Office of Career and Professional Development

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11.1 Mission

The Office of Career and Professional Development provides a welcoming and accessible environment, serving as a resource for students and alumni seeking assistance in all stages of their career development. Utilizing our collective expertise and technology, we provide counseling, programming, and resources regarding the evolving legal profession, as well as instruction on professional skills and development. We foster and expand upon relationships with internal and external constituencies, which includes providing proactive assistance to employers with their hiring needs, as well as serving as a bridge to connect our students with our extensive alumni and professional network.

11.2 Professionalism

Being a member of the community in a professional school brings with it certain responsibilities. OCPD details those commitments through the Statement of Professional Obligations document that all students must sign. In it, you will acknowledge your obligations and pledge to fulfill them while conducting your career search and when interacting with OCPD staff, alumni, employers, and all members of the legal community. The Statement will be signed and submitted to OCPD early in your first semester of law school.

11.3 Programming

11.3.1 Career Exploration

Since students have varying levels of exposure to the legal profession before coming to law school, OCPD provides opportunities for you to gain insight into the range of career options available to those with a JD. For example, OCPD will offer speaker panels, which will concentrate on a variety of practice areas and settings; small group informational interviews with visiting practitioners; and visits to employers in an array of geographic locations. OCPD also strives to incorporate these interactions in our “standard” programming, including resume review sessions and mock interviewing programs. Finally, we endeavor to take advantage of the 14,000+ law school alumni and countless other “Badgers” by calling upon them to provide students expert advice and guidance in a more personalized approach.

We believe so strongly in the value of this portion of your career development that, in addition to the three “standard” programs outlined below, we require all first year students to attend at least one of the career exploration speaker panels during your first year of law school.

11.3.2 Required Programming for First Year Law Students

The University of Wisconsin Law School recognizes the importance of first-year students concentrating on their classwork during the initial few months of law school. At the same time, OCPD knows students need to develop proper skills to effectively conduct a job search. Therefore, until Mid-October, our services will focus on informational programming, including panels and other presentations.

Starting in early September, OCPD conducts sessions covering five specific, important areas. Three of these sessions are mandatory for first year students.

1. Required Session 1: Introduction to OCPD and Self-Assessment (to be held multiple times during the week of September 7);
2. Required Session 2:  Job Search Strategies (to be held multiple times during the week of October 19);
3. Writing Effective Resumes and Cover Letters (presented during students' Legal Research and Writing courses);
4. Effective Interviewing Skills (to be held the week of November 9 and in January);
5. Required Session 3:  Introduction to Fall Recruiting (to be held in April).

Please note that OCPD follows the guidelines established by the National Association of Law Placement (NALP), an organization whose members include law schools and certain legal employers (mostly large firms) throughout the country. The guidelines state that first year law students should not initiate contact with NALP member employers for the purpose of applying for a job until December 1.

11.3.3 Other Programming / Events

OCPD will be hosting a variety of additional information-based, skills-development, and networking programs throughout the academic year. OCPD will hold workshops on social media, networking, judicial clerkships, Bar applications, and honors and fellowship programs, to name a few. Finally, the office will organize trips to various cities, including Madison, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago, New York, Washington D.C., and mid-market cities in Wisconsin that will include information sessions and networking events and will allow students to engage with practicing attorneys both regionally and nationally.

OCPD also organizes the "Professional Development Distinction" ("PDD") program.  The inaugural professional development distinctions were granted in Spring 2015.  The program endeavors to teach you the soft skills required for the practice of law.  It specifically focuses on the following skills:  self-awareness, empathy, making presentations, resilience, critical inquiry, and active listening.  You will receive an email about participating in this program in October of your first year.  This email will include all relevant dates and deadlines.  Participation is voluntary but space may be limited. 

11.4 Individual Counseling

In addition to attending the mandatory sessions outlined above, you must meet with an OCPD advisor at least once each year while enrolled at the University of Wisconsin Law School.

