Warning—this post may fall into the category of humblebrag. But in my defense, I intend it more as a shot at others, not as a pat on the back for Michigan. (Upon reflection, that perhaps is not much of a defense.)
Today, I spoke on the phone with a longtime friend (at my age, you don’t call people “old friends,” lest they become irate) who works as a recruiter at a top law firm. His firm is doing a “soft search”—meaning, no posting—for a 1L summer position in one of its offices. He called me with a list of desirable characteristics and asked if I knew anyone who might be a good candidate. I started digging through my memory banks and my notes, and also put my head together with the folks in Career Planning. I sent emails to various potential candidates who met the criteria.
This does not strike me as extraordinary. I did something similar yesterday for a friend who is a judge looking for summer interns. I did something similar a couple of weeks ago for a friend who is a judge looking for clerks. I have personal knowledge of multiple faculty members who do this with great frequency; come to think of it, I get almost weekly emails from one faculty member or his students, in particular, naming success after success in networking with employers. This just strikes me as a day in the life of anyone working in higher ed.
But maybe I need to revise my views to “it ought to be a day in the life of anyone working in higher ed.” Because when I emailed my recruiter-friend to say, “I’ve contacted XYZ people; keep your eyes peeled for their materials,” he responded by telling me that my counterpart at another school (in the same city as the office for which the position will be filled, mind you, making the matchmaking that much easier) declined to help, simply saying, “I don’t really remember my 1Ls by this time of year.”
REALLY??? Why NOT???? Look around you!!! They’re RIGHT THERE. I do not understand this at all. How can you remember the people you admit less AFTER they have enrolled at your school? And may I note, this was not a school with 12 kajillion students. (But even if it were, that should mean only that you know a smaller percentage of students; it shouldn’t mean that your responsibility to know anyone at all is wholly obviated.) Nor is it a school where people aren’t typically interested in working at law firms. Nor is it, despite being very well-regarded, some kind of (mythical, totally non-existent) school where 1Ls easily snag excellent, high-paying summer jobs. Multiple someones at that school certainly would have been interested in this potential opening.
As you can perhaps detect, I am feeling a little outraged, imagining the wasted opportunities for all the students at that school. I will endeavor to find solace and a zen place by thinking about the increased opportunity for the Michigan Law students whose names I have sent on. Meanwhile, let me pass on this piece of advice to those of you choosing among law schools: ask the dean of admissions, “How well do you know the current students?” (Listen critically to the answer, since he or she is unlikely to openly proclaim, “Not at all!”) I’m guessing the admissions dean’s sense of connection is a decent proxy for how the rest of the faculty and staff feel. And unless you’ve already developed your own network of law firm recruiters and judges, the network of law school faculty and administrators can be pretty useful.