The Life and Career of Susan Robinson: Mentoring law students at a prestigious school

( 8 votes, average: 4.8 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.
"When I was practicing law, one of the things I really enjoyed was mentoring the newer associates," she said. "I was looking for a career that would allow me to do more counseling, more focus on helping people on their own personal journeys. I really wanted to have a job where I felt like I was helping people move forward."

A 1992 graduate of Columbia Law School, Ms. Robinson worked as a litigator for two San Francisco law firms, where she also recruited law students, mentored associates and served on the hiring committee, before going into career services.

Q: What do the most successful job hunters do in their searches?

Networking is key. So is preparing a very strong resume and a specific and directed cover letter. Doing research on the employer, really understanding who the employer is, who they typically represent, so they can really discuss in an intelligent way why they're interested in that employer.

Q: What's the biggest mistake law school grads make in their job searches?

That's a little bit of a hard one. Most of our students graduate with jobs, which is fairly unusual. At most law schools, that's not the case.

Q: How can law students find the right specialty for them?

It requires some real research on their part. If they already had a strong interest in a particular area before they came into law school, that's fairly easy. For instance, if someone was working for an environmental organization before they came to school and really loved it, it could be an easy choice to stick with environmental law. But if a student has no idea what kind of practice area they're interested in, first of all I'd suggest reading "The Official Guide to Legal Specialties" (Lisa L. Abrams and The National Association for Law Placement, Harcourt Brace Legal and Professional Publications, 2000). It's got a great overview of some of the different practice areas and what people do within those.

Students can get an idea through the classes they take, what things they find interesting. They can talk to professors who are focusing on a particular area. I suggest they talk to their career services office and see if there are alumni practicing in that area to whom they might be able to speak and do an informational interview to find out more.

I would suggest before they do informational interviews, that they have a pretty good idea of what it is they're looking for, what sort of characteristics they want to find in the type of practice they want to do, so they know if they're getting the right kinds of answers.

Q: And they should start that as early as the first year?

Yes. Most law schools put on panels and presentations. At Stanford, we do a Day in the Life series where we focus on different practice areas and bring in attorneys to talk about what they do in those different practice areas. They can use their summer experiences or externships to explore different areas as well.

Q: How has your own experience helped you guide students in their career planning?

For most of my students who are looking for fairly traditional legal jobs, whether that's in government, law firms or public interest, having gone through the process myself, having been on the other side when I was at the firms - I interviewed for my employers and served on the hiring committees there - I was able to better inform students as to what employers are looking for, what they expect to see on a resume or hear in an interview. Having practiced and been involved in recruiting has been very helpful for that.

For those people looking for alternatives, having gone through the process of trying to decide what I wanted to do and gone through the process of shifting gears, I'm able to better empathize with those students and alums who are trying to make that choice and provide helpful information about how to make that transition.

Columbia University School of Law.


Popular tags

Susan Robinson     

Featured Testimonials

I appreciate LawCrossing's help, which led me to a number of interviews. Thank you for your support!


LawCrossing Fact #36: LawCrossing features a library full of archived articles, just in case users miss a week.

Let's Do It!

Only LawCrossing consolidates every job it can find in the legal industry and puts all of the job listings it locates in one place.

  • We have more than 25 times as many legal jobs as any other job board.
  • We list jobs you will not find elsewhere that are hidden in small regional publications and employer websites.
  • We collect jobs from more than 250,000 websites and post them on our site.
  • Increase your chances of being seen! Employers on public job boards get flooded with applications. Our private job boards ensure that only members can apply to our job postings.

Success Stories

I was able to obtain my new job through LawCrossing. I love your service! Hopefully, I won't need your help for a while, but if I do, I'll certainly sign up again. I have already told others about your great site.
  • Theresa D. Colorado