Published July 27, 2023
Are you ready to make your legal career ambitions a reality? At UB Law’s dynamic Career Services Office (CSO), law students are embraced by an all-encompassing education on career development and the art of building lasting relationships. From day one, the CSO provides law students with a seamless blend of mentorship programs and personalized counseling to nurture their professional growth. But it doesn’t stop there – the CSO’s reach extends beyond campus, building powerful connections and educating alumni and employers alike.
Leading the charge is newly appointed Associate Dean Jennifer Scharf ’05. Although new to this role, her roots run deep within the law school as a proud alum. She has donned multiple hats in the law school from teaching litigation-based courses as an adjunct faculty member and coaching trial teams to serving as director of our Trial Advocacy Program and helping our graduates make meaningful connections with alumni. Curious to know what Scharf has in store for the Career Services Office, we spoke with her about her goals and strategic vision for paving the way for our law students to find their dream careers. Check out what she has to say:
The most important resource is individualized career counseling. Our team has decades of experience in all facets of law – from Big Law, in house, and private practice to expertise in judicial clerkship placement, government, and public interest work. We all are experienced matchmakers, and we can help students find the type of work – and even the particular employer – that is best suited to their strengths. Of course, we facilitate on campus interviewing, career fairs, and individual employer/student interviews. We also maintain a robust database of jobs sourced from across the country, conduct trainings for students and employers, and offer a safe space for conversation and professional development.
Our team is excited and invigorated to add in several new initiatives:
The vision is 100% employment. I think it is a real possibility in the current job market, and we are fighting for it every day. Realistically, things can get in the way of everyone having – or wanting – a job after law school (life and family circumstances sometimes prevent it), and not everyone wants to practice law in the traditional sense. So long as the graduate is able to work, we can help them find a job where their law degree is a meaningful part of the work. I have lots of friends and colleagues who are lawyers and use their law degrees in different ways – non-profit executives, politics, teaching, and business – and those folks mentor and hire. I always say that law school graduates are the best suited employees for any job. The economy is going to change, and we are going to need to adapt – having a diverse group of positions for our graduates is essential. You’ll see me out on the road meeting with traditional and non-traditional legal employers in Buffalo, across New York state, and throughout the country.
There is nothing better than helping to make a perfect connection. It’s like being a professional matchmaker. I have had the incredible opportunity to work with countless law firms, lawyers and other legal employers for nearly two decades. In doing that, I’ve been able to learn a great deal about the ethos of the employer. When I work with students—especially in an intense program like trial advocacy—I get to see their strengths and passions. In a perfect world, there is a student who fits like a perfect puzzle piece with an employer. It is so rewarding when a student tells me they have their dream job—or an employer tells me how well a new lawyer is doing (though it usually comes in the form of, “can you find me another [name]?”).
Here’s my Top 10 list.
1. Your reputation is everything. Never forgot that, and always act with integrity.
2. Be careful and considered in selecting a job or making a move. Don’t job jump—if you’re making a move, it should be thoughtful professional development.
3. Don’t burn a bridge—all legal communities are small. (Yes, especially Buffalo.)
4. Create a trusted group of lawyer friends. They can serve as sounding boards, strategy partners and referral sources. Keep in touch with your law school classmates.
5. Say yes to opportunities whenever you can. Fill a seat at a bar association luncheon? Yes. Cover a pretrial? Yes. Sit on a board? Yes. It might not be obvious how all these things will benefit you in the moment, but I promise, they will.
6. If you bill your time, do it when you do the work, but no later than the same day. You will end up billing more hours if you keep track contemporaneously. And don’t self-edit—let the billing partner do that for you.
7. Answer the phone. If you have a choice to let a call go to voicemail, don’t do it. It takes a lot more time to return a voicemail than to answer a call. Sometimes you’ll fear that you didn’t finish a project and you don’t want to own up to it if it is the client or partner calling. Most of the time, that’s not even what they are calling about, and a simple, “I’m on it, but I don’t have the answer quite yet” is a satisfactory answer. A major complaint about lawyers is that clients can’t get hold of them. Be the lawyer that breaks that mold.
8. Don’t catastrophize, but do communicate. I love this quote from Michael J. Fox: “Don’t spend a lot of time imagining the worst-case scenario. It rarely goes down as you imagine it will, and if by some fluke it does, you will have lived it twice.” If something goes wrong, it is probably fixable. Stop, breathe, think, write out your issue, and then go talk with someone more experienced (like the partner in charge), and you will find a solution to your problem.
9. Be responsive. A simple “I’m on it” goes a long way. Acknowledge receipt of emails and assignments. Ask for deadlines if they are not given.
10. Work hard. When you are a new lawyer, everything you do is setting yourself up for future successes, so give it your all as a new lawyer. Being a lawyer isn’t just a job, it’s an identity. You will thank yourself years down the line if you work really hard as a new lawyer. You can start this in law school—the most successful students are the busiest students!
Bonus: Stay connected with your Career Services Office!
The Career Services Office is just one of many distinct offerings that makes UB Law unique. With a commitment to growth, we continue to expand programming, considering the diverse needs of our student body. Experience the supportive community at UB Law today, reach out the Admissions Office to set up a meeting and learn more.