Friday, April 24, 2015

Three Keys to Becoming a Professional

As everyone shores up their summer plans and starts the transition from student to employee, we wanted to share some great advice from professional development expert, Mary Crane:

Virtually every employer reports they have little difficulty finding smart, technically competent students for their summer intern and associate programs. However, many of those same businesses report that too many students lack so-called “professional” skills. To convey that you are a professional, focus on the following three key concepts:

Look the Part
This is one area in which earlier generations had an easier time of it. When previous generations entered the workforce, new professionals donned the “uniform,” which for both men and women consisted of structured suits, crisp shirts/blouses, and well-polished conservative shoes. Today’s rules regarding appropriate attire are less formal, making it easier for a new professional to make a serious mistake.

Before you head to work, if your employer has not specified appropriate attire, plan to dress as you would for an interview—not a bad idea given that a summer internship or associate program effectively is a multi-week interview. Then use your first week to observe key players in the workplace and take their lead. If junior professionals dress in suits, you should plan on doing the same. If instead “business casual” is the norm, you may forego a suit.

Here’s what’s absolutely critical: throughout the entirety of your summer employment, never confuse “business casual” attire with “casual” attire. If you’ve been told “business casual” is appropriate, khaki slacks or skirts and well-pressed cotton or linen shirts/blouses will almost always work. Store a “just in case” blazer or jacket in your office (“just in case” you’re unexpectedly invited out to a nice business meal or to an important client event). And please avoid these mistakes:
  • Ladies, sundresses with or without a sweater, are not appropriate in most business offices
  • Gentlemen, if you don’t need to wear a tie, cover up your chest hair, which no one wants to see.
  • Torn jeans and shorts are never appropriate in an office setting.
  • Any footwear that draws attention is probably a bad idea. If you wear sandals during your commute, change into business shoes before you reach the office.
Sound the Part
Just as it’s important for you to look the part, it’s equally important that you sound like a professional. This requires that you sound confident but not arrogant. Before you open your mouth (or draft an email for that matter), be certain of the message you want to communicate, choose your words carefully, and speak succinctly. If necessary, address the following specific speech habits:
  • Use of space fillers – When they are uncertain about what to say next, many summer employees allow space fillers, words like “uhm,” “ah,” “like,” and “you know,” to pepper their language. Employers complain that these are distracting at best and make summer hires sound completely unprofessional at worst. If you are uncertain as to what you should say, simply pause. When you next speak, you’ll sound thoughtful and deliberative.
  • Inflecting up at the end of a sentence – This verbal tic communicates that you are uncertain about what you just said. When you ask a question, your voice should inflect up. When you make a definitive statement, your voice should end on a down note. (If you need an example of someone making a series of definitive statements that end in periods rather than question marks, listen to Jon Stewart or any “real” newsperson.)
  • Learn to respond to “thank you” – When you turn in an assignment this summer and a senior employee says “Thank you,” respond, “It was my pleasure,” or “I enjoyed the assignment. Is there anything else that I can help you with?” Please do not respond, “No problem,” which completely diminishes the work you just did.
Develop a Professional Attitude
Attitude is everything. You can wear the wrong outfit to work once and still recover. You can even survive a meeting in which you seem less than confident about a particular assertion. But if you bring an unprofessional attitude to work, I can assure you that your summer work experience will not yield the job offer you want. Following are five attitudes you need to demonstrate each and every day:
  • Be prepared – At a very minimum, once you enter an office, carry a pen and paper or an electronic tablet with you everywhere. This allows you to accurately record assignments and requests as they are delivered. Trust me on this: you never want to interrupt a senior partner to ask, “Do you have a pen so that I can write this down?” The only thing worse may be thinking that you can remember a very specific request . . . and then failing to do so.
  • Take initiative – Attend every event to which you are invited this summer. This includes every single meeting, training program, and business-social event. Employers schedule training events and meetings to increase your knowledge and skills. Show an eagerness to learn and grow. As to social events, these are scheduled so that an employer can start to know you as an individual. Demonstrate an interest in every single person you meet and the organization that has employed you.
  • Welcome feedback – It’s easy to receive positive feedback. Responding to constructive feedback can be more difficult. But here’s what’s important: if you’re told that you need to show some improvement, and then, if in fact, your performance improves, you will actually make a far more positive impression than the person who performed okay but never improved from their first day of work. With any feedback that’s less than positive, here’s your rule of thumb: own the problem and fix it!
  • Understand client service – In a knowledge economy, employers expect summer hires to bring to the workplace a certain threshold of “book smarts.” Possessing a client-service attitude will distinguish you as a professional. Focus on your internal and external clients’ short- and long-term goals. Demonstrate a desire and an ability to help them accomplish their goals.
  • Show some gratitude – A little bit of gratitude will take you a long way. It communicates that you understand your place in the world, which is not necessarily at the center of your employer’s universe. Gratitude can help you land a job, and showing a lack of gratitude can keep you from receiving an offer. Express your appreciation to everyone with whom you work, from hiring partners to office support staff.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Alumni Spotlight: Olivia Mathias '14

