call upon an alum for advice, to sit on a panel, mentor a student, provide an introduction, or assist in some other way, the call is not only answered, but the answer is almost always yes. In fact, I recently asked an alumna to sit on a panel that I was scheduled to moderate. She couldn’t participate because she was preparing for a trial, but without prompting, found another alum to take her place! 

This is enormously helpful in our placement efforts. BC law alumni are not only helpful, but their talent, drive, and typically strong EQ positions them to be leaders in the profession as General Counsel, Hiring Partners, and serving at the highest levels of government, policy, and nonprofit organizations. They understand the quality of lawyer that BC Law produces and are eager to hire the same. They also have a strong loyalty to the institution and are happy to pay it forward. In fact, it is often said that the farther away you go, the stronger the BC Law ties. I have found this to be true and students looking outside the Northeast often benefit most from what could be a somewhat smaller, but mighty contingent of BC Law alumni. 

Courtney Ruggeri is a second-year law student. Read her earlier Q&A with Dean McShay regarding BC Law’s admissions process

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