Thursday, February 12, 2015

Alumni Spotlight: Farrah Usmani '12

Farrah Usmani is an associate at Marcus & Colvin, LLP, a Nashville-based entertainment law firm. Through Marcus & Colvin, she acts as an of-counsel “bridge” to the New York and Los Angeles-based entertainment law firm, Carroll, Guido & Groffman, LLP.  Her practice focuses exclusively on entertainment transactions; more specifically, she represents music talent. Farrah has made amazing strides in just a few short years and shares her insight with us here:

How did you obtain your first job out of law school?

Two words best describe how I got my first job out of law school: relentless networking.  A year before graduation, I began identifying all the places I thought would provide me with the most ideal jumpstart for a career in entertainment.  I did this by reading trade publications, and making notes of law firms and companies that looked like they were geared toward expansion and innovation.  From there, I spent lots of time figuring out how to get my resume into the hands of the people already working at those companies.

I had the most success by shamelessly asking for informational interviews.  (Something I learned is that people are much more willing to give you advice when you're still a student, and not yet their competition).  For the most part, people are happy to help, and they enjoy the opportunity to reflect on their experiences.  Informational interviews are a great way to get your name out there in a relaxed and conversational environment.  Each time I met with someone, I’d ask to be kept in mind if any new positions opened in his/her legal department.

A month after graduation, it paid off.  I was offered a job at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of Hollywood's top talent agencies.  I worked for the Executive of Business & Legal Affairs in CAA’s Music Department for two years before I transitioned into private practice.

Describe what led you to your current position. 

CAA and my current law firm share several clients; each represents talent in a different facet of the music industry.  I was introduced to the partners of my current firm while working together on a deal for Kings of Leon.  The firm was expanding at the same time I was looking to move into private practice, so it was a very organic transition.

What experiences/internships did you have that you found to be helpful or beneficial in your job search and career thus far?

During my 2L year, I wrote my seminar paper on privacy torts (7310 SEM: Advanced Torts); specifically, my topic addressed rights of publicity as applied to celebrity estates.  Taking this class opened a lot of doors for me.  While doing my research, I contacted a woman in Beverly Hills who is an expert in the field of celebrity rights management to see if she’d give me some insight about the topic.  This phone call turned into my first entertainment law internship.  Needless to say, I spent my 2L summer in L.A., which was a huge resume builder.  Choosing coursework that strategically demonstrated my interest in entertainment law, while not being afraid to take an internship outside of my home market was very helpful and beneficial in pitching myself to employers after graduation.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to current law students?

Network, network, network! Use your resources as a student to connect with professionals in your desired field, and ask as many questions as you can.  Take chances, and be willing to look outside your comfort zone for the right opportunity.

If you'd like to connect with Farrah to learn more about her career path, talk to your counselor in the Career Development Office.

Friday, January 16, 2015

How to Answer the ‘What is Your Greatest Weakness?’ Question

Interviewing is an art and the more you practice, the better you get. As you start to interview with employers for spring or summer internships, remember to consider doing a mock interview with your counselor in the CDO. Bidding for our Spring Mock Interview Program is going on right now (via the "recruiting" tab in Symplicity), however, students can schedule a mock with the counselor throughout the year. 

In the spirit of interview season, we bring you this great article on how to answer the "what is your greatest weakness" question written by Breda Hegarty, Pre-Employment Trainer in Business in the Community Ireland, supporting people with barriers to gain employment and author of the blog

When I am preparing people for interview one of the most common questions they want to know the answer to is “What is your greatest weakness?” This is a question that many people dread and hope that the employer just won’t ask, however in order to deal with this question in the best way it is much better to be prepared. This question is not supposed to be an ambush, however if we answer it incorrectly we can end up trapping ourselves. Before the interview it is always a good idea to imagine what could be the toughest questions they could ask and then prepare for them.


Think about why the employer is asking this question. Take note that the key reason why an employer asks this question is to see if you are self aware. Once you are aware of your weakness then you have to power to be able to improve it. 

Firstly the Don’ts

Don’t try to turn your weakness into a positive e.g. "I am a perfectionist” or “I work too hard”
The employer will not think that you are a genius for coming up with such a clever answer. An HR manager from a large transport firm that I met with recently said that he hates when people give this answer as he knows it is learned off and untrue and it then makes him doubt the validity of every other answer.

