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CAREER COUNSELOR'S CORNER

1. 800. 973. 1177

Mary Harblin, Director of Career Services, Syracuse University College of Law [by Barry Perlman } “My background lends itself well to counseling students in finding employment, since I know the thought processes involved in ferreting out where they see themselves fitting and what type of employment will fit them personally.” So says Mary Harblin of Syracuse University College of Law, our featured Career Counselor of the Week.

Since July, Syracuse students have been able

house legal openings and retained outside

manage your workforce in compliance with

to put this experience to work, now that Har-

counsel in a variety of situations, not to

the state and local regulations that pertain

blin is on board to help them. She received

mention her regular recruitment of attorneys

to a particular employee population. They

her B.S. in Family and Community Services

for placement in non-traditional positions.

are also quite successful at insuring that

from the College of Human Development

For instance, while working for GE’s Global

companies effectively administer individual

(now the College of Human Services and

eXchange Services division, Harblin brought

employer policies consistently, to reduce

Health Professions) at Syracuse, a course

on attorneys as IT product managers. “They

liability.”

of study initially designed to lead students

had a different approach to the position than

into public service agency administration.

straight-up marketing people,” she explains.

Now that she’s in the legal world, one aspect

But she, like many of her classmates, ended

“They had the ability to learn, to look at the

of this new career that’s taken Harblin

up in the human resources arena. Harblin

issues involved and get a brief overview of

some getting used to is the widely accepted

spent 13 years in corporate HR in the greater

the product, and they had the management

involvement of institutions with NALP (Na-

DC area, eventually serving both in-house

skills to interact with the engineering team

tional Association for Law Placement), the

recruiting and outside consultant roles at a

and decide whom they wanted to collaborate

governing body that sets forth guidelines for

few different companies – including her most

with. They excelled in contractual areas of

law student contact with career counselors

recent stint as a contract recruiter for Digex,

the role, looking at what to do with potential

and potential employers. “Coming from the

a subsidiary of WorldCom that specializes in

patents developed in collaboration with other

corporate sector,” Harblin explains, “I find

web hosting.

companies and how to maintain proprietary

it unusual how the timing of many different

information gathered as a result of channel-

facets of the job search, including how offers

While there, Harblin fell victim to, as she

marketing efforts. Their excellent skill base

are handled, is managed through voluntary

describes it, “the WorldCom pink-slip party”

led them to succeed where people might not

affiliation with a governing body, not by state

that came as a result of that company’s mas-

initially think an attorney would be a good

or federal order or mandatory relationship.”

sive workforce downsizing. “Being in HR,”

fit.”

It’s this built-in formality and tradition of the

she recalls, “I had a good sense of what was

law profession that Harblin is still familiar-

coming, based on adjustments in assign-

As Harblin points out, a lot of law-school

izing herself with, though she admits the

ments and recruiting workload I’d been see-

career services offices are facing a similar

NALP-imposed regulations are useful in

ing, so I was prepared.” Luckily, Harblin was

situation, an increasing number of students

providing structure to students. “We’re not

able to summon the quintessential career

choosing to forego practicing in the tradi-

supposed to have dialogue with first-years

counselor optimism: “Things happen and

tional firm environment. She builds this

until November 1, to keep them focused on

lead to better things,” she declares matter-

reality into the counseling she provides. “In

academic performance since good grades

of-factly. Correspondingly, upon relocating

addition to advising them on how to approach

are the easiest way to ensure a productive

to the Syracuse area to be near her family,

traditional practice, I encourage them to

career search. Establishing the practice of

she spotted a job listing on the university’s

broaden the scope of their thinking to realize

strong academic performance early sets the

website that would lead to her current posi-

a law degree is marketable in a number of

foundation for that.”

tion.

ways.” Another example of an alternative career path is human resources, Harblin’s own

Still, Harblin finds many students chomping

Though she’d never worked in a legal-spe-

original field. “Attorney skills are very appli-

at the bit to get going on their job searches

cific career capacity, Harblin was no amateur

cable [to HR] in terms of developing policies

right from the beginning, rather than gradu-

when it came to placing lawyers in jobs.

and procedures for companies, overseeing

ally getting settled into the academic routine.

Previously, she both hired for corporate in-

how to appropriately, ethically, and legally

And that fervent approach makes a lot of

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CAREER COUNSELOR'S CORNER

1. 800. 973. 1177

sense to Harblin, who sees the search as a

to someone who can help in your search or

long-term commitment. “The first couple

offer you a job.”

months of your law school career is the only time you don’t have to act in the search

In addition to keeping good grades and

capacity,” Harblin believes. “After that, your

securing solid professional experience,

first-year typically unpaid summer assign-

Harblin recommends students make efforts

ment will lead directly to the quality of the

to be well-rounded individuals, affiliating

second-year summer position and whether

themselves with student groups that pertain

that will be a paid situation or not. The

to a practice area they’re interested in or

second-year position is an opportunity to

wanting to explore. “Most law students

potentially earn good money and receive an

attending a good institution come out with

employment offer in the fall of the third year,

a certain level of functionality. Employers

which takes huge pressure off the remainder

want to know what else about them is unique,

of the law school experience. If students

what else they bring to the table.” Harblin

know they’ve secured employment, then they

stresses this “whole person” approach is

can focus on completing their education and

key to impressing potential employers. “As

studying for the bar.”

one managing partner at a high-level firm in New York told me, employers are wondering,

That’s why, according to Harblin, build-

‘Would this be a good person to work with at

ing one’s resume very early on is essential

2 a.m.?’ In other words, which candidates

for establishing a fruitful career after law

would still be pulling their weight late at

school. “In conversations with students, I

night – and maintaining a good sense of

tell them to try as hard as they can to secure

humor about it?”

a highly professional position that first summer. Then, as they progress in internships

Ultimately, beyond the specific practical

and employment, I ask them, ‘What have

advice she gives, Harblin tells all her stu-

you enjoyed the most and the least so far?’

dents the same thing: “The people who are

and lend their answers the importance they

happiest are the ones who derive satisfaction

deserve in terms of leading them where they

from what they do for a living. If you like

want to go.”

what you’re doing, it shows.” Thankfully, Harblin enjoys helping students find jobs so

Obviously, good interviewing goes a long

much that she looks forward to coming to

way in landing those coveted summer posi-

work everyday, and her own satisfaction lets

tions, and Harblin advises students with less

her serve as a model of precisely what she

professional experience to hone their skills.

preaches.

“Many who transition straight into law school from undergrad have never interviewed for more than a job at The Gap or the country club, and it can be very challenging to suddenly interview for a very professional position.” Not surprisingly, Harblin advocates networking and alumni outreach as very good strategies for job-seeking students. “Students must make a strong personal effort to think about their own sphere of influence, how to leverage relationships they may already have in their lives to assist them in making connections. Ask yourself who you know that may be able to introduce you

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Mary Harblin, Director of Career Services, Syracuse University College of Law  

Career Counselor, Mary Harblin of Syracuse University College of Law said that her background lends itself well to counseling students in fi...

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