OCPD staff are all professionals with varying backgrounds in law practice and higher education who believe in a holistic approach to counseling. Each advisor is available by appointment to help students with resumes, cover letters, interviewing skills, job search strategies, connections with alumni in cities across the United States, and a wide range of other services; however, during your first counseling session, you will be completing an intake form outlining your career goals and interest areas.  This first intake meeting is intended to ensure that OCPD staff have a clear idea of your career goals and aspirations. Starting the week of October 15, please feel free to contact OCPD by phone or stop by the office to schedule an appointment.

11.5 Symplicity

OCPD maintains a password-protected, searchable job database through a software program called Symplicity. The Symplicity job bank includes all current job openings submitted to OCPD by employers, including opportunities derived through OCPD outreach conducted to generate new listings. Symplicity contains listings of both part-time and full-time jobs, summer positions, and occasionally, volunteer opportunities.

In addition to providing a database where students can access and apply to job postings, Symplicity is the multi-dimensional resource you should use for on-campus interviews (outlined below in 11.6), storing your application documents, and signing up for OCPD events and workshops (including those covered above). Symplicity will also be a resource for identifying alumni willing to provide advice and guidance, as OCPD is developing an alumni network look-up to be housed in Symplicty. First-year students will receive a Symplicity username and password that will allow access soon after submitting a signed Statement of Professional Obligations.

11.6 Resources

11.6.1 Electronic

In addition to Symplicity, OCPD provides a number of online resources on its website at http://www.law.wisc.edu/career/draft/jobpostings-research.html. OCPD also provides students with passwords needed to access other job posting sites, such as the BYU Intercollegiate Job Bank and the Government Honors and Internship Handbook.

OCPD’s website also contains information about job search tools, recruiting programs, career paths, and handbooks containing calendars to help students plan for the next three years. Finally, you can find sample resumes at http://law.wisc.edu/career/sampleresumes.html, and sample cover letters at http://www.law.wisc.edu/career/draft/sampledocuments.html.

11.6.2 Print

OCPD maintains a lending library of excellent books and other publications covering the many career options and practice settings available to you as a future lawyer. Additionally, the office has publications regarding resume writing, alternative career paths, interviewing techniques, and many other subjects.

11.6.3 Video / Teleconferencing

From time to time, students are asked by potential employers to participate in an interview by teleconference. Students and employers may also want to interview via video conference in place of a telephone interview or traveling for an initial interview. The Law School offers several options to help students participate via the web, video teleconference, or by telephone. If you need to set up a video or teleconference, contact OCPD to discuss the best option.

11.7 On-Campus Interviewing (OCI)

Each August and September, a number of employers send interviewers to the Law School to conduct screening interviews of our students. This process is frequently referred to as “On-Campus Interviewing,” or “OCI.” Most of the Fall OCI employers are medium-sized or large law firms; however, a number of government agencies, corporate legal departments, and small law firms also participate. Many Fall OCI employers come to interview only second-year students for summer internships which can lead to full-time, post-graduate job offers. A few employers use Fall OCI to interview third-year students for permanent, post-graduate positions.

In the spring semester prior to OCI, OCPD conducts mandatory orientation sessions for first-year law students to explain how OCI works, and to help students determine whether they should participate in Fall OCI. Detailed information about participating employers is on the OCPD website under the heading “List of Employers Participating in Fall On-Campus Interviewing Program” (http://www.law.wisc.edu/career/oci_firms.html), and additional information can be found under the “On-Campus Interviewing (OCI)” link (http://www.law.wisc.edu/career/introductiontofalloci.html).

A limited amount of additional OCI also takes place in the spring semester for first, second and third year students. Logistically, it is the same process as Fall OCI, and while employers interview 2Ls and 3Ls, employers seeking 1Ls for summer positions also participate. 

In February of the spring semester, a large number of Wisconsin public interest and government employers participate in the Wisconsin Public Interest Interview Program (WPIIP), co-hosted by Marquette University Law School on both schools' campuses.  This is primarily an opportunity for first and second year students to interview for summer internships.  (For more information, please see 11.10.1 below). 

