By Sarah Austin, McKinney 2L
On Friday, November 2, a group of 11 McKinney law students and eight attorneys working in various fields gathered to discuss the realities of working in employment law. We were honored to have attorneys representing several different perspectives, including in-house positions, government positions and law firms representing both plaintiffs and defendants. As you can imagine, this led to many robust conversations!
One of the most fascinating conversations that took place was between an in-house attorney and a representative from the law firm that serves as her company’s outside counsel. We walked through the life of an issue and each party’s role in handling the issue. It was pointed out that the in-house attorney must look at the issue from both a legal and a business perspective – giving thought to how the handling of the issue impacts the business overall. Conversely, outside counsel gets to simply focus on how to handle the legal question posed by the situation. As in-house counsel determines how to proceed in handling the matter with a broad view of the business, outside counsel provides a “gut-check” for in-house counsel on the underlying legal issues and provides boundaries for what in-house counsel can do legally. While both parties approach the issue differently, they come together to work cohesively in creating a plan of attack.
Other conversations were held regarding attorney recommendations to students who wish to work in employment law after graduation. Interestingly, every single attorney advised that young attorneys will gain practice area experience on-the-job, so it is less important to take practice area specific courses than it is to gain meaningful experience in written and oral communications. Given the propensity for cases, especially employment law cases, to be tried through motions and briefs (rather than in a courtroom), students should seek opportunities to improve their writing skills (particularly persuasive writing).
A common theme through most of the Breakfast with the Bar events is continued encouragement from attorneys for students to network whenever possible. Find a way to connect your passions with attorneys and other law students. If you like to read, join a book club! If you enjoy running, join a running group! These less-formal activities will give you opportunities to connect with those in your field and learn more about the inner workings of firms or companies, their culture and work habits before you decide where you want to start your career. It was stressed that it is important to ensure a good fit between you and your employer – this will provide the optimal work environment for all. Lastly, remember to put yourself out there! Seek out opportunities, even if they force you outside your comfort zone.
Attending a Breakfast with the Bar event allows law students to speak freely with attorneys in a particular area of practice in a casual environment. If you’re interested in attending a Breakfast with the Bar event, watch for IndyBar updates for future events in areas such as alcoholic beverage control, sports and entertainment law, medical malpractice and natural resources.
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