November 2016

Advise…and Be Advised

By Heidi Weaver

Career Advisor, California Western School of Law

As new lawyers, you are probably more technically literate than the more experienced attorneys in your office, making you a valuable resource when dealing with younger, more technically advanced clients. Before getting too used to your advisor role, however, realize that just as experienced attorneys now turn to you for advice on the latest trends, you may soon find yourself turning to the next generation for advice.

We in career services are acutely aware that we need to stay ten steps ahead of technology and workplace culture to credibly advise our students on their future legal careers.  And our offices are doing everything we can to meet our young constituency at their level: through podcasts, social media blasts, Survey Monkeys, and yes, email and paper fliers.  But sometimes we find ourselves casting around for new ways to reach our students and understand where they’re coming from when the best resource is staring us right in the face — the students.  

As a Gen-Xer dealing mostly with millennials, I find myself, the advisor, getting advised every day. I recently gave a 1L a tour of our office and the machines at her disposal, including our fancy scanner, which my law office certainly didn’t have back in the day.  She promptly told me she had just finished downloading the scanner app on her iPhone, which automatically scans documents, turns them into PDF’s, locks them, and sends them.  I could see at that point how from a student’s perspective, the machine taking up a quarter of our lobby looked kind of silly as a tool for speedy employer communications.  The “real books” in our lobby as go-to sources for professional and practice advice probably do too, but we’re not getting rid of those any time soon.

As finals approach followed by Spring Recruiting, I’ve begun to advise my students on ways to relax and find balance, thinking I’m all dialed in by recommending mindfulness, yoga, and walks in the park.  “Pokemon!” one student recently told me.  “That’s a huge destressor for a lot of us.”  I got the point that my relaxation pointers could use some sharpening.

We gave a seminar recently where we used the word “dude” to simulate a conversation the students might have.  Yeah, none of them calls each other “dude” anymore, and we were told to cut that out.  Maybe “queen” or “bro”? I still need to check Urban Dictionary on that one. I also need to stop using Blockbuster as an example of a job where they might have developed some good, transferable skills in their high school/college days. They didn’t work there; as I’ve been reminded.

Another area I find myself getting schooled in is fashion.  I still tell students going into their first law job interview that they should wear the most conservative, least distracting outfit in their closet.  But when the job starts, the suits come off apparently, as fashion options for the workplace explode.  We’re talking rompers, jumpers, boots, vests, cut-outs, jeggings, leather — you see it on the street, with a little professional maneuvering, you see it in the office.  Or so I’m told. But since the law remains a pretty conservative profession, I’ll keep reminding them of the same.

And last, a younger coworker from the Admissions office recently reached out to our office to create a career-services web spot for prospective students in a cool new way I hadn’t thought of before that the kids are all using: Facebook Live.  This format would definitely work for giving resume-writing or informational-interview tips.  It wouldn’t even have to be an advisor in front of the camera.  I’m thinking of recruiting a student or two. They give really good advice.

So as you find yourself introducing older lawyers to Snapchat, for example, be mindful that one day you may be the one lagging behind the latest gadgets, communication platforms, or buzz words.  When that happens, and it will, do not forget how valuable you are today, and how valuable new lawyers will be to you in the future.