We use our online program Symplicity (discussed at 11.5 “Job Bank”) to organize OCI. Students upload application materials through Symplicity, view and bid/apply for openings through the program, and, if selected, schedule interviews through the Symplicity system. Prior to Fall and Spring OCI, OCPD will provide you with the information you need to utilize Symplicity throughout the OCI process.

11.8 Other Recruiting Events

In addition to OCI, the Law School participates in a variety of other recruitment events, including job fairs and off-campus interview programs. Information on some of these programs and job fairs are provided below, and additional details can be found on our website at http://www.law.wisc.edu/career/jobfairs.html.

OCPD will notify students about job fairs and off-campus interview programs through announcements in the OCPD electronic newsletter, on Symplicity, and via email. Be sure to pay attention to these announcements, as the registration deadlines for these events often occur many months in advance and are very strictly enforced.

11.8.1 Off-Campus Interview Program

Midwest-California-Georgia Consortium (MCGC): In collaboration with six other law schools, the University of Wisconsin participates in a consortium that hosts recruitment events for students in Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Students generally must register and apply for these events by early July, and the programs are usually scheduled for late July and early August.

11.8.2 Off-Campus Job Fairs

University of Wisconsin law students are eligible to participate in a number of national job fairs each year. Below is a list of many of those fairs. For more information on each fair and deadlines, please go to http://www.law.wisc.edu/career/jobfairs.html.

11.8.2.1 Diversity Job Fairs

• American Bar Association Legal Career Development Expo
• Bay Area Diversity Career Fair
• Boston Lawyers Group Job Fair
• Cook County Bar Association Minority Student Job Fair
• Heartland Diversity Legal Job Fair
• Indianapolis Bar Association Diversity Job Fair
• Lavender Law Conference and Career Fair
• Minnesota Minority Recruitment Conference
• National Black Prosecutors Association Conference & Job Fair
• Northwest Minority Job Fair
• Rocky Mountain Diversity Legal Career Fair
• St. Louis Diversity Job Fair
• State Bar of Wisconsin Diversity Clerkship Program
• Twin Cities Diversity in Practice
• 2015 Midwest LBGTQ Law Conference \After Marriage Equality

11.8.2.2 Specialized Job Fairs

• Loyola Patent Law Interview Program
• San Francisco Intellectual Property Law Association Bay Area Job Fair

11.8.2.3 Public Interest Law Job Fairs

• Equal Justice Works Career Fair and Conference
• 26th Annual Midwest Public Interest Law Career Conference


11.9 Judicial Clerkships

OCPD works in collaboration with the faculty judicial clerkship committee to promote and encourage students to pursue post-graduate judicial clerkships. To assist students interested in clerkships, OCPD maintains extensive information about the clerkship application process on our website at: www.law.wisc.edu/career/JudicialClerkships.html. The website explains why judicial clerkships are universally thought to be great experiences for young lawyers, as well as information about how and when students should apply for clerkships.  Additionally, OCPD keeps a list of faculty and alumni who have completed judicial clerkships.

If you are interested in pursuing a post-graduate judicial clerkship, you are encouraged to meet with Associate Director Melissa Burkland (melissa.burkland@wisc.edu) and to attend the informational sessions during your first and second years that focus on the clerkship process. Ms. Burkland also keeps a judicial clerkship listserv and you are encouraged to contact her to receive informational emails if you are interested in a judicial clerkship.

11.10 Public Interest and Government Opportunities

11.10.1 Job Fairs

In addition to the national and regional public interest job fairs highlighted under 11.8.2.3, the Law School hosts its own Public Interest Interview Program.  This Program provides you with the opportunity to interview with Wisconsin public interest and government employers who are hiring for summer internships or permanent positions. Previous participants include the ACLU Foundation of Wisconsin, Legal Action of Wisconsin, Clean Wisconsin, the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, Disability Rights Wisconsin, the Federal Defender Services of Wisconsin, Community Justice, Inc., Catholic Charities, and numerous local, state and federal government offices such as the city Attorney of Madison, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the Wisconsin Legislative Council, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

11.10.2 Summer Public Service Fellowships (SPSF)

Traditionally, the Law School has offered Summer Public Service Fellowships (SPSF) to students who secure positions doing public interest legal work during the summer. To qualify for SPSF, you must identify and apply to the organization you wish to work for, and, if the organization offers you a position, you may apply directly to the Law School for funding.

