UHLC’s Career Development Office: Setting 1Ls Up for Success

Student author McKenna Andrepont is a 1L at the University of Houston Law Center.  

It’s the question prospective law students face even before the first day of their legal education: how will I find my place in the legal market? (Alternatively: how will I get a job?) Determining your legal career options and how to secure them is the ultimate end game of your three years of law school. Lucky for University of Houston Law Center (UHLC) students, our Career Development Office (CDO) is a phenomenal resource for achieving this goal. All of our career counselors have JDs and past practical legal experience and offer a wide range of resources and services to students. One such service is a series designed for 1L students entitled “The Passport to Success.” In the first session of this series on September 10, the CDO partnered with Andrews Kurth and industry professionals to discuss legal career destinations, maintaining a professional presence, and networking. The event concluded with a practice networking session with over two dozen attorneys.

“The Map to Career Success: Exactly Where Are YOU Headed?” was another event filled with local legal professionals sharing their advice on how to determine where you want to go and how to get there. Reece Rondon, who is a UHLC alumnus, former judge, and a current member of Hall Maines Lugrin, PC, began the first workshop with an overview of legal practice and its various branches. Natalie Weakly of Signature Style followed with a workshop detailing how to present oneself in a professional manner in both interviewing and networking environments. She included advice on suit styling and power posing. Amy Hancock of Andrews Kurth, LLP, presented the last workshop; she advised students on strategies of effective networking as a key to lawyer development.

As other posts on this blog have noted, networking is a huge part of integrating oneself in the legal community. After the workshop sessions ended, the CDO finished its first The Passport to Success event with an incredibly helpful session (and my personal favorite): “Networking in Practice.”  For one hour, 1Ls were encouraged to mingle with over twenty-four local legal professionals who in turn provided real-time feedback on their networking techniques. Several of my classmates left with the email addresses of attorneys who specialized in areas they were interested in; one spoke with an attorney specializing in family law, while another connected with an attorney who practiced in the town where they ultimately wish to practice.

Overall, the first session of the CDO’s Professional Development Series was a great help and hugely successful in communicating the importance of building networking skills in the legal community. I’m very thankful to UHLC and the CDO for pouring so much time and effort into building my skills as a growing legal professional and am looking forward to their next event!

Information regarding the UHLC’s Career Development Office can be found at https://www.law.uh.edu/career/.

Student perspective: the benefits of a clinical legal education

Nneka Morah is a 2017 J.D. candidate at the University of Houston Law Center, the Treasurer of the Black Law Students Association, and a Student Attorney with UHLC’s Immigration Clinic.

 

This past week I could not help but notice that the spring semester is quickly winding down. As I reflect on how much I have grown as an aspiring attorney this past year, and the many experiences that have brought me this far, most notable are my clinic experiences at the Law Center.

 

At the end of my first year, I decided I would try to take a clinic class every semester until I graduated. To me it presented an amazing opportunity to learn by doing, but also, to give back. Thus, I began my second year of law school with my first clinic class, the Consumer Dispute Resolution Clinic. There I learned about most of the dinner table law topics while helping the people of my community with legal issues ranging from landlord-tenant disputes to health insurance contract questions and car purchase agreement issues. At the end of the summer, I walked away with a basic knowledge of some of the critical everyday situations even I face. I remember how grateful an older lady was after I helped read through her health care contract, answered a few questions she had, and subsequently referred her to a health care attorney.

 

Next I registered for the Mediation Clinic. I had previously completed the 40-hour mediation training. During the fall of 2015, I volunteered my time, mediating cases at the Justice of the Peace court. Before the end of the semester, I decided to complete the Family Mediation training as well. Through this experience I got to see some of the processes of the alternative dispute resolution system in our country. This turned out to be a great networking opportunity as well. To this day, a Houston businessman whose case I settled thanks me for my service whenever he sees me.

 

This spring I have spent hundreds of hours in the Immigration Clinic. I have worked on a wide variety of cases. From helping an abandoned minor get legal status, to preparing and filing an asylum appeal, representing clients in immigration court, helping others get work authorization documents, and more, my knowledge of immigration laws has broadened. In addition to working independently and with co-counsel for my clients, I have learned timekeeping as well as billing. I can say I got to see the full picture of an immigration attorney’s busy and sometimes hectic life. This experience has been amazing and rewarding beyond measure. In fact, I received a summer job offer as a result of my work in the immigration clinic this semester.

 

As a result, I walk away from my second year of law school better able to take on the role of an attorney. I can honestly say that if at graduation my only choice was to become a solo practitioner, I am ready to take on the challenge. The clinic classes have prepared me for that possibility, and I am so glad that I didn’t miss out on all of the valuable experiences I have had this year in law school.

 

I look forward to taking more clinics in the coming year, and I am curious to see how many more lives will be impacted by my decision. To those who struggle with the decision to take a clinic, I say to you – look past the grades at the learning opportunities, life experiences, and people in need you help with every case, and give yourself this valuable opportunity.