Olivia Mathias graduated from UHLC in May 2014 and is currently employed as an Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, at the Cabrini Center for Immigrant Legal Assistance - Catholic Charities. Many victims of human trafficking in the Greater Houston area lack access to the full range of legal assistance to meet their varied legal needs that extend beyond immigration relief, so her project will provide holistic legal representation to victims of human trafficking in Houston and create a framework in which non-profits and pro bono attorneys can meet clients’ wide-ranging legal needs.  She took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions:

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

I started law school knowing that I wanted to practice public interest law. As such, an Equal Justice Works Fellowship was on my radar from the beginning. During my 3L year I worked with the supervising attorney of the Crime Victims Program at Cabrini to develop my project and then went through the steps of the Equal Justice Works Fellowship application process.

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

My work with immigrant populations quickly exposed me to the human trafficking crisis in Houston. That exposure came from my internships during law school with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Children at Risk, and at the Mexican Foreign Ministry. As a firm believer that freedom is a precursor to the exercise of any other right, I became interested in representing victims as they seek to avail themselves of the rights and remedies for which they qualify. As an Equal Justice Works Fellow, I have been able carry out my work in advancing fundamental human freedoms as part of larger network of public interest attorneys with similar goals. Because of the internships I had throughout law school, those partnerships were easier to cultivate. As a Fellow, I am also supported by the experience and vision of my host organization, Catholic Charities’ Cabrini Center, and my sponsor, Texas Access to Justice Foundation.

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

I would advise all students working towards a career in public interest law to apply for an Equal Justice Works Fellowship. The Equal Justice Works Fellowship is a unique opportunity because it allows applicants to create projects that are unique to their interests and aspirations and addresses a pressing need in an underserved community that would otherwise be unmet.  Because of the intimate role I had in developing the project, I am profoundly committed to its success and sustainability.

An Equal Justice Works Fellowship allows a Fellow to launch her public interest career with a dream job the applicant designed.  The Fellow is expected to own the project, accomplish its goals within the two-year span of the Fellowship, and develop plans for sustaining the work.  An Equal Justice Works Fellowship is designed to cultivate the Fellow’s growth and development as a future public interest leader with training and access to an incomparable nationwide network of public interest leaders and experts in wide-ranging fields.

If you would like to connect with Olivia to learn more about her career path, please see your counselor in the Career Development Office. To learn more about Equal Justice Works Fellowships, go to:

Friday, March 27, 2015

Houston Area Networking Events

There are so many opportunities for UHLC students to become more active in the Houston legal community and start building their networks and support systems. The more active you are, the easier the job search! The best way we've heard this described is in the book Building Career Connections: Networking Tools for Law Students and New Lawyers by Donna Gerson:

Networking is the means by which most law students will find employment, particularly full-time employment following graduation.  On-campus interviews, which reward top grades and high academic achievement, account for a minuscule percentage of jobs.  Most law students find jobs either through networking or self-initiated contact with prospective employers, often a combination of the two.

Networking will help you discover the hidden job market and learn about work opportunities that may never be published.  A large percentage of available jobs are not advertised; instead they are filled by word-of-mouth.  Even those jobs that are advertised are often filled with a candidate who somehow made a personal connection with the employer.  As a result, those who are “in the know” and are connected to a network of contacts who know about their skills and interests will be in a position to benefit when their contacts learn about an opening through the informational grapevine.

