Chris Smith featured in National Law Journal article on employer outreach
A Feb. 24 National Law Journal article about the growth of employer outreach programs at law schools features insights from S. Christian Smith, Elon Law’s assistant dean for professional development and chair of the Employer Outreach Section of NALP (National Association of Law Placement).
In the article, Smith underscores the growing importance of employer outreach at law schools.
"Legal recruiting shifted with the recession," Smith said. "The traditional model of law schools being able to depend on alumni, for example, to generate recruiting activity, changed. Law schools recognized that they needed to be more proactive in going out and creating and reinforcing recruiting relationships with legal employers of various types."
As chair of the Employer Outreach Section of NALP, Smith notes that NALP members are collaborating to develop a set of employer outreach best practices. At Elon Law, Smith leads employer outreach efforts and other initiatives of the Center for Professional Development. He also works with Elon Law’s faculty and other members of the administration on school-wide programs that build relationships between students and employers.
“Our whole program of legal education at Elon Law emphasizes employer connectivity,” Smith said. “We are very intentional about developing strong relationships with law firms, corporations and other prospective employers, as well as ensuring student contact with practicing attorneys, both through the Center for Professional Development and through our attorney mentoring and leadership programs. Our programs to build relationships between students and attorneys begin in the first year and run through all three years of law school.”
Several programs at Elon Law include professional networking and employment cultivation components, Smith said, including:
The Preceptor Program connects students with attorneys in a mentoring relationship that starts at the beginning of the first year of law school. Preceptors mentor two to three first-year students, providing advice to help students succeed in law school and in their career and professional development, while also encouraging students to shadow them at their practices.
The Leadership Program provides extensive interaction between students and attorneys. Starting in the winter term of students' 1L year, students create Individual Development Plans with guidance from attorney coaches and leadership coaches. Through these plans, students envision their career and personal goals and set metrics to achieve those goals. As part of students' work to address legal issues facing nonprofits during the second-year leadership course, attorney coaches provide student teams with insights about law firm and case management as well as best practices in client relations and team leadership.
“Attorney involvement through our preceptor and leadership programs allows law firms and lawyers to get to know our students over three years, rather than at the end of the law school experience solely during the job search process,” Smith said.
The Personal Networking Plan Program enables students to work individually with Center for Professional Development experts, mapping out and proactively scheduling interactions with attorneys for insights and career advice throughout their three years of law study.
“Our advising process and our employer connectivity programs are personalized and tailored to the specific interests of students,” Smith said. “In many ways our employer outreach is woven throughout our program of legal education. Our goal is for each student, from admission to post-graduation, to have a relationship with the school that involves a comprehensive and seamless professional development experience, incorporating a number of direct contacts with attorneys that build toward rewarding careers.”
Smith noted that every student works with an individual faculty adviser as well, and that faculty advisers review students’ networking plans, discuss student career objectives and advise on course selection to maximize student learning in their areas of interest.
Smith said Elon Law’s professional development efforts are aided by the active involvement of many attorneys in the Triad region of North Carolina.
“We find that the early and ongoing interactions fostered between students and attorneys at Elon Law lead to relationships that help with references and job placements at the end of the law school experience,” Smith said. “We're grateful for the time and insights provided to our students by many exceptional attorneys in central North Carolina and beyond.”