“Professor MacDougald was insightful and adept at helping guide me to an externship (which led me to my summer internship) at Eversource. He found time to have several discussions with me (I am an evening student and my schedule can be difficult to work with) and review the options on the table.” – James Zimmer, UConn student and Field Placement Candidate for Eversource Energy
With figures from the American Bar Association showing the legal class of 2016 to have produced more than 37,000 qualified graduates, it’s fair to say that prospects in the US law profession are fraught with competition.
Law is a market that’s both lucrative and competitive on an international scale. Year after year, aspiring lawyers flock to the most respected law schools in the US and the world, desperate to beat their graduate peers to the most rewarding professional roles. And while it’s well-known that a postgraduate degree in law will help you snag a top job, there’s still an annual, global flood of students graduating with a Master of Laws (LLM).
Experiential learning opportunities ingrained in a recognized, world-class degree is the best way to set yourself up for success among a thriving graduate crowd.
“I chose the clinic because I wanted to enrol on a course that combines theory and practice at the same time, but with more focus on practice,” says Fatimata Belem, a student who participated in the Asylum & Human Rights Clinic at the University of Connecticut (UConn) School of Law.
“For me, it was a unique opportunity to get a first-hand experience of US immigration law in general, and the US Law governing asylum in particular,” she adds. “Now, I’m working at an immigration law firm and I believe that my time at UConn Law has set my foundation for the work I am performing there. The courses I took have well-equipped me with the skills and knowledge I needed to succeed.”
UConn Law is a prime example of an elite law-focused institution – ranked number 54 in the US Top 100 – doing everything it can to give students that graduate ‘edge’. As a school that was established in 1921, it’s impressive to note that just eight years later, in 1929, UConn’s first- and second-year law students were required to participate in a mock small claims trial, establishing a precursor to today’s sought-after clinical programs.
The law school now stands as a recognized pioneer of the experiential learning venture, providing no less than 15 clinics and field placement courses. On top of instilling a plethora of transferrable real-world skills, these exclusive offerings give UConn students the chance to earn extra credit that proves to be invaluable, allowing them to represent genuine clients with the help of experienced lawyers and members of the faculty.
“With my teammates at the clinic, we were responsible for representing the client in the Immigration Court and at the Asylum Office; client meetings and communication regarding’ case status and required documentation; gathering and analyzing data such as statuses, codes, case law and articles on our client country conditions; preparing for trial by drafting legal briefs, organizing exhibits, and preparing witnesses,” Belem explains.
“The clinic has significantly impacted my career options,” the student adds. “It’s really motivated me to work within immigration law. With the help of the clinic, I have learnt that assisting immigrants in adjusting their status and applying for different immigration benefits can be so rewarding. It gives me the feeling that I am contributing in changing people’s lives and I would like to continue doing so.”
But UConn’s experiential learning opportunities don’t begin and end with the legal clinics. The school also lays on individual field placements from which students set their own path to relevant practical experience that supports their aspirations.
Yoel Elfassi, a French international student enrolled in UConn’s LLM in U.S. Legal Studies, experienced the benefits of a field placement first-hand. After a four-month placement with leading insurance experts at The Hartford, Elfassi gained a diverse and comprehensive skillset that advanced him through the field, providing the necessary expertise surrounding the laws and regulations that affect complex insurance products.
“I found this field placement through UConn Law on the Symplicity platform, and I was able to apply directly through the platform,” he says. “I also received great advice from the externship coordinator on how this placement would work alongside my professional perspectives, as well as from the Graduate and International Programs Department on crucial aspects such as the recognition of the externship towards the bar examination, and the consistency with my curriculum.”
Understanding that research is one of the best ways to boost graduate employability, options to participate in ground-breaking studies are also rife at the school. Monia Zgarni, an international student from Tunisia now studying hate speech and hate crimes practically jumped at the chance to collaborate with some of the field’s most prominent academics.
“I am interested in human rights and did a lot of research around this topic back in Tunisia,” she says. “UConn Law matched me with a human rights professor for whom I worked as a research assistant. I did my own human rights seminar, which included the organization of a professional conference, and I really learnt a lot from this experience.
“I had the honor of discussing big issues and working with renowned professors – such as Professors Richard Wilson and Molly Land,” Zgarni exclaims. “The work I carried out allowed me to do what I love, which is researching, confirming in myself that this is the sort of career I would really like to pursue.”
With the help of dynamic clinics, field placements, research opportunities and other experiential learning options, UConn is helping students like Zgarni, Elfassi, Belem and Zimmer come out on top in the surge of the law graduate tide.
Experience the true legal craft at UConn Law and next, it could be you.