Legal employers seek lawyers who are bright, hard-working, and practice ready. They need lawyers who are efficient, experienced in handling legal problems, and have practical skills.
Graduates who demonstrate initiative, solve problems, lead and manage projects, and work effectively in teams will have the edge when it comes to hiring. In addition to the first-rate academic programs at Illinois Law, the Office of Career Planning and Professional Development offers a strategic approach to finding the job that is right for you in this climate.
Our office is staffed with experienced, capable attorneys who maintain active law licenses, and who are ready, willing, and able to advise you on building a legal career. We have practiced law at the highest levels for many years and in a variety of settings. We understand what it takes to succeed in the legal marketplace, and that knowledge informs the advice we provide. During your time at Illinois Law, we will work with you to develop and execute a career strategy. Many of us engage with students in the classroom, ensuring that our office is fully integrated into the fabric of the College.
Our attorney-counselors are available for in-person meetings, phone conferences, and e-mail dialogues. You can expect candid and thoughtful advice, and quick, individualized responses to your questions and concerns.
In today’s competitive marketplace, it is not enough to respond to job postings or attend interviews facilitated by your law school. You must develop a group of friends and professional acquaintances who can assist you in your job search – during law school and beyond. You will call on this “network” from time to time during your career for advice and assistance. Your network can help you tap into a “hidden job market” – positions that are not publicly advertised anywhere. And that network can often give you a decisive edge in securing publicly advertised positions.
As an Illinois Law student, you will draw upon the tremendous power of the Illinois Law network. The network includes more than 11,000 graduates of the College of Law and many more from the University of Illinois more generally, including some of the world’s best lawyers, judges, and business people. Alumni are eager to mentor, guide, and open professional doors. We coach students on individual networking strategies, and offer numerous opportunities to interact with practicing lawyers, often in conjunction with other organizations. At Illinois Law, we even interact with our incoming class before they arrive on campus to advise them on networking strategies. We help you hit the ground running.
At Illinois Law, we have the privilege of working with some of the nation’s finest future lawyers, and we take every opportunity to convey those strengths to current and prospective employers. The dean travels extensively throughout the United States and the world to promote our students and alumni to potential employers. Our executive assistant dean for career planning and professional development is based in Chicago, where he assists employers in selecting talented new lawyers from Illinois Law. All of the attorneys in our office regularly interact with current and future employers across the country. These networking efforts lead directly to high-quality jobs for Illinois Law graduates.
The College of Law offers a variety of formal programs designed to assist Illinois Law students in building their careers, including:
Professional Experience Day
Each October, our entire first-year class travels to Chicago for a daylong multi-stop visit with dozens of different legal employers, including firms of all sizes, government agencies, public interest law firms, in-house legal departments, and various courtrooms in Chicago. Professional Experience Day is designed to provide an early look at the kinds of careers available to you, including some options that you might not have thought about previously.
Early Connections with Potential Employers
The College offers students early opportunities to meet potential employers. For example, each January, the College hosts a “First Look” reception featuring many law firms that will be recruiting on campus the following autumn. The next day, the College hosts “An Evening of Public Service,” where public service focused alumni meet with interested students and form early connections. And in the summer following the 1L year, students will have the opportunity to participate in an innovative Summer Mock Interview Program, where they will meet practicing attorneys who will provide practice interviews and give candid feedback. Each 1L also receives access to an Alumni Mentor, who will work with the student to introduce them to attorneys and resources focused on areas of interest.
Alumni-Student Career Conference
Through this annual conference, we bring together the College of Law community to spend a day with our distinguished alumni in Champaign. The conference serves as both an introduction to the profession for our first year students, as well as a day to foster and strengthen connections and career paths for our second and third year students. One of our most well-attended events of the year by both students and alumni, the day facilitates career development via panels, small group discussions, and speed networking, and ends with a casual cocktail party.
Fundamentals of Legal Practice
The College offers an innovative class for 1Ls students entitled “Fundamentals of Legal Practice.” Fundamentals, as it is colloquially known, gives students valuable insight on the practice of law. In Fundamentals, we cover topics that you will need to master in practice, including communications, use of legal technology, professionalism, client service, business development and marketing, the business of law, and the basics of leadership. Many of the classes are taught by leaders in the profession, including, for example, founding partners of well-known law firms and former Presidents of the National Association for Law Placement.
The College’s Externship Office identifies externships that confer course credit. Externships are often hosted by respected judges, prosecutors, public defenders, and high-impact public interest agencies. Students most commonly complete externships in the summer following their first year in law school. This helps students build the credentials needed to secure subsequent summer and full-time positions after graduation. Professor Rebecca Szajna leads our Externship Office, and has deep experience in identifying externships that offer terrific learning experiences and solid experiences that employers desire.
Corporate Counsel Practicum
The College offers an innovative Corporate Counsel Practicum class, which provides students the opportunity to earn academic credit while learning in an in-house legal department. The class begins with an intensive one-week classroom component, taught by our tenured faculty. This is a terrific opportunity to get an inside look at a key aspect of the legal profession.
On Campus Interviewing
We also host On Campus Interviewing (OCI) programs each fall and spring. During OCI sessions, dozens of employers come to campus for initial interviews with second- and third-year students. In many cases, these OCI interviews lead to summer and full-time positions after graduation.
The College offers third-year law students the opportunity to study full-time in Chicago, learning from tenured faculty members and experienced adjunct faculty. Course offerings include superb learning experiences, such as our Jerome Mirza Trial Academy, focusing on teaching the next generation of great trial lawyers. The College also works with alumni and other employers to facilitate term-term paid clerkships with Chicago law firms, and externships with a wide variety of hosts throughout the city.
The University of Illinois College of Law’s Leadership Project, launched in January of 2021, is designed to focus on the development of future leaders in the legal profession and thereby fundamentally impact the legal profession of the future. The Leadership Project will harness the expertise of current leaders and scholars while creating opportunities for discussion and debate on the topic of leadership and the law. The Leadership Project is led by a Director and supported by a Leadership Project Advisory Board made up of faculty, administrators and external leaders.