Resources Around The Web: The Student Appeal

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As a career advisor who often works with law students and recent graduates, I run into questions about publishing and leadership—both highly sought after by employers. But that leaves the question of how can law students get published, other than an academic journal? Where can they go to start establishing themselves as subject matter experts, or simply build their reputation? The Student Appeal is such a place. Sarah Eli Mattern is Editor-In-Chief and founder of The Student Appeal. She’s a 2011 graduate of Florida A&M University College of Law and a practicing attorney in Florida.

I spoke to her about how and why she started The Student Appeal, the challenges facing law students today, and about what she wished she had known when she was in law school.

Question: Why did you start The Student Appeal?

Sarah: I started The Student Appeal to give law students a way to publish their articles, which would also help them grow their personal brands.

The Student Appeal gives students an opportunity to strut their legal writing right out in front of potential employers. I also noticed that many law students didn’t have a publishing opportunity if they were not on their school’s law journal. So I decided to give them a platform.

Question: What are some of the biggest challenges you see facing law students?

Sarah: Unemployment and Debt. Despite all the press, many law students aren’t considering the repercussions of student loans.

Students need to know that it could take them 6-10 months after receiving their bar results to find a job. They should plan their repayment strategy accordingly. For example, students should figure out how they are going to support themselves, and begin to pay back their loans if they don’t have a legal job yet.

Graduates also need to research what their region pays entry-level attorneys at (obtainable) jobs. It’s all well and good if the highest paid 1% of entry-level attorneys make six-figures, but most don’t even make close to that. Students need to map-out their loan payments assuming they make between 40k-65k (depending on the location).

Question: How well are law schools preparing law students for today's tough job market?

Sarah: Law school largely doesn’t go into practical legal education, so the idea of a law school offering personal branding and legal marketing classes is something for the future. In MBA programs, schools are focusing on teaching students how to market themselves into getting jobs and career advances. Law schools should follow suit, especially in the current employment climate.

Some law schools do more than others, but largely law schools expect students to learn whatever they need to know either from employers, internships, or the student’s own research.

Question: What steps can law students take now to improve their marketability when they graduate? 

Sarah: Lots of stuff! That’s the good news. Students need to be proactive in the current market, but there are lots of resources to help them. I polled our readers and compiled a list of web resources, which law students recommend, Top Websites For Law Students. Reading informative articles and staying abreast in what’s going on in the legal community is the #1 best thing that law students can do for themselves.

If they aren’t already, students also should set up professional twitter accounts. Twitter connects students to attorneys, marketing specialists, and peers. Along with Twitter, law students should use other social media tools to help them grow their network.

Question: What insights do you have now that you wish you'd had as a law student?

Sarah: As I talked about in The Student Appeal’s blog, Career Fairs, my biggest regret in law school was not taking the time and money to commute to the large national career fairs. While I’ve never met anyone who received a job offer from a law student career fair, these were excellent opportunities to network which I missed because I thought they were too expensive.

There are so many things I Wish I'd Known As A 1L, some of them as basic as knowing that most large law firms and government internship applications are due in August or September. By the time I came back after summer break and settled into my classes, I realized I missed deadlines because I inaccurately assumed that applications would be due closer to the date of the internship.

I wish I had written more legal articles, that I had joined Twitter and LinkedIn earlier, that I had gotten to know the 3Ls my first year more, and that I had attended more of LexisNexis’s webinars. During the three years of law school, so many people threw information at me that it was hard to discern what was important. In hindsight, there are things that I wish I had done, but over all I recommend law students just do as much as they can.

Thanks for your thoughts, Sarah!