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Chabad Gives Cardozo Law Students an Edge in the Job Hunt

By , New York

(lubavitch.com) Legal thrillers have nothing on the recession, a doozy of a plotline imperiling the future of law school grads. With law firm layoffs and cutbacks in new attorney hires worrying the students at Cardozo Law School in New York, the campus Chabad center has begun offering networking events to connect students with successful attorneys.

At Chabad’s recent Attorneys and Law Students Networking Event, 75 students got to know powerbrokers like real-estate mogul and attorney Leon Charney, Jones Day partner Andy Green, and president the New York Legal Assistance Group Yisroel Schulman.

“The idea for the networking events grew out of the informal connections we have been making for students on a one to one basis,” said Rabbi Chezky Wolff. He has been making phone calls to lawyer friends on behalf of students since arriving on campus in 2008. With the job market still in a slump, Rabbi Wolff and his wife and co-director Perry, have booked another night of networking for February. 

Students Network Through Chabad

Hobnobbing at Chabad get-togethers, said students, is far less stodgy than other meet and greets. Joel Yacoob, a second year student from Orange County, CA, said the attorneys at the December event appeared to be deeply interested in helping the students succeed. 

“They did more than put on a name tag and give a speech,” said Yacoob, student president of Chabad at Cardozo. “Their enthusiasm and their willingness to stay and talk with us is probably due to Rabbi Wolff’s relationship with them.” 

Sara Kemeny, who has two more years before she can use Esq. in her byline, said she “enjoyed hearing the panelists speak candidly about their practice areas and how they decided to enter the fields in which they were working.”

Mike Izrailev, who will be graduating in 2011 with “a lot of debt to pay off,” used his time at Chabad’s networking party to gather “pointers that would be helpful in my job search.” 

Graduating Lawyers Face Tough Job Market

If current trends hold, Yacoob, Kemeny and Izraeilev will need all the help they can get. The outlook for students is bleak. Last year, over 4,600 lawyers lost their jobs, according to Law Shucks, a legal industry blog. Adding to the tension is the decline of hires from the summer internships. No longer are they a sure thing. Major firms with hundreds of attorneys like Baker & Botts, Dorsey & Whitney, Morgan Lewis were among those who hired fewer than 60% of their interns last year.

The future doesn’t look any better. If law firms grow in accord with Bureau of Labor Statistics projections, as reported by the L.A. Times, there are likely to be fewer than 30,000 positions open per year, well below the 45,000 new Juris Doctors graduating annually. Dr. Silvia Hodges of Fordham University Law put it bluntly, “The market is over-lawyered.” 

The uncertain fate for future lawyers, a cause for which there is little sympathy in the wider world, is fodder for endless conversation among Izrailev and his classmates.  “You come to law school with one conception of what you will do in the future and you find yourself facing a different reality,” he said.

It’s why Cardozo students jumped at chance to speak with lawyers, both new and established, who are living the life the students are sacrificing their youth and exposure to daylight to obtain. 

Chabad’s Events A Comfortable Fit For Students

At December’s event Terrence Oved, founder of Oved & Oved, LLP, counseled students to bear in mind that “there might not be a lot of jobs out there, but you don’t need ‘a lot’ you need only one.” Students would do right, Oved said, to remember G-d’s words to biblical leader Joshua “to be strong and steadfast. If you can get through this tough climate, nothing can stop you.” 

Student Matt Rothstein worked the room with determination. “If you have good connections, you can get a job,” he said. As a second year student who hopes to specialize in maritime law, Rothstein was comforted to hear from presenters that “there are many different pathways to becoming the lawyer you want to be.”

Rothstein, who Rabbi Wolff credits for the brainstorm behind the event, noted that the networking night attracted new faces, ones he hasn’t seen at Chabad’s popular Shabbat dinners. 

The Wolffs see the networking group as a soft landing “bringing students through the door who may not be comfortable going to something overtly Jewish, like Shabbat dinners. They come to our networking events, spend time with other Jewish students, and discover that they fit in at Chabad,” said Rabbi Wolff. 

While the jury’s out on law school students’ prospects for the future, one thing is certain: Chabad is doing all it can to sway the verdict in their favor.


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