Don’t say that you don’t have any weaknesses. This can sound quite arrogant and shows a lack of self awareness.

Don’t say anything that will negatively affect your chances of getting the job e.g. “I can be lazy at times” “I have trouble getting up in the mornings” “I get annoyed with difficult customers” “ I don’t like it if my boss is too pushy”.

Anything that can majorly affect our ability to carry out the role or deal with colleagues, management and customers in a positive way will lead the employer to hire someone else.


Answer this question as if it has been asked in this way: “If you could improve one aspect of yourself what would that be and how are you currently working on it?”

Be honest but not too honest. Try to find an area that you are trying to improve but if it is a major part of the role then come up with a different answer, for example a teacher couldn't give the answer that they dislike public speaking, however this could be a fine answer for a computer programmer, or when applying for an administration job, you could mention that your weakness is taking a leadership role, as you are not likely to have to do this as part of your role. However it would be a poor choice to mention that you are disorganized or have poor typing skills as they are usually required for the role.

When answering the question follow this formula: start by talking about what your good at then, mention something that you would like to improve, and finally mention how you are improving it.

Focus more on what you are doing to improve this weakness and how you improved it in the past rather than on the weakness itself.


“I am a very thorough, meticulous and careful person, sometimes it can take me a long time to make decisions, I need to weigh up all the options and pour over the details before making a decision. I am trying to get better at working out what decisions should be made quickly and which ones require more time”

“I can be very persistent and determined so if there is a problem or something I can’t figure out, I tend to stay focused on it until I overcome it. This can take a lot of my time away from other tasks. I am trying to get better at asking my co-workers for advice or help with something if I am stuck on it for a while, as I know in the long run that this will be more efficient and beneficial”

Friday, December 12, 2014

Alumni Spotlight: Aaron Blair '14

Aaron graduated from UHLC in May 2014 and is currently employed as both an Independent Landman with Tiger Stripe Resources, LLC and a Law Clerk with Landrith, Lehrbass & Suazo, LLP. In both of these positions, he is gaining the experience necessary to pursue his goal of becoming a title attorney. He took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for us:

1. How did you obtain your first job out of law school? Probably through a mixture of luck and persistence. What’s the saying? 99% perspiration? That’s about right! I reached out to everyone I knew, from family to friends to classmates, and created my own network. I never sent cold resumes; instead, I always had someone vouching for me wherever I applied. I attended as many networking events as possible and made it a priority to engage with people face-to-face. I regularly set up informational interviews over breakfast or lunch to learn more about promising companies and firms. After meeting someone new, I followed up with an email or phone call to start building a relationship with that person.

2. Describe what led you to your current position. Believe it or not, I ended up at one of my current jobs by attending a Dane Cook comedy event! An attorney from one of the firms where I summered invited me to the show, and we built a rapport from there. When this attorney started his own law firm, he immediately brought me on. I came to Tiger Stripe via a more traditional path, that is, through the dedication and excellent work of the UHLC Career Development Office staff.

3. What experiences/internships did you have that you found to be helpful or beneficial in your job search and career thus far? Experience in my field of choice provided me with a significant advantage during the job hunt. For almost two years, I worked part-time under title attorneys while I was in school. It was about half-way through my law school career that I decided to focus on energy law. Before that, I filled my summers with internships in everything from estate planning to in-house work at an energy company. Getting my feet wet in a variety of areas and working under the attorneys in those fields helped me determine the right path for my career. If you’re interested in an area of the law, get out there and try it!

4. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to current law students? I imagine you’re all tired of hearing it, but focus on your grades – they are so important. Make sure you seize opportunities that will allow you to stand out. If no opportunities come knocking at your door, make your own. Get involved with a journal or other organizations on campus, such as mock trial and moot court. Figure out ways to get experience, either through internships or writing in your practice area. Build relationships. Amidst all of the studying, take the time to get to know your classmates, teachers, bosses, and co-workers. Most importantly of all, blaze your own trail. Don’t worry about how everyone else is doing it, or “how it’s done.” Assess your talents, skills, and interests, and follow a path that’s entirely your own. Be true to yourself, and your career will enrich your life.

