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Career Services Blog

Coffee Chats: An Opportunity to Connect in a Socially Distanced World

October 14, 2020
  • Stepping up the career ladder is still possible right now.

Of the challenges that living during a pandemic has brought us, one that is particularly difficult for students is having limited opportunities to connect with potential employers and attorney mentors. While things like job fairs, workshops and employer information sessions are finding their place virtually, more informal options to make connections have gotten lost in the shuffle as we collectively adjust to this new reality.

Thankfully, the Law School Career Services office is finding a solution with Coffee Chats, a virtual small-group environment where students and recent graduates have a chance to ask questions, seek advice, and network with a practicing attorney.

While more familiar modes of connecting in person are currently unavailable to us, the friendly essence of an in-person meeting lives on in these chats, in our now-favorite format: Zoom.

“It doesn’t have to be hard,” says Holly Puckett, Director of Career Services and founder of the series, on the accessible format and low-stakes atmosphere of them. “This is meant to be just like meeting a lawyer for coffee.”

So far this semester, Career Services has had four Coffee Chats. Attendees have found them to be helpful and reassuring, and the small group experience to be valuable.

4L JD candidate Kristen Kim attended the most recent chat with Assistant County Counsel Kimberly Stuart, of the Washington County Counsel. Of the experience, Kristen Kim says, “The coffee chat was great because of how encouraging it felt to know that an attorney was not only willing to help but also trying to learn more about each of us on a personal level.”

The small group, conversational format allows for plenty of engagement and individualized attention, but feels less pressured than a one-on-one meeting might. This also enables the attorneys to address specific questions posed by students and share their experiences more freely and personably.

“I really appreciated how Kim Stuart asked what our interests were and any questions we’d like her to answer after she gave a brief introduction of herself,” says Kristen. “I think this really helped her reach out to us individually while addressing key points of her own legal experience.”

Interested students should bear this in mind when attending: while much of the conversation will be led by the guest attorney, attendees are encouraged to come prepared with things to ask. This makes for a more lively and natural conversation, appreciated by students and attorneys alike.

Although the atmosphere feels informal (especially considering everyone will be in the comfort of their own homes), dressing a step up from casual is advised. No need to wear formal interview clothes, but it is important to make a good impression; no pajamas, please. Additionally, on the subject of norms, it is important to note that this is not a situation where any sort of job offer will be extended.

The next Coffee Chat will be on Thursday, October 15, at 5:30 pm with Michael Hsu, Chairperson  of the Oregon Board of Parole. Registration on Career Connect is required, and priority is given to 2L, 3L, and Recent Grads. 1Ls may register, but will be placed on the wait list until 24 hours prior to the event, at which time if there are open slots, students will be invited to attend in the order in which they registered. For more information, please see the event on Career Connect or reach out to the Career Services office at lscs@lclark.edu.

In a similar format, the Career Services office is offering a special series this month called Meet and Greets with Judges beginning on Monday, October 19th, through the last two weeks of October. Like the Coffee Chats, these are virtual, small group events in which students can network with judges in the area. Each meet and greet can accommodate up to 15 students and there is no restriction for 1L participation. To see the specific dates and times, please follow this link.

by Jessica Peterson, Career Services Office Graduate Assistant

Career Services

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