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Matt DeGrushe, Director of Career Development, Pepperdine University School of Law [7-26-04 by John J. Barnes] Many law students see their career services office as only available to the top students. Matt DeGrushe has worked hard to change that perception at Pepperdine through innovative programs that connect students with all types of employers.

Those of you reading these interviews on a

To that end, our counseling staff consists of

tential ideas for a small firm event to be held

weekly basis probably assume that whoever

two former attorneys and two professionals

in the spring. Our goal was to design an event

is profiled will have followed a certain ste-

with extensive experience in student services

that would be appealing to both attorneys

reotypical career path that will likely include

and counseling. In addition, my experience

and students.”

earning a J.D. degree, then working for a

with MBA students has come in handy here

big law firm before finally having a personal

at Pepperdine because we have a great many

The fruits of their labor were realized last

epiphany and returning to university life, this

students who are getting combined business

spring when the Career Development Office

time as a Career Services Director.

and law degrees and I’m able to effectively

and the Student Bar Association hosted the

advise them with some degree of foreknowl-

first-ever Small Firm Networking Event.

edge on their career options.”

This free event consisted of MCLE sessions,

Matt DeGrushe, who runs the Career De-

specially designed to appeal to attorneys at

velopment Office at Pepperdine University’s School of Law, located just off the Pacific

Matt goes on to explain how he was brought

smaller firms, a mid-morning reception and

Coast Highway in Malibu, CA, does not fit any

in to overhaul the Career Development

a networking brunch. At the brunch, event

of these stereotypes. First of all, he does not

operation. “One of the challenges we face is

participants were assigned to tables based

have a J.D. degree, but instead received a

the common misperception that the Career

on the practice area experience (for at-

Bachelor of Science in Business from Indiana

Development Office is only interested in

torneys) and interest (for students). Over 60

University in Bloomington, IN, as well as a

serving the students ranked in the Top 10%

attorneys attended the event, as well as 90

Masters in Education from the University of

of the class. A myth fueled by the emphasis

students in what proved to be a tremendous

Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.

students place on opportunities at large law

learning and valuable networking experience

Prior to joining Pepperdine, Matt was an As-

firms and on-campus interviews. The focus

for all participants. Attorneys attending the

sociate Director at the MBA Career Resource

of the office needed to shift towards present-

event received 2 MCLE credits under the Law

Center at the University of Southern Califor-

ing programs, services and resources that

Practice Management requirement.

nia’s Marshall School of Business where he

would serve the career development needs

worked for 4 years assisting in the career

of every student, regardless of academic

“Networking is something that most law

development of MBA students. Matt also


students fear, so we needed to come up with a way to help our students make the most of

spent several years working as a Recruiter for McKinsey & Company, an international

“My first and seemingly only job was to fix

the opportunity. Prior to the event, students

management consulting firm, helping the

this perception with the new entering class,

were required to attend a brief information

firm hire undergraduate, MBA, law and Ph.D.

as well as our returning second and third

session where we presented the format for

students. It was his exposure to working with

years, and do it fast.” Each year, over 50%

the event and provided suggestions and tips

students and career services offices as a

of Pepperdine graduates start their legal

to get them comfortable with the networking

recruiter that sparked his interest in working

careers at small to mid-sized law firms

component of the event.” Participating stu-

in higher education.

with less than 50 attorneys. However, the

dents also received information in advance

Career Development Office did not have any

on each of the attorneys attending the event.

“My background might seem non-traditional

programming designed to help students con-

Attorneys attending the event received infor-

when compared to the typical Law School

nect with these employers. Matt adds, “There

mation on services the Career Development

Career Services Director,” Matt says, “but

was a lot of discussion, before my arrival,

Office provides to small firms, as well as a

the bottom line is that one of the important

about hosting an event to help facilitate this

resume book of students attending the event.

roles of our office is to effectively coach

interaction. We quickly joined forces with the

We asked if this kind of low-key affair works.

students through the job search process.

Student Bar Association to collaborate on po-


continued on back

1.800. 973. 1177


“Sure does,” Matt replied. “Shortly after the

pus,” he said, “you should. It’s positioned

event, we received several job postings from

high on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

attorneys who attended the event. Also, I

While the view and location are unmatched, I

know of several students who were hired for

feel the same can be said for the faculty and

both summer and full-time employment as a

staff who are incredibly student-focused and

result of this program.”

professional. It’s heaven.”

“Another segment of the student body that seems to be growing is the segment of students who don’t want to practice law upon graduation. These students are looking for information on alternative career options. Last fall, we hosted a panel featuring the President of Pepperdine University, Andrew Benton, who is a J.D. and several alumni currently working in alternative careers. We had a standing-room-only crowd. I was surprised but gratified by the turn-out. The goal of Pepperdine’s law school is to turn out graduates well-trained in how to think like an attorney, but there is certainly no rule that all of our graduates have to join a law firm and work there for the rest of their lives. Our university president serves as a good example.” Out of curiosity, we asked Matt if he noted any differences between MBA and law students and he laughed. “Huge differences,” he said. “Many of our law students come here right out of college and do not have significant work experience. Most of the MBA students I worked with at USC had at least three or four years of work experience before starting graduate school. They’d already been through a job-search experience and many were seriously committed to their post-MBA job search. In terms of environment, law school is definitely a more competitive environment compared to the teamwork-friendly MBA culture. However, the career development issues around resumes, cover letters, interviews and networking are strikingly similar.” As a final question, we asked how he liked his new job. “If you’ve never seen the Pepperdine cam-


Matt DeGrushe, Director of Career Development, Pepperdine University School of Law  
Matt DeGrushe, Director of Career Development, Pepperdine University School of Law  

Matt DeGrushe is a director of career development, Pepperdine University School of Law.