USC Law Advantage

Thanks to the law school’s ramped-up career services programs, USC Law’s Class of 2012 graduates are finding jobs faster than their peers around the country.

In a time when job prospects are foremost on the minds of law students, the University of South Carolina School of Law’s 2012 graduates have beaten the national employment average by double digits.

Seventy percent of USC Law grads found full-time, long-term employment requiring bar passage within nine months after graduation — 15 points higher than the national average of 55 percent, according to figures from the American Bar Association.*

Put another way, when positions provided by law schools for their own students are excluded, USC Law had the 26th-highest percentage in the nation of graduates employed in the most important category of employment. The positive numbers are borne out under other models, according to “Law Jobs: By the Numbers,” an interactive web-based tool, and an initiative of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver (available at ).

“Law Jobs: By the Numbers” allows prospective applicants to calculate and compare employment rates for every law school using formulas commonly applied by organizations such as U.S. News & World Report, Law School Transparency (LST), National Jurist, and the National Association for Law Placement (NALP). Additionally, users can create their own formulas, based on their own priorities.

In each model, USC Law outperformed the national average and under three of the four models, the difference was in double digits:**

“No matter how you slice it, we’re very proud of these employment numbers, which reflect the high caliber of our students and the excellence of our academic programs,” said Rob Wilcox, dean of the law school. “But we’re also proud that our plan to increase job opportunities through the expansion of our Career Services office is bearing fruit.”

That plan included the hiring of two associate directors, Jill Kunkle and Yvonne Visser. In addition to counseling and student programming, both have developed new programs and sought out new employment avenues for graduates, including increased outreach to potential employers. Kunkle visits with law firms across South Carolina and the Southeast, sharing how the school makes it easy to hire USC Law students and alumni through its job-posting, resume-forwarding and on- and off-campus interview programs. “While we’ve always offered these services, in this tough job market we knew we had to be very proactive in reaching out to potential employers and saying, ‘This is how we can help you,’” said Kunkle. “It makes their lives easier, and it really benefits our students.”

While Kunkle works with law firms, government agencies, and corporations, Visser visits and works with federal and state judges to ascertain their specific hiring criteria and timetables. By doing so, she can help students and recent graduates identify and attain state and federal clerkships.

Additionally, a federal judge and a state appellate judge now visit the law school each fall to meet with students and tell them the precise qualifications and characteristics they are looking for. And in the spring, graduates who have clerked come back to give current students first-hand accounts of their experiences and share their tips for success. Career Services has also increased the number of networking and professional development programs, offering plentiful opportunities to meet potential employers, such as:

  • breakfasts where students meet with lawyers to learn about their areas of practice
  • speed-networking events offered by the Association of Corporate Counsel
  • panel discussions sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Section of Labor and Employment
  • Small Firm Day, allowing students to meet with lawyers and learn what it’s like to practice at a firm with fewer than 10 attorneys.

Other programs focus on how students can get their foot in the door, from workshops on writing cover letters and building their resumes to tips on using social media to find jobs and make connections.

“We’re really pleased with the progress we’ve made, but we’re still working hard to help those graduates who are still looking for that good opportunity,” said Phyllis Burkhard, director of Career Services. “One of the things we always try to emphasize, especially to our alumni, is that just because you’ve graduated doesn’t mean that we can’t still help you. Give us a call, and we’ll be happy to work with you.”

*2012 Employment data derived by taking the total number of graduates employed in full-time, long-term positions requiring a J.D., subtracting all positions funded by their own law school, and dividing by the total number of graduates. Employment data came from the ABA’s employment summary page: http://employmentsummary.abaquestionnaire.org. Formula derived from Dan Filler’s Faculty Lounge blog post.

** NALP takes into account all job types, including those falling into “Other Professional” and “Non-Professional” categories, as well as part-time and short-term positions. The other three have a narrower focus, looking at full-time, long-term jobs where bar passage is required or a J.D. is an advantage.