 

Advocacy at UHLC

Mariam Abdelmalak is a 2018 J.D. candidate at the University of Houston Law Center.

First year law classes include substantive law courses, such as Contracts and Property, in addition to Procedure and legal writing. These offerings are practical in that they provide an understanding of foundational areas of law and allow students to develop legal research skills. After all, as summer clerks and future associates, law students will spend most of their time researching legal issues and drafting case documents. However, many first-year students, both those who have no prior legal experience and those who do, want to begin developing oral advocacy skills.

 

The Advocates is a student-run organization that provides all students with mock trial, moot court, mediation, and negotiation experience through intramural competitions. The Advocates runs six competitions each year, only one of which is not available to first-year students. All of the competitions require students to compete in two-person teams, and most of the competitions are judged by actual judges and attorneys. Two of the five competitions that are available to first-year students, the Hippard Novice Mock Trial Competition and the John Black Moot Court Competition, cater specifically to first-year students. The Hippard Novice and John Black competitions focus less on knowledge of substantive law and more on oral delivery and preparation.

 

During my first year at the Law Center, I participated in three Advocates competitions. Although, like many 1Ls, I was reluctant to sacrifice study time to these competitions, I am glad that I allowed myself to gain the practical experiences I did. The Alternate Dispute Resolution Competitions (mediation and negotiation) gave a great perspective on how to deal with client demands as an attorney. Preparing and delivering oral argument for the moot court competition was both fun and encouraging. My partner and I competed against amazing orators and got to engage with dedicated judges. Getting feedback on my style of delivery was a great way to start working on my courtroom presence and learn to better structure my argument.

 

For students who are unsure whether to pursue litigation or transactional work, Advocates competitions can help simulate the skills best suited to each of these two tracks. Advocates intramural competitions are also great practice for trying out for the Law Center’s intermural mock trial, moot court, and alternative dispute resolution teams. These teams are all part of the Law Center’s distinguished Blakely Advocacy Institute and compete nationally.

 

To find out more information about the Advocates and the Blakely Advocacy Institute, use the following links:

http://www.law.uh.edu/organizations/advocates/homepage.asp

http://www.law.uh.edu/blakely/

 

Clinical legal education: hands-on learning

Chances are, if you’ve researched UHLC at all, you’ve read or heard about our amazing clinics.  We offer six options – Civil Practice, Consumer Law, Criminal Defense, Immigration, Mediation, and Transactional clinics.  Each one affords students the opportunity to get a feel for what the legal process is like when dealing with actual clients in the real world.  Clinics are open to 2Ls and 3Ls and vary in their requirements to apply; however, students interested in signing up for a clinic generally have no issue getting into the one of their choice.

Below are some FAQs regarding our clinical program (found at http://www.law.uh.edu/clinic/ClinicsandExternships.pdf).

What clinic should I take?

That depends on your interests.  The most obvious difference between the clinics is the types of cases handled – criminal, civil, immigration, transactional, etc.  All the clinics teach a similar set of lawyering skills.  If your goal is to learn a particular area of the law, take the clinic handling that type of law.  If your goal is to learn the lawyering skills you will need in practice, it does not matter which clinic you take.

What clients do the clinics represent?

In most of the clinics, the clients are individuals and organizations who are not in the financial position to otherwise obtain legal representation.

Do student attorneys in the clinics work with real clients?

Absolutely.  Students work with actual clients as the student attorney.  Students take primary responsibility for developing a case strategy and performing all the legal work on the case.  Federal and Texas laws permit students to provide direct representation in various courts and administrative tribunals under the supervision of a faculty supervisor.

Is there a limit on the number of clinics I can take?

Yes, you are limited to fifteen credit hours of clinical courses.  Please note that the government, nonprofit, and judicial externships are also subject to a separate cap.

How many hours a week will I spend in the clinic?

The number of hours spent each week depends on the number of credits you are receiving and the type of clinic.  For a three credit clinic you will work roughly nine hours per week, including class time.  For a four credit clinic, you work about 14 hours per week, including class time.

Are the clinics graded?

Yes, they are graded according to the grading system applicable to other second and third year classes.  The only exceptions are the Mediation Clinic, Judicial Externships, Criminal Practice Externship, and Government/Nonprofit Externships, which are graded Pass/Fail. The class associated with the Mediation Clinic is graded.

Fall Course Schedules Posted for Entering 1Ls

Your Fall 2010 course schedules are now posted online at PeopleSoft.  Additionally, Orientation packets were sent out this morning to the email account on file with our office.  These packets contain a copy of your final class schedule, along with a booklist for each course assigned, details about Orientation, and other miscellaneous, but important items.

**Please check your spam if you do not see an email with this information–sometimes emails from UHLC will get trapped in the spam folder.