Private Sector Career Symposium Draws More than 300 Law School Students


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New York, March 4, 2010—Many Columbia Law School graduates typically begin their legal careers at large law firms. But then what?
Law firms have many different practice areas, from bankruptcy and intellectual property to corporate transactions and environmental law, for starters. Helping students-- particularly those in their first year of law school—by providing them with a roadmap to identify the opportunities law firms and corporations can offer was one of the goals of the Law School’s first Private Sector Law Symposium held Feb. 25-26.
Despite a storm that dumped nearly 21 inches of snow in New York, more than 300 students attended the Symposium which featured both an evening reception and a full slate of panel discussions about various practice areas the following day.
“Students are really starting to understand how competitive the market is and how competitive it will continue to be,” said Petal Modeste, Dean of Career Services and Professional Development.
Most attendees were first-year students who in a few months will be bidding for slots in the Law School’s early-interview program, where law firms interview candidates for summer associate positions that, in most cases, lead to permanent job offers. In a tenuous legal economy, Modeste said it was never too early for students to learn as much as they could about law firm practice.
“The bottom line is firms will continue to be more circumspect and more cautious about whom they hire, and, as we had hoped, students saw this as a golden opportunity to better understand law firm practice and to meet leading practitioners,” Modeste said.
Branden Berns '12 said the panels enabled him to not only learn about the practice areas that interested him most, but also helped shape his list of which firms he will apply to later this year.
"The panels were a good opportunity to hear about what issues [the lawyers] were interested in," Berns said. "They also talked a lot about what I'd actually be doing if I did practice in a field, the kind of cases and what the work is like."
Law School professors moderated the panels, many of which included alumni who were partners at major firms or a general counsel for a major corporation. The latter group was part of a lunchtime discussion called Inside the Mind of a Client moderated by David M. Schizer, Dean and the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law.
“Private sector law practice is undergoing dramatic changes,” Schizer said. “We want to make sure students know about these changes and are ready to navigate the challenges that lie ahead.”
Not only did the symposium provide a “huge opportunity” for students to gain valuable information about law firms prior to interview season, Modeste said, it also benefited the 36 firms invited to participate.
“Our participating firms had an exclusive opportunity to meet with the students they will interview in a few months and to showcase the expertise of their organizations,” Modeste said. “This is a program we are likely to continue.”
Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins its traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, criminal, national security, and environmental law.