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Alisa N. Benedict O'Brien, Esq., has been Director of Career Planning and Placement at The University of Akron School of Law for one and a half years, but has been in career planning at the University of Akron School of Law for more than three years. She was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Ms. O'Brien received her B.A. in Political Science from Loyola University in Maryland and earned her J.D. from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Prior to becoming a career counselor and director of career planning, she served as an associate attorney at Hawkins and Company, LLC, in Cleveland, Ohio.
When she isn't working, Ms. O'Brien enjoys spending time with friends and family, cooking and trying new recipes, and aerobics. Her favorite sports team is the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Successful Director of Career Planning and Placement
Why did Ms. O'Brien decide to become a career counselor? She explained:
"I worked with my admissions office during law school and really enjoyed interacting with law students, faculty and staff. I became interested in pursuing a career as a law school administrator during that time. I was inspired by the fact that a law degree is so versatile and the transferrable skills that you learn and develop can foster success in alternative career paths. When I graduated from law school, I went on to practice law for 5 years in a boutique firm in Cleveland. I enjoyed practicing and learned a lot but was always pulled back to my desire to work in higher education, specifically law. I was so fortunate to be given this opportunity with Akron Law."
What is the best part of her job? "Working with students and alumni. Akron Law has outstanding students who have the background, character and drive to succeed. We also have successful, supportive and engaged alumni that are a pleasure to work with."
How has the market affected students' ability to obtain positions they want? Ms. O'Brien noted:
"As we all know, the legal market has been quite challenging over the past few years and with more students graduating from law schools, and fewer legal jobs, graduates had a difficult time finding opportunities and certainly did not always get their first choice for a job. The market remains competitive. Law graduates have to be more open-minded when seeking positions and cast a wider net in their job search. Hard work and determination will pay off."
What does Ms. O'Brien do to prepare students who are entering the workforce in a downward economy? She stated:
"Students have to find a way to distinguish themselves and to give themselves every advantage during law school. Students can distinguish themselves at Akron Law. Here, we prepare our students for the practice of law by offering many opportunities outside the classroom to gain hands-on legal experience through internships and externships and our legal clinics. Inside the classroom, our faculty strives to teach practical legal skills in addition to doctrinal law. We also provide many networking opportunities and work with our students on professional development."
What advice would she give to students who are about to graduate and enter the workforce? "Network! In today's market, law students must be building meaningful relationships with the attorneys in the community where they want to practice. We are very fortunate in Akron to have such an accessible and supportive legal community and bar."
What advice would Ms. O'Brien give to a student who is struggling with their coursework? "Seek out the resources your school has to offer. Never be afraid to ask for help. Our faculty and administrators are here to support the students and are invested in their academic success."
What advice does she give to a student who doesn't know what career path to take after he/she graduates? "Meet with your career counselor and take advantage of the resources your career office provides. Also, talk to the professionals working in the areas you are considering - arm yourself with all the information so that you can make an educated decision about your career path."
As a college career counselor, what area of counseling is Ms. O'Brien most passionate about? "As the only counselor in my office, I am just generally passionate about legal careers!"
What motivated her to become a college career counselor? "Student success and professional development. I become personally invested in each one of the students that I work with and I am their biggest cheerleader."
If she wasn't the Director of Career Planning and Placement at The University of Akron School of Law, what would she most probably be doing? "Practicing law, but I cannot imagine leaving law school administration."
Non-profit Organizations, The Downside of Her Position and Ms. O'Brien Goals
Is Ms. O'Brien involved with any non-profit organizations?"United Way through the University of Akron campaign."
Is there a downside to her position? "It is difficult and hard not to be disheartened when one of my students does not get a job that they truly wanted and worked so hard for."
Does the director of career planning and placement have goals? Ms. O'Brien acknowledged:
"Professionally, I want to be a valuable member to the Akron Law community and to the Akron legal community. I want to be a mentor and professional role model to our students. I want to continue learning from my colleagues and to continue using my law school education as the foundation for my career as a law school administrator. Personally, I strive to be a good wife, daughter, sister and friend. I also want to be a valuable member of my community."
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