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UH Law Center students learn benefits of small and midsize law practices

Students meet with potential employers during the "Small & Midsize Firm Open House" at the University of Houston Law Center.

Students meet with potential employers during the "Small & Midsize Firm Open House" at the University of Houston Law Center.

Sept. 24, 2019 - University of Houston Law Center 2L, 3L, and LL.M. students and recent graduates submitted applications to 45 employers at the Small & Midsize Firm Open House on Sept. 13 Lin the Commons.

The Open House was the final event of the Career Development Office's (CDO) Small & Midsize Firm Career Week.  Students also attended career panels featuring attorneys discussing the advantages and challenges of practicing at a firm with fewer than 50 attorneys. Lunch or dinner was served at each panel.

The event was organized by Assistant Director Chandria Jackson, the CDO’s manager of small and midsize firm employer relations and development.

“The Open House was beneficial for both the employers and Law Center candidates,” Jackson said. “The informal nature of the event gives the candidates an opportunity to discuss positions and practice areas with a critical mass of employers in a relaxed environment.  Meanwhile, employers are able to identify the best candidates often without the need for subsequent interviews.”

“Small and midsize law firm employers express their gratitude for the CDO’s employer outreach to understand their practices, and coordination of this event to provide a platform to access more candidates for employment and gain exposure in the legal community,” said Assistant Dean for Career Development Tiffany J. Tucker. "Chandria Jackson, CDO Assistant Director, small and midsize firm employer contact, and Law Center alumnae with over 12 years of experience, coordinated the Open House by utilizing her specialized knowledge of the Houston legal market to ensure a representative cross section of the most sought after legal practices were represented at the event. Her personal touch with these employers have lead to more and more small and midsize firms specifically seeking the talent Law Center candidates have to offer."

The first Small & Midsize Firm Career Week panel titled, "How Do I Get In?", featured early-career Law Center graduates who discussed how they secured employment at a small or midsize firm and what they enjoy about it.

Speakers included Ved Chitale '16 of Kennedy Hodges, LLP, Joshua Christopher '16 of Serpe Jones Andrews Callender & Bell, PLLC, Taneska Jones '17 of Shellist Lazarz Slobin LLP and Megan Neel, who recently started her own firm, Neel Law, PLLC, after working with a small firm.

Panelists discussed work-life balance and the unique experiences their firms offer.

"The best thing about being at a smaller law firm is the opportunity to take a case from intake, to summary judgment and maybe even trial, Chitale said. “You're not necessarily going to get that at big firms. What was really attractive about the firm I'm with right now is that you specialize in one thing. Small firms are not generalists, and those opportunities are out there.”

A second employer panel focused on getting into small and midsize included Hee Jin Chang '17 of Slate & Associates, Attorneys at Law, PC, Emil Sadykhov '18 of McDowell Hetherington LLP, and Lindsey T. Kellam '18 of Wilson Cribbs + Goren, PC.  The panelists shared their experiences in small and midsize firms, as well as how working at smaller firms while students enhanced their post-graduate employment prospects.  Kellam shared how her involvement in moot court gave her skills that have continued to benefit her transactional practice.

The third panel highlighted upper-level Law Center students who have worked at small and midsize law firms as law clerks or legal interns. Student panelists were 3L students Anastasia Bolshakov, Danielle Lam, Shams Merchant, and Jonah P. Toennies.

"What's really nice about smaller and midsize firms is that you do so much different work," Bolshakov said. "You really get to find out what you're good at and what direction you want to go in."

Due to the growing success of the event, the Career Development Office will host a second Open House in the same academic year on Feb. 21, 2020 at the Law Center.  For more information about participating in the Spring Small & Midsize Firm Open House, please contact Chandria T. Jackson at ctjacks5@central.uh.edu or 713-743-7535. 

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