JD Career Fit: Equipping Students for Long-term Career Success

On Saturday, February 7, 2015 the Center for Professional Development (CPD) of Charlotte School of Law hosted Session 1 of its innovative workshops geared toward cultivating the practical, or ‘soft’ skills needed to be successful in the law profession. This effort aligns with CharlotteLaw’s commitment to providing experiential learning from the first day of class to add value to any organization upon graduation.

The JD Career Fit program is a requirement for graduation and includes two sessions to be attended by students in their first semester. Developed by CPD staff, the program focuses on self-assessment and self-knowledge as the basis of creating individualized career plans and objectives that uniquely fit the skills, interests, values and strengths of each CharlotteLaw student.

Students attending JD Career Fit first seek to gain a true sense of self to lay the foundation for personal development. On-going exercises throughout the program enable students to establish personal brand, utilize social media effectively, develop their image, and perfect the art of networking. Employers in the law profession have identified these skills as among the top performance gaps they find in newly-graduated law students.

Aretha Blake, Director of CharlotteLaw’s Center for Professional Development noted “By requiring students to attend JD Career Fit, we are sending them a message of the importance practical skills play to supplement academic theory.”

Partnering to Promote Professionalism

At Charlotte School of Law, we embrace the idea of “interdependence.” I recently attended the Southeastern Chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries conference, which was held in Lexington, Kentucky. I had the privilege of presenting, as part of a panel, on the topic of “Partnering to Promote Professionalism and Effective Practitioners: What Every Law School Graduate Should Know.” My co-panelists were law firm librarians. In addition to having been friends for many years, we each, at some point, had been responsible for training and coordinating the training of young associates.

Law firm librarians have always played an indispensable part in the nurturing and development of new associates. They still do, but as the hiring practices of “Big Law” firms have undergone a change, the responsibility of providing students with the practice-ready professionalism, the technology skills and the business acumen necessary to succeed has shifted back to law schools. The message that I, an academic librarian and former law firm librarian, and my two law firm librarians attempted to impart was that we are more effective when we work together.

In order to prepare for my portion of the presentation, I drew upon the first annual BarBri “State of the Legal Field” survey, Wawrose’s, “What Do Legal Employers Want to See in New Graduates? Using Focus Groups to Find Out” 39 Ohio N. U. L. Rev. 505 (2013) and Stouffer’s “Closing the Gap: Teaching ‘practice-ready’ legal skills,” 19 AALL Spectrum 10 (February 2015). I also interviewed Associate Dean Michael Farley, Director of the Center for Professional Development Aretha Blake, and Program Coordinator for Process Excellence Krystyll Gardner in order to gain an overview of the Charlotte School of Law “Student Success Initiative.” The CSL library staff also implemented its own projects and while those projects contributed to the goal of focusing on professionalism, GRIT and relationship-building, it was clear that greater inroads were made when the library partnered with other departments.

Likewise, when law school librarians join forces with their counterparts in firms and government libraries, the impact is greater than when they work alone. My co-panelists discussed the “Business Side of Law Firms” and “Making the Transition” from law student to practitioner. We encouraged all attendees to work with each other, not only for the betterment of their own employer, but for the greater good that can be achieved. To quote Mark Shields, “There is always strength in numbers.”

New Service Could Wipe Clean Criminal Records

It’s Mecklenburg County’s new “Expunction Line.” That’s a funny way of saying this: If you qualify, you now have the chance to scrub off at least part or maybe all of your criminal record.

For the first time, the county’s SelfServe Center has joined with the Charlotte School of Law to offer an upcoming clinic to have certain criminal charges removed once and for all.

Which brings us back to the “Expunction Line.” Call it this week if you want to participate. A voicemail will ask you to spell your first and last names, and also to leave a birthdate and a return phone number. The county will then do a criminal background check to determine eligibility.

Those who qualify will be invited to the upcoming clinic, which takes people through the process at no cost. Time and location are on a need-to-know basis since walk-ins are not invited. Eligible county residents may also be asked to begin the process by visiting the SelfServe Center in Suite 3350 of the courthouse, 832 E. Fourth St.

What if I don’t qualify?
You’ll still be called back and told when your eligibility begins. If you’re not eligible for the service at any time, you’ll get a call to discuss other options.

What kind of records can be wiped clean?
State law is pretty specific. Three types of crime generally qualify for removal.

▪ A first-time, nonviolent offense committed more than 15 years ago.

▪ A first-time offense committed between the ages of 18 and 22.

▪ A charge that was dismissed or found “not guilty.”

Why should I bother?
Old criminal charges have a way of indefinitely popping up on background checks. That can cost you a job or a lease on an apartment, among other everyday essentials. Once expungement takes place, it’s as if the crime never existed.

“It’s a service we felt we needed,” said Charles Keller, the courthouse’s community access and outreach coordinator.