1Ls Meet the Firms

Meredith Heagney
Law School Office of Communications
April 24, 2013

The smartly dressed 1Ls approached the small circular tables set up in the Green Lounge and introduced themselves to law firms from around the country, any of which might be their future employer. The students shook hands, received business cards, and made conversation. For 1Ls interested in private practice, this event – firm·wise – is among the first steps in snagging that dream job at a law firm.

Fifty-nine firms participated in the April 10 event, many of them sending Chicago Law alumni who are now their employees. The law firms say the event is a chance to get themselves in front of the best and brightest 1L students before they start interviewing for summer associate jobs for the summer between their 2L and 3L years, which often turn into permanent positions after graduation. Many of the firms at firm·wise will be back to interview these students in August during OCI (On-Campus Interviews).

Students say firm·wise is a chance to start distinguishing between firms and practicing talking to their partners and associates, beyond the occasional receptions firms host for 1L students.

“Chicago Law is at the top of the list in terms of who we want to bring into the firm,” said Lisa Brown, ’95, Professional Development and Hiring Partner at Schiff Hardin, who added that it’s “super fun as an alum to come back to the Law School, to reconnect with faculty and former classmates, and to meet the next generation.”

Catherine C. Gryczan of Faegre Baker Daniels, which has locations in the U.S., United Kingdom, and China, said she came to firm·wise because of “the caliber of the students. We want to generate interest in the firm,” especially in the relatively new Chicago office, which opened in 2008. Gryczan was accompanied by colleague Zachary Stephenson, ’10.

Gryczan’s goal was to answer questions for the students, she said, and “to hear what they’re interested in. What do they want to know about us? Hopefully they want to know about our culture. A lot of firms are full-service, but there’s a lot of variation in culture.”

Brown, too, said she tries to dig deeper than small talk at firm·wise. "I like to have more extended conversations with students who stop by the Schiff Hardin table.  I like to break through that first question and get a sense of who they are and what about Schiff might interest them."

Amy Twohig, ’15, said the casual nature of firm·wise was a good way to build confidence in talking to these potential employers. “It just makes it a conversation,” she said. “It’s getting a feel for different kinds of personalities.” She stood in the center of the Green Lounge with her friends Ani Avagyan, ’15, and Kara Ingelhart, ’15, as they pored over a map of what law firms were set up where, and discussed which ones to approach. The women said they were asking questions such as how much opportunity the firms give summer associates to explore different areas of the law.

Those are exactly the kinds of queries the law firms want to answer, said Brown, the Schiff partner, but even students without good questions or confidence are not discounted at this early stage. In fact, she likes to help those students along as they learn to network and make professional conversation.

"I try to encourage and gently coach students who seem overwhelmed or uncomfortable.  Very few people have an innate knack for professional networking.  It takes practice and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone."

These conversations could, after all, be the start of a wonderful professional relationship.