Santa Clara University School of Law is the latest to roll out an extra program -- one that's built on advice from working lawyers.
Last summer, the school asked a number of well-placed alums for help understanding the looming recession and its impact on recruiting.
It formed what it calls the Legal Recruitment Advisory Board, which includes the dean, law faculty and deans, members of the career services staff, and eight alumni who hold managing or hiring partner posts at firms of all sizes. There's even a corporate counsel.
It was a coincidence that their first meeting was held one week after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, said Vicki Huebner, the assistant dean for law career services. Good timing!
Offered in the spring and fall, the courses will focus on law firm economics and practice management, Huebner said. A third course is in the works, focusing on professional development skills. That class will have an intro to litigation and transactional work.
The courses are informed by insights from the working alumni.
One of the general themes that have come out of discussions was the growing specialization of law practices, Dennis Brown told us Thursday afternoon. The managing partner of Littler Mendelson's San Jose, Calif., office who also sits on the advisory board, said the best chance to get a position in the new economy is to get some experience in a sub-specialty of the law -- whether through clinical programs, volunteer work or externships.
"When I graduated from law school, hiring decisions were primarily based on GPA and getting a broad survey of general law courses so you could run, ride, rope and shoot -- like a cowboy," Brown said. "What we have seen, especially with a dwindling job market, is the firms no longer have the capacity or inclination to take the raw clay and to shape it completely into something they would like the associate to be."
The other alums are: Cooley Godward Kronish chief operating officer and litigation partner Mark Pitchford; Teresa Corbin at Howrey; Kathryn Meier, the former managing partner of Hoge Fenton Jones & Appel; DLA Piper's Managing Partner of the East Palo Alto, Calif., office Andrew Valentine; Randy Gard at Gard & Kaslow; Wilson Sonsini partner Rod Strickland; and Frederick Gonzalez, general counsel at SonicWall.