We've put together a list, by no means exhaustive, of several networking events and CLEs hosted in the upcoming weeks. If you have any questions about the mechanics of networking and how follow up and maintain relationships, don't hesitate to contact your counselor in the CDO. 

When: Wednesday, April 1, 2015 | 12:00pm-1:00pm
Where: The Houston Club, One Shell Plaza, 49th floor
What: “Objection!” Presented by the Honorable Dan Hinde.  
Additional Information: RSVP by March 24, 2015

When: Thursday, April 2, 2015 | 11:00am-5:00pm
Where: Thurgood Marshall School of Law, 3100 Cleburne Street, Houston, TX 77004
What: 2015 Rising Tide Four Part Series - The Mechanics of Trial From Voir Dire To Judgment. This program will take you from start to finish of a trial, it is geared for the lawyer that has never tried a case, as well as those of us that just like to pick up a few new ideas.  You will want to attend all four sessions and we promises you will leave each session with more knowledge of the courtroom process.  The first session will cover Opening and Voir Dire from different techniques.  We will be in a courtroom setting with a judge and jury present. The second session is on Evidence, the third Experts and the final session will be Closing Argument and Charge Conference.  You will complete this program with a full Trial Notebook, which you can use in your next trial.
Additional Information: This is a Members Only CLE, so join HTLA today and come to this great program for FREE, if are a member bring a new member and it is FREE to you as well as the new member.

When: Thursday, April 2, 2015 | 7:00am-9:00am
Where: IHS Offices, Rio Grande/Red Room, 5333 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX 77056 (Parking available in the IHS parking garage)
What: The Impact of the Oil Price on Oil & Gas Careers: How to Weather the Storm. Current price trends have many new graduates and young professionals in the oil & gas industry worried about their prospects for building a successful career in the business. In this talk, David Vaucher, a Director in the Energy practice of management consultancy Alvarez & Marsal, will make the case that while the short term outlook is for more turbulence, the long-term picture should be much better.
Additional Information: Registration is complimentary for members and students. Non-member registration is $10.

When: Wednesday, April 8, 2015 |  11:30am-1:30pm
Where: JP Morgan Chase Auditorium, 601 Travis, Houston, TX 77002 (entrance at corner of Texas and Travis)
What: Join the Houston Chapter for a luncheon program titled, FERC Audits & Enforcement: The What, When & How. This panel, featuring Suzanne Clevenger (Vinson & Elkins), Jerald Hess (DLA Piper), Sabrina Dugal Walia (Vinson & Elkins) and Deanna Reitman (DLA Piper) as the moderator will provide insight into the FERC Audit process and practical tips for managing a FERC Audit.  
Additional Information: Register by April 3, 2015

When: Monday, April 13, 2015 | 12:00pm-1:00pm
Where: Magnolia Hotel, 1100 Texas Ave.
What: Civil rights and discrimination under Texas Law presented by Thomas M. Anderson, Chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission's Civil Rights Division.
Additional Information: RSVP by April 7, 2015

When: Wednesday April 15, 2015 | 12:00pm-1:00pm
Where: Locke Lord LLP, JP Morgan Chase Tower, 600 Travis
What: "Oil and Gas Conveyances" presented by Ted Borrego

When: Thursday, April 16, 2015 | 7:30am-8:30am
Where: Wortham Tower Cafeteria, 2727 Allen Pkwy at Waugh
What: "History of Buffalo Bayou from Memorial Park to Allens Landing" presented by Louis Aulbach.

When: Friday, April 17, 2015 | 8:00am-9:00am
Where: Bracewell & Giuliani LLP, 711 Louisiana, 23rd Floor
What: My other hometown. A panel of Dallas lawyers will present on the differences of practicing in Dallas County and Harris County

When: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 | 11:30am-1:00pm
Where: Tony's Restaurant, 3755 Richmond Ave.
What: How the Process Works Inside the Social Security Hearing Office.

When: Thursday, April 28, 2015 | 12:00pm-1:00pm
What: Utica oil and gas developments and legal issues presented by John K. Keller of Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease LLP.
Additional Information: RSVP by April 23, 2015

When: Thursday, April 28, 2015 | 6:00pm-7:30pm
Where: St. Arnold's Brewery, 2000 Lyons Avenue
What: Background checks and social media
Additional Information: Pre-registration required online at

Friday, March 6, 2015

What Not to Wear to an Interview: Top 20 Wardrobe Malfunctions

We've been busy in the CDO helping students practice their interview skills via mock interviews. If you haven't taken advantage of this service yet, make an appointment for a mock interview with your counselor here.

