We hear from so many law students who are disappointed after going through OCI without an offer or were unable to participate (because of grades or other factors). While you may be worried that you’ll never find a job, we’re here to tell you that’s just not true.
That’s why we’re very excited to debut a new feature here on the Law School Toolbox blog! Starting with this post, we will be interviewing attorneys who got their first legal jobs the “non-OCI” way. We want you to see that it IS possible to get a law job outside of OCI, and provide ideas for the job hunt.
Today we welcome Danielle Fong, the Human Resource Manager at Family Connections in San Francisco. Let’s get started!
1. What did you want to be when you were a kid?
When I was a kid, I actually wanted to be a lawyer. I somehow got the idea that lawyers helped people (and I still believe they do!) and that was what I wanted to do. I didn’t really know many professional people and certainly no lawyers personally, as my family was very blue collar but I still wanted to do it. I first competed in mock trials in 7th grade and realized that I really loved putting the pieces together and building a case. I think I always intended to be a litigator versus a transactional attorney.
2. What did you think you’d do when you started law school? Is what you do now the same/different?
When I first entered law school, I still wanted to find a way to help people with my law degree. I thought I would become a criminal defense attorney but after spending my first summer in Mississippi doing indigent death penalty defense I decided that criminal law would end up becoming too personal for me and probably drain me quickly. I always thought I wanted to work on civil rights issues though, at the core of whatever area or specific job I pursued, and I would like to think that what I do know still serves that ultimate goal. I am now a Human Resource Manager at a non-profit after practicing employment law for several years. HR and employment law both concern one of a person’s most fundamental needs – their job/career. As an HR Manager, I try to balance the competing needs of management and the employees to ensure that employees have the best possible work environment.
3. How did you find your first job after law school?
My first job out of law school was with the firm (a solo run my a former USF grad) I had worked at during my second summer (I split my time between a plaintiff side employment firm and the Equal Justice Society, a racial and social justice policy organization). One of my close friends from law school had interned at the firm during the school year but had a different job lined up for summer. When the principal attorney asked if he knew anyone, my friend immediately thought to recommend me – because of my interest in employment law, having taken some employment law classes and because the friend believed I was a hard worker. I went and interviewed and got the job for the summer. I continued working there throughout the school year. After I took the bar, my boss called me up and said he wanted me to come work for him full time. Incidentally, I also got my second job out of law school through friends.
4. What do you do today?
Today, I am a Human Resource Manager at a small non-profit in San Francisco. After years of employment litigation experience, working for both employees and employers, something not many attorneys do, I felt ready to work internally at a company to manage risks.
5. What are three tips you would give to a law student looking for work outside of the OCI process?
- Your reputation is everything. Almost every opportunity I have received has been through friends/law school acquaintances. I was very involved in student life during law school, planning events, running organizations and raising money for various causes. I built a reputation during that time and thus others never worried about jeopardizing their own reputations when recommending me for opportunities.
- Work your contacts. So many opportunities are gotten through word of mouth. If there is a pile of resumes for a job, knowing someone inside is going to put your resume at the top of the pile.
- Pitch in. When you get that job, help out and don’t have a chip on your shoulder about work that is beneath you. Your managers and co-workers will learn that they can depend on you and you just might get that offer after the summer is over.
Thanks, Danielle. Great advice!
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Danielle Fong is the Human Resource Manager at Family Connections in San Francisco. She previously practiced both employee and employer-side employment law at The Nelson Law Group and Dillingham and Murphy, LLP. Danielle has volunteered with the Equal Justice Society as a staff attorney and still aspires to help people with her law degree. She lives in Alameda with her husband and new baby. Danielle likes to think all the sleepless nights spent studying during law school helped prepare her for the sleep deprivation that comes with parenthood.
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And check out these helpful posts:
- Can You Get a Job Without OCI (On-Campus Interviewing)?
- How to Ace Your Law Firm Interview
- How to Use the Summer to Jumpstart Your Job Search
- Hey, Law Students: Here’s How You Network
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