An Interview with Associate Dean of Career Services and Alumni Affairs, Jennifer Lucas-Ross
“Having a plan is essential, but keep your heart open.”
Q: You oversee Alumni Affairs and Career Services for the law school. What do you love most about your role?
A: I love seeing the students develop and move from law student to practicing professional. My favorite experience in my role is watching a student graduate, begin their career, and then asking them back to mentor our current students. Every time they allow me share in their success is a delight. Since taking over Alumni Affairs, I have also been able to see the further progress of our alumni. They are so talented and a deeply caring and receptive alumni community.
Q: You and your department are doing an outstanding job of working with our alumni to assist them in finding the perfect career opportunity once they graduate. Can you tell us a little bit about this process and why you feel it’s growing with success?
A: Practical skills is the new buzz phrase in legal education. The traditional model of law school was to learn legal theory in law school, and then the first year associate was somewhat of an “apprentice,” learning the practical side of lawyering on the job. However, this profession has not bounced back completely since the Great Recession-and some argue that it has changed for good. So while the practice of law is still an apprenticeship, the introduction of the practical skills must begin during law school. Many firms and organizations expect new associates to come in with more practical knowledge than was expected of new attorneys 10, 20, 30 years ago. These practical skills can be developed through hands-on experience gained during legal internships and externships. So my staff and I try to encourage the students from the first time we meet them, in the fall of their 1L year, to plan to work at least one off-site internship or externship during their law school careers. When their resumes reflect their practical skills, they will have an easier time finding positions after law school. Bonus: they begin making connections with mentors!
Q: Having gone through law school earning your J.D. and practicing as an attorney at one point in your life must be helpful in mentoring students and alumni since you were once in their shoes. What is the best advice you would give to current students pursuing internships, and to new alumni starting out on their legal career path?
A: Having a plan is essential, but keep your heart open. I believe that our profession is a calling. And as such, sometimes we are called down a path we didn’t see when we first began this journey.