Information about SPSF and the application process is announced on the Law School website, OCPD’s newsletter, and via email in the spring semester.  The availability of SPSF funding can vary, as it is dependent upon annual funding.  Additional funding for summer public interest work may be available through student-run organizations such as the Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) and the Children's Justice Project, and through numerous outside organizations.  

11.10.3 Helpful Websites

If you have a particular interest in public interest law, you should familiarize yourself with a number of extremely useful web sites, including the Public Service Jobs Directory (PSJD) (www.psjd.org), Equal Justice Works (www.equaljusticeworks.org), Idealist (www.idealist.org), and the Government Honors Internship and Public Policy Handbooks (www.arizonahandbooks.com, contact OCPD for password).

11.10.4 Seminars / Skill Building

Throughout the academic year, OCPD sponsors a number of seminars and workshops directed specifically at students interested in public interest law. These events include tips on interviewing for public interest law positions, writing resumes and cover letters, and how and when to apply for government honors programs and post-graduate fellowships. Check OCPD’s website frequently to stay informed about upcoming events.

11.10.5 Post-Graduate Fellowships

OCPD maintains information about fellowships that are available each year, such as Skadden Fellowships, Equal Justice Works Fellowships, Soros Justice Fellowships, and many others. Application deadlines for the most sought after post-graduate fellowships typically occur in the early fall of your 3L year, so if you are interested, you should begin the application process (finding a sponsoring organization and creating a project proposal) no later than the summer before your third year of law school. If you are interested in pursuing a post-graduate fellowship, you should also meet with an OCPD advisor early during your 2L year.

11.10.6 Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP)

The Law School sponsors Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) grants to help students who take qualifying jobs with public interest organizations or government agencies after graduation. Applications for LRAP are available in the OCPD in the spring of students’ 3L year.

11.10.7 Student Transition to Employment Program (STEP)

The STEP stipend program was created to provide financial assistance to new University of Wisconsin Law School graduates who work for at least eight weeks after graduation in unpaid public interest jobs for government agencies or nonprofit organizations. The purpose of the program is to provide an opportunity for graduates to maintain their skills while getting a foot in the door with an employer, build their network while seeking full-time employment, avoid employment gaps on the resume, and possibly lead to full-time, post-graduate employment. The STEP application process is announced in May of students’ 3L year. A limited number of grants are also made available for December graduates.  Applications will be accepted by OCPD beginning in early summer for new graduates, and OCPD continues to accept applications until funds are exhausted. 

11.10.8 Public Interest List Serv

OCPD provides a regular newsletter for students interested in public interest and government opportunities.  To receive the most up-to-date information, sign up for the list by emailing Associate Director Emily Kite at emily.kite@wisc.edu.

11.11 Contact Information

Location: Law School Room 3221
Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday – Friday
Main telephone number: (608) 262-7856
Fax number: (608) 265-6289
Office e-mail: career@law.wisc.edu

Professional Staff:

Michael Keller, Assistant Dean
michael.keller@wisc.edu; 608-890-4651           

Emily Kite, Associate Director
emily.kite@wisc.edu; 608-262-8554

Megan Heneke, Associate Director
megan.heneke@wisc.edu; 608-265-6684

Melissa Burkland, Associate Director
melissa.burkland@wisc.edu; 608-262-6444

Katherine Matusinec, Project Manager
matusinec@wisc.edu; 608-890-3427

Angela Haugen, Office Coordinator
angela.haugen@wisc.edu; 608-262-7856


“When you have nothing to say, say nothing.“ Charles Caleb Colton

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