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Working, planning and waiting for ‘the call’

Boatemaa Ntiri-Reid, a third-year student at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, was rushing to class last month when she got the phone call: She had a job after graduation.

Boatemaa Ntiri-Reid will join the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau as a staff attorney in HIV-related legal services.

“My first thought was, ‘I don’t want to go to class. I just want to scream.’” Ntiri-Reid said.

With graduation rapidly approaching, even those third-years who haven’t gotten that phone call are expressing optimism about their chances this year.

“What we are seeing was, for the past three years, things were really tough,” said Jill Green, assistant dean at the Law Career Development Office at the University of Baltimore School of Law. “The number of postings were down. This spring, it feels like the recruiting requests we are getting from employers are up. Postings have increased. It seems like there is a positive trend.”

At the same time, there are still students struggling to find jobs, Green said.

“There are definitely people that are frustrated,” she said. “There are still students that come into law school thinking they will be in the top of class and get big-firm offers, but that can only be the top 10 percent. It seems like there are more students with jobs, that there are more offers for paid summer employment than there were last year, which tells me things are improving.”

Getting their first choice

Ntiri-Reid will start as a staff attorney with the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau in HIV-related legal services starting in September. The position is a two-year fellowship.

The fellowship was Ntiri-Reid’s first choice of the three fellowships and about a dozen other jobs she applied for, she said.

She had worked for the Baltimore City Health Department in HIV prevention and treatment for three years before law school. She also has a master’s degree in public health from Columbia University in New York.

Ntiri-Reid, 30, said she was extremely worried about finding a job after graduation since she and her husband had just purchased a house in Laurel.

“Maybe this is being older, but I can’t just move back in with my parents,” Ntiri-Reid said. “It was definitely more weight on me.”

A classmate, Y. Ajoke Agboola, secured a clerkship with Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Marcella A. Holland after applying to about 20 different positions, she said.

“I was very concerned,” Agboola said. “I was freaking out.”

Agboola has a concentration in environmental law. She is already thinking about what she wants to do after her one-year clerkship including, work with a government agency or nonprofit with environmental interests.

“I picked environmental law so I could sleep at night,” she said.

Happy to wait

Kerri Smith, 25, a third-year UB Law student, does not have a permanent job lined up after graduation, but she said she’s not worried. She has worked as a law clerk at Silverman, Thompson Slutkin & White LLC in Baltimore since last May and plans to continue there over the summer while she studies for the July bar exam.

“I’m feeling optimistic,” Smith said. “They tell us a lot at school that the market is not great, but it looks better than it did. I feel like I’ve gotten really good experience at the job I’m at now. Hopefully having worked with such good people and a great place gave me good skills. I guess it’s just a matter of being at the right place at right time and I feel like it’s still early.”

Julius Blattner, 27, also a third-year at UB Law, knows what his first choice is — but he’s still chasing it. Blattner is hoping to get a full-time position in the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office in Towson, where he is clerking right now. Blattner wants to work as an assistant state’s attorney in Maryland District Court and plans to stay at his law clerk position for now. He plans to take and pass the Maryland bar exam in July and wait for a position to open up at his office.

“When I applied here for the law clerk position, that was one of my goals,” Blattner said. “That was my way in — get job as a law clerk and work my way up.”

That’s a route that many students are taking, Green said.

“Students are out there hitting the streets,” Green said “What we tell them is you have to get experience. You have to get internships. You have to get involved in the legal community after law school. It’s the time you spend outside the law school that is equally important.”

Even so, finding that permanent slot may take a while.

“That means having a more entrepreneurial mindset and being willing to take a temporary contract position while awaiting bar results,” Green said.

Picking a niche

UM Carey third-year Pauline Pelletier, 27, will go to mid-size intellectual property firm, Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox in Washington, D.C., where she will do patent work. She has worked at the firm as a paralegal for a few years.

A classmate, Brian Hill, 28, will also be going to an intellectual property firm, Lerner, David, Littenberg, Krumholz & Mentlik LLP in Westfield, N.J. Hill was a summer associate at the firm last year and was offered a job at the end of program.

Both felt there were more job openings in intellectual property law, which helped them finds jobs for after graduation.

“People in patent law have pretty strong options,” Hill said. “The concern is finding the right job.”

Both had decided early on that they wanted to pursue patent law and said they felt by choosing a path early, they found success by homing in on jobs in that niche.

“At an early stage in my career, I knew what I wanted to do,” Pelletier said. “So I focused on firms I thought I was really interested in.”

Many students, though, find their niche later.

Max Brauer, 27, a UM Carey third-year, had almost given up on law school after his first year. But he decided to try a consumer protection clinic. Ultimately, that’s what led to his job offer from the Law Offices of E. David Hoskins in Baltimore.

“I was really disillusioned as a 1L,” Brauer said. “I wasn’t sure. I wanted to stay to see how the clinic goes and see if I like applying stuff in practice.”

The clinic changed his mind and Brauer decided to focus on consumer law, working as a research assistant for his instructor. His instructor eventually introduced him to Hoskins, which led to his job.

“One thing led to another and I ended up with a great opportunity doing exactly what I want to do right after I graduated,” Brauer said. “I really just feel blessed. The cards just sort of fell the right way for me.”