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John Feldman, Career & Student Services Director, The University of New Mexico Law School [6-28-04 by John J. Barnes] John Feldman talks with LawCrossing about his role in helping law students find jobs in a small market, in advocacy and in non-traditional legal fields.

Talk with John Feldman for any length of

through an atypical circuitous route, coming

New Mexico and what is both possible and

time and you get a strong sense of both his

to law as a second career, by attending the

not possible. We help them find summer jobs

passion and his dedication to what he does.

University of New Mexico Law School from

and whatever else we can to lessen their

Quite simply, he helps students at his law

which he graduated in 1989. He clerked for

financial burden.

school sort out the rest of their lives, which,

a justice on the New Mexico Supreme Court,

as it turns out, may not always involve a

worked a while in private practice, and then

“We are careful to ask about the student’s

‘traditional’ law career.

served as a mediator for the State in workers

interests and try to find out why they decided

compensation cases. He also managed a

to attend law school and what they seek

“New Mexico does not have an overabun-

stint as an assistant D.A., all the while teach-

from it. We find that sometimes their real

dance of jobs for newly-minted attorneys,” he

ing courses in alternative dispute resolution

focus lies outside the law and that this is a

offers. “So many do not go the classic route,

at the same law school from which he had

surprise to them. We are comfortable with

which is into large or medium-sized firms,

earlier graduated. When he assumed his

that. We’re here for the students. We’re not

where they may well spend the rest of their

current position as Career Services Director,

here to mold them into a specific product

lives working within the confines of a single

he became the first person with a law degree

for a specific market. For starters, we want

practice area.”

to do so.

them to be excellent attorneys. In addition to

So where do your students end up? we asked.

“I look for ways to allow more of our students

that makes them happy. If this includes the

to do public advocacy work. We provide a lot

traditional law career, fine. If it does not, we

“Many go with small firms or with a sole

of help to students as it is. UNM offers ex-

will help them chart a non-traditional path. I

practitioner, and many choose government

ternships which allow our law students to do

think flexibility and compassion are the most

service,” John told us. “Our typical first-

work off campus and get credit for it. We also

important messages we wish to convey.”

year class consists of about 100 students

require them to take a clinic in which they

and we’re the only law school in the state.

must function as lawyers before they are al-

that, we want them to follow a career path

This means that we’re well connected with

lowed to graduate. We have one graduate in

the judicial branch, with local bar groups in

the Class of ‘04 working in Washington D.C.

Albuquerque, Santa Fe and other New Mexico

as the director of an advocacy group, mean-

cities, and with a variety of small-size firms

ing she is not only serving as a legal officer

scattered throughout the state.

of her agency, but she also handles finances, lobbying, and whatever else is required. I like

“The significance of all of this is that when

to see graduates realize their dreams.”

job openings occur, we are likely to hear about them and can immediately link our

The lack of graduate public service em-

students to available opportunities. But along

ployment is every law school’s problem,

with this advantage is a disadvantage that is

we added, along with student debt. John

created by an overall lack of potential jobs. In

Feldman agreed. “Yes,” he said, “But I think

New Mexico, this can mean many of our stu-

we are especially sensitive to this in New

dents must take a less traditional route than

Mexico, because we and our students have

that of going directly to a private law firm.”

to be more flexible. We try to deal with a lot of this right at the onset. We help students

John Feldman got to his present position


understand the particular environment of

John Feldman, Career & Student Services Director, The University of New Mexico Law School