PUBLISHED:April 14, 2015

1L Blueprint for Success: Class of 2017 makes important connections at CPDC’s annual networking event

2L recruiting season moves at a lightning pace, and as any 3L will tell you, students are wise to start networking and make connections early. That’s why more than 200 first-year students gathered Feb. 25 at the Durham Convention Center for the annual 1L Blueprint for Success event sponsored by the Career & Professional Development Center (CPDC). 

Despite a looming winter storm that threatened to shut down East Coast travel and detain them in Durham, more than 100 representatives of law firms, corporations, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations — many of them Duke Law alumni — showed up to get to know the Class of 2017.

“This is a great way to meet a lot of different employers,” said Karim Pirani ’17, who will work at DLA Piper in Chicago this summer. “It’s great to get that exposure and learn about what practice areas there are and how people got where they are.”

The 55 organizations at the event represented significant growth in employer participation over the previous year. Nineteen employers joined the program for the first time, including Akin Gump, Covington Burling, Sullivan & Cromwell, White & Case, Wilson Sonsini, King & Spalding, Foley & Larder, McKool Smith, the Promontory Group, Williams Mullen, and an office from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Employers are eager to get more involved on campus,” said Erin Biggerstaff, recruiting coordinator for Duke Law. “They are looking for new ways to build a presence here, establish their brands, and help students with their professional development and career goals. 1L Blueprint for Success is a one-stop shop for them and an excellent way to meet the 1L class leading up to the fall.”

Employers began the evening with a presentation entitled “Duke Law: Prepared for Practice,” moderated by Bruce Elvin, associate dean and director of the CPDC, and featuring Clinical Professor of Law Andrew Foster and Senior Lecturing Fellow Jeremy Mullem. Foster and Mullem described how the Duke Law curriculum, clinics, and writing programs prepare students for the rigors of real-life practice.

“Every year, between 50 and 75 percent of the class has participated in at least an externship or a clinic, and many have done more than one,” Foster said.

The presentation was followed by a dialogue with employers.

Students began the evening by brushing up on their networking skills with professional coach Mary Crane, author of the “100 Things You Need to Know” series of books. Crane stressed the importance of taking full advantage of networking opportunities, from setting personal goals ahead of time and researching the individuals and organizations participating to following up afterward to ensure a lasting impression.

“I think the best one was her tip about ‘breaking and entering,’” said Christine Umeh ’17, who has accepted a summer position with the Harris County Public Defender’s Office in Houston.  “We’ve all experienced trying to move in to talk to a person when there’s clearly a conversation going on and trying to figure out the best way to break in.”

At the evening’s main event, employers greeted students, handed out business cards, and fielded questions about their organizations and practice areas. Students moved from table to table, keeping Crane’s tips in mind as they introduced themselves to attorneys and recruiters. Passed hors d’oeuvres and soft drinks allowed students to practice their networking skills in a setting similar to the employer receptions they will attend throughout the summer.

“It’s helpful to just be on your feet and meeting people in rapid succession. It’s not something that I deal with on a daily basis,” said Brandon Springer ’17, who hopes to work in public interest law. “I found it valuable to strike up conversations with people in fields that interest me and to learn more about unfamiliar areas of practice.”

Ashley Lin ’17, who is interested in working in capital markets and arbitration, said she took advantage of the opportunity to learn about law firms’ global opportunities and how best to pursue them. She will split her summer between positions at the Hong Kong International Arbitration Center and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Lin noted that she learned at the event that “for people who want a career in international law, it’s really important to establish international contacts.” 

Marjorie Mulhall ’08, who was an associate with Shearman & Sterling before becoming legislative counsel with Earthjustice in Washington, agreed that students needed to be prepared to always be networking, both during and after law school. She encouraged students to seek out people who are already doing the type of work that they want to do for advice and contacts, and to stay in touch with them, noting that networking played a big role in her ability to move from a large law firm to an environmental non-profit several years after graduation. 

“Within the public interest world, it’s important to have people vouch for you,” Mulhall said. “To have cultivated those relationships becomes a big deal to make sure that your name stands out among all the applicants given that it can be tough to get these jobs.”

Said Jon Wry, a partner at Bracewell & Guiliani in New York: “We at Bracewell are big fans of the Blueprint event. The setting is casual and relaxed, and really humanizes the participants on both sides of the student-employer line. Blueprint gives students a great opportunity to practice being themselves and to showcase their personalities around employers. And we love the opportunity to put our name out in front of students in that non-boiler-room environment as well — it’s nice to be recognized as a friendly face when OCI rolls around at the end of the summer.”

Bracewell & Guiliani was one of 12 “gold” sponsors of the 1L Blueprint for Success and helped procure gift certificates for the student raffle that was held at the end of the evening.

“It was a fun, engaging, productive evening,” said Adriane Kyropoulos, director of recruitment and employer relations. “We appreciate the support of and investment in our students by our sponsoring organizations and the individuals who braved the elements to spend the evening building relationships with our fantastic 1L class.  Thank you!”

For more information on the Career Center’s 1L Blueprint for Success event, including sponsors and participants, please visit