Dawn Rosemond From Student to Lawyer: A Graceful Transition

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Dawn R. Rosemond, recruiting partner at Barnes and Thornburg in Fort Wayne, IN, says revealing those experiences and accomplishments are excellent ways to stand out from the crowd.

"I'm not saying everyone should travel abroad, but it's a complete package," she said. "Whatever makes you interesting—you want to put it down [on your resume] and do it in such a way that makes people go, 'That's neat. I want to know more about that.' If you got a full ride to undergrad, it needs to be on there. If you were a lieutenant in the military, it needs to be on there. If you're a single mom raising three kids, going through law school, it needs to be on there."

A 1996 graduate of the University of Illinois, College of Law, Rosemond is the firm's first African-American female partner. A litigator, she specializes in intellectual property disputes.

Q: What should law students do to prepare for job hunting and interviewing?

A: The best thing you can do is simply do well in school. That sounds very simplistic, but that is the first thing most employers look at. It's not the only factor, but you look for those students who demonstrated a commitment to law school, because it says something about how they will practice. You want a student that has other interests and activities as well as school.

In terms of preparing yourself for interviewing, there used to be a number of things that schools would offer students to prepare them for interviewing—mock interviews, that sort of thing. I think those are good. It allows the student to practice being interviewed. It is somewhat of an art. It is an opportunity to sell yourself. Things like that help to make sure you are ready to go. A number of schools come to various campuses to interview. It's good to get on the schedules and get interviewed. The more you do it, it just hones your skills.

Q: How can law students prepare themselves to transition from student to lawyer?

A: Preparing you to practice—I'm not really sure there's any such thing. You can certainly take all the courses you're require to take. But practicing is so different than being a student. It really is something that's very difficult to explain until you just do it. Certainly, you can participate in a summer program with a firm because it allows you to see what it's like to practice somewhat. But I really don't think there's much you can do—say, if you're going to be a litigator or a business lawyer—to say, "All right, I've taken all these classes, and now I'm ready." All you've done is prepared yourself to begin.

Q: What are some common stumbling blocks for new associates?

A: Time management is one of the biggest things because it's such a shocker. Even though law school can be grueling, you have the opportunity to schedule breaks within your day. Your time is your own when you're not in class or attending some law school function. Working is a lot different. The more you practice, especially for new associates, you start getting calls from people who want things from you. When you're a brand new associate, your clients are not necessarily people outside your work environment; they are your senior associates and partners. So now instead of having 1 or 2 things to work on at a time, you have 10.

One of the hardest things for a new associate to deal with is billing time. You account for everything you do. It's a difficult transition to understand that you may be at work for 12 hours to bill 8.

You have to lean on the people who have been doing it and learn what works for them so you can figure out what works for you. The sooner you learn that you don't know everything and people don't expect you to, the better off you'll be.

Just recognizing the parameters of your job—for example, it's hard with family members who say, "What time do you get off?" And you're like, "I have no idea what that means," because it depends. When I was brand new, that was a very difficult thing. I would disappoint myself, often planning things, and then they didn't work out because a senior associate would walk in my office at five 'til five and say, "Hey, I need you to do this research."

Q: Other partners interviewed by LawCrossing say new associates should never be afraid to ask for help.

A: You don't want to get in the habit of thinking you've got to handle it all yourself. Quite frankly, that isn't how it works and not what our clients expect of us. Our clients expect the best product from us. And oftentimes, that doesn't come because one person sat there and figured it all out. It's because they got their paralegal involved, and they got other attorneys involved that know more than them in some respects or have done it before. It's really important to learn early on to ask questions.

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