We also remind our students that your appearance is part of your overall first impression and you want the interviewer to remember you for what you said, not what you were wearing. So in that vein, we wanted to share this great article from with some common interview attire mistakes.

What is the worst outfit ever worn to a job interview? For a career services director at the University of Chicago, it was the applicant who sported a Madras tie as a belt and a patterned cotton hat. Other contenders, according to a survey of hiring managers, include candidates with dirty fingernails, micro-miniskirts, t-shirts with offensive slogans and even bare feet! 

No one needs 'Queer Eye's' Carson Kressley to tell them that wearing shoes to an interview is a good idea, but could you be guilty of one of these top 20 fashion faux pas?

1. Carrying a backpack or fannypack instead of a briefcase or portfolio: Some image consultants suggest women ditch their purse, too!

2. Sunglasses on top of your head or headphones around your neck: Be sure to remove all your "transit gear" and tuck it in your briefcase before entering the lobby.

3. Too-short skirts: Forget what some of those gals on 'The Apprentice' are wearing. Your skirt should cover your thighs when you are seated. *Although skirt suits are always recommended for the ladies, if you do choose to wear a pant suit make sure to avoid skinny and/or ankle pants. 

4. The wrong tie: Ties should be made of silk, no less than three and a quarter inches wide with a conservative pattern. Image consultants say the best colors are red or burgundy.

5. Overly bright or large-patterned clothing: With the possible exception of creative fields like advertising or computer programming, it's best to stick with navy, black or gray.

6. Heavy makeup on women (or any makeup on a man)

7. Earrings on men: In fact, men should avoid wearing any jewelry unless it is a wedding ring, class ring or metal watch.

8. More than one set of earrings on women

9. Facial piercings, tongue jewelry or visible tattoos

10. Ill-fitting clothes. Few people can wear things straight off the rack. Spending a little extra to have your garments tailored is a worthwhile investment.

11. Long fingernails, especially with bright or specialty polishes. Nails should look clean and be trimmed to a length that doesn't leave an observer wondering how you keep from stabbing yourself.

12. Unnatural hair colors or styles. Remember, Donald Trump was a billionaire well before he began wearing a comb-over. If you're balding, try a close-cropped cut like Bruce Willis or Matt Lauer.

13. Short-sleeved shirts, even worse when worn with a tie

14. Fishnets, patterned hosiery or bare legs (no matter how tan you are). Women should stick with neutral color hosiery that complements their suit.

15. Men whose socks don't match their shoes, or whose socks are too short and leave a gap of flesh when they are seated

16. Rumpled or stained clothing: If interviewing late in the day, try to change to a fresh suit beforehand.

17. Scuffed or inappropriate footwear, including sneakers, stilettos, open-toed shoes and sandals

18. Strong aftershaves, perfumes or colognes: Many people are allergic to certain scents. For a subtle fragrance, use a good quality bath soap.

19. Belts and shoes that don't match: Shoes and belts should be made of leather or leather-like materials and the best colors for men are black or cordovan.

20. Telltale signs that your wearing a new suit. Remove all tags and extra buttons -- and remember to cut off the zigzag thread that keeps pockets and slits closed!

Don't be a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen. Plan and lay out what you're going to wear several days before the interview, so you'll have time to shop or get garments pressed and cleaned.Save "innovative" or revealing garb for the club (or your couch) and strive for crisp, clean and professional. Remember, you want the interviewer to be listening to what you're saying, not critiquing what you're wearing. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Resource Roundtable: Tips & Tools for Interview Prep

If you're busy applying and interviewing for spring law clerk, summer internship, or post-graduate positions, make sure to check out the Tips & Tools for Interview Prep Handout. It's an invaluable resource that will help you make the best first impression possible during your interview. This handout includes general tips, a list of typical interview questions, strategies to answer behavioral questions, and sample questions you may want to pose to employers.

If you have not received this from your counselor, feel free to email him/her or download it from the Career Resource Library via the "resources" tab in Symplicity.