If you'd like to connect with Aaron to learn more about his career path, talk to your counselor in the Career Development Office.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Make the Most of Your Winter Break

Mary Crane, an author of several successful books aimed at helping people start, build, and maintain their careers via their professional and people skills, shares her tips for making the most of the holiday season:

The upcoming winter break provides tons of opportunities for you to reconnect with contacts you’ve made throughout the previous year. Think strategically and use the next several weeks to build and expand your networks.
  1. By early December, you will be hunkered down in final exam mode. Use the day after Thanksgiving to send holiday wishes to any professionals you encountered during the previous 12 months. For more casual acquaintances, feel free to send your wishes via email. In the case of a prospective employer, past employer, or alumni of the school, consider sending a holiday card with a brief personal note. That personal communication will help you become memorable.
  2. Many offices experience their quietest time of year between Christmas and New Years. Key decision-makers, who have chosen to stay in town, may have more time than normal to meet with students interested in a particular entity. Take a risk this holiday season. Make a list of the school’s alumni who you would most like to meet and email a meeting request. Don’t give up until you’ve succeeded in scheduling at least one meeting.
  3. If you plan to return to a city where you worked as a summer associate or intern, use the upcoming break to reconnect face to face with contacts you previously established. A quick coffee or lunch allows you to reconfirm your interest in an employer.
  4. In addition to meeting with prospective employers, start building your professional network. Use the winter break to reconnect with peers, college classmates and the like. And don’t forget to connect with the parents of your friends, who may become important members of your network, too.
  5. Spend some focused time during the winter break setting SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-limited) goals for 2015. Ask yourself: Who do I need to know? Who can help me make a connection with a potential employer? How should I best reach out to that person? When? What do I wish to ask of that person? Remember, you will never accomplish a goal that you don’t set.

Holiday Networking Events

The holidays can be a great time to connect with the legal community and start building your support system. So, this week we're sharing some basic networking tips from the Culture and Manners Institute:

At a networking event, very rarely will someone take you by the arm and say, "Let me introduce you to the most fabulous people in the room."  Networking takes effort on your part (there is a reason "working" is the root word here). If you see someone standing alone, introduce yourself.  "Hello, my name is (first name, last name)."  The person who introduces himself/herself is more memorable than someone who hangs back and waits to be introduced. When the person offers his/her name, say, "How do you do, (name)?"

When you see a group of people talking, stand outside the group until you hear a lull in the conversation, then step forward and introduce yourself. To keep a conversation going, ask questions of the other person.  People will appreciate you when you take an interest in them. Be the person people want to know from the start. Make eye contact with people in the room and not with your cell phone. 
Smile -- this shows you are open to communication. Dress so people respect you... not inspect you.  If you show too much skin (you too, Mr. Saggy Britches), the right people will avoid you and the wrong people won't.

Take these tips and put them to use at some the many networking opportunities over the holiday season, a few are highlighted here: 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Brennan’s, 3300 Smith Street, Houston, TX

Wednesday, December 3, 2014|5:30 PM-7:30 PM
Irma's Southwest Grill, 1314 Texas St., Houston, TX

Thursday, December 4, 2014|6:00 PM-9:00 PM
Brennan’s, 3300 Smith Street, Houston, TX

Sunday, December 7, 2014|11:30 AM-2:00 PM
Brennan’s, 3300 Smith Street, Houston, TX

HBA Event 20th Annual Holiday Reception Honoring the Judiciary
Tuesday, December 9, 2014 |5:00 PM-8:00 PM
Downtown Houston Club, 1100 Caroline St., Houston, TX

Animal Law Section Annual Holiday Party
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
BlackFinn American Grille, 1910 Bagby St.

Asian American Bar Association of Houston Holiday Party
Saturday, December 13, 2014|11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
El Tiempo Cantina, 3130 Richmond Avenue, Houston, TX 77098

Houston Intellectual Property Law Association Annual Holiday Party
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Tony’s, 3755 Richmond Avenue (between Wesleyan and Edloe), Houston, TX

Houston Young Lawyers Association Holiday Party
Wednesday, December 17, 2014| 7:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M.
The Grove, 1611 Lamar St., Houston, TX

Joint Annual Holiday Party - The Hispanic Bar Association of Houston and The Mexican American Bar Association of Houston
Thursday, December 18, 2014|6:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M.
Founders Ballroom at The Royal Sonesta Hotel 2222 West Loop South, Houston, Texas 
R.S.V.P. by Wednesday, December 9, 2014 to