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Advice and Career Services in Law by Gary. J. Greener

published July 19, 2004

John J. Barnes
( 19 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
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<<>>On the surface, Gary Greener's job as Assistant Dean for Career Services at Los Angeles' Southwestern Law School does not appear to differ much from that of other law school career services professionals. It is when you get into extended conversation with him that you realize his job is unique in many ways.

Southwestern Law School has been around since 1911 and by now has over 10,000 living alumni, many of them famous, including Dan Petrocelli and Marcia Clark, veterans of the O.J. Simpson civil and criminal trials. Southwestern alumni sit as judges and partners in prestigious law firms all over California and the nation.

Gary himself earned a law degree from Southwestern and holds an LL.M. from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. from Brigham Young University. Before joining Southwestern, he practiced law for almost a decade and eventually became the hiring partner at a medium-sized firm, Breidenbach Buckley. One evening, while having dinner with friends, Amy Mallow, UCLA's Assistant Dean of Career Services (her profile was published last month in this space), mentioned to him that the Southwestern Career Services position was open. Gary thought about it, and the job seemed like a good fit. Gary reports, "I was ready for a change, so when the offer came, I accepted on the spot."

"My job here has the traditional interior focus on students and the exterior focus on the employment market," he says. "As for the interior focus, one of the challenges is to get the word out to students about what Career Services can do for them."

"One trick I've learned when trying to publicize events and workshops is to produce a supply of small flyers and leave stacks of them scattered around the campus. What happens is that individuals pick up the flyer, read it while on the way to somewhere else, and then leave it on the nearest surface. Someone else inevitably picks it up, reads it, then drops it, and the whole cycle begins again. I like to think this is a form of 'managing chaos' to get the word out. The maintenance people may not like this approach much, but it works for me! Students keep telling us they've read the flyer and that it made them want to use our services or attend our event."

We asked about the external focus. "That's getting the legal community to be more aware of our students and what they offer," he said. "There are a lot of law schools in California, and we're all fighting for a piece of the same market. While there are many things that distinguish our school from others, one in particular is that we are the only ABA-approved law school that offers four different programs leading to the JD degree. In my office, this presents both challenges and opportunities and requires us to organize the office with that in mind."

We asked about these programs, admitting we knew about night-school programs and the traditional three-year programs but were not aware there were others.

"Well, we also offer a two-year program that permits a student to go straight through in 23 months. Then there are the part-time day and part-time evening programs. About 65-70% of our students are in the traditional full-time day program. The others programs often include second career professionals, and these students are very attractive to employers. They come to law school having succeeded in a previous career, and they bring a maturity and work ethic with them that benefits employers."

Gary went on to add, "I am so proud of the physical changes to our campus. Part of our campus includes the historic Bullocks Wilshire building, which is considered a historic landmark building. We also house one of most technologically advanced courtrooms in the country. Named for one of our famous alums, the late Congressman Julian Dixon, the Dixon Courtroom is providing superior academic training for the 21st century."

Gary tells us that he believes he has the best of all possible jobs, since he sees the fruits of his labors every time a student thanks him for help on a resume or advice on networking. We asked if he had any advice for attorneys entering the job market or in the market but contemplating a change.

"Yes, I do," he said. "Unless you have top grades and good personal contacts, getting a job will not always be easy. It is important to have an overall plan and be flexible in administering that plan. It is important for new lawyers to take charge of their career goals and remember that in order to get from Point A to Point B, there may have to be some smaller side steps along the way." He went on to say, "So many of my law school classmates are exactly where they want to be, myself included. However, none of us started out where we are today, but we all kept focused on our ultimate career goals. Students can help themselves achieve their ultimate career goal through networking, joining organizations, writing articles and doing work with local bar associations. By doing that, they are growing their expertise and connections day by day, and over time, this pays off handsomely. The key is not to have a short-term point of view. Life is a long journey and getting where you want to go takes time. I tell my students to have patience and be flexible, and in time they will get everything they seek."

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