Carrie Tongarm did not decide to attend law school until her son was born in 2008. After going through the second-parent adoption process with her partner and their lawyer, Carrie realized how difficult the process could have been without their lawyer. She realized that “I wanted to help people in that way; I wanted to be a resource for those who needed navigation through complex legal terrain.”
Carrie enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh in the fall of 2010 to begin her legal career. Before her 3L year, she chose to attend Lavender Law as a student for “the opportunity to meet so many employers and network with LGBT attorneys.”
To prepare for Lavender Law, Carrie did her research. She found every firm recruiting at the Career Fair that had an office in Pittsburgh and in other areas in Pennsylvania. Due to her family situation, she knew that she had to work at a firm that had domestic partner benefits. Carrie said that a huge benefit of attending Lavender Law was knowing “that every firm at the job fair offered such benefits.”
In addition to her research on the Career Fair, Carrie looked at the list of workshops offered at the Lavender Law Conference. She “tried to learn about areas that I wasn’t exposed to in school, like immigration and transgender issues” and also researched presenters to see if there was anyone she wanted to follow up with after their panel.
At Lavender Law, Carrie “was happy that there was so much built-in networking during breaks and receptions” but found the Career Fair intimidating at first. However, she was able to take advantage of the career counselors on-site who gave her some last-minute resume tips and boosted her confidence before Carrie walked into the Career Fair. Since she was still a bit nervous, she did a few “warm-up” sessions with firms she wasn’t interested in before heading to the firms she had previously targeted.
One of the firms she had identified before attending the Career Fair was Saul Ewing. After meeting with many different organizations throughout the day, Carrie was about to call it a day before realizing that she was standing directly in front of the Saul Ewing table.
“The recruiters seemed very warm and inviting, so I just walked over to the table and sat down,” she said. A partner from the firm who worked in a practice area Carrie was interested in joined the conversation and they soon realized that they shared a mutual acquaintance – Carrie’s boss at her internship.
A week after the Career Fair, Carrie received a call from the partner who put her in touch with another partner at Saul Ewing. By chance, Carrie happened to be attending a conference in Philadelphia and arranged a lunch meeting the following week. The lunch and unexpected dinner with several other partners went well and over the next few months, Carrie was invited to join the firm as a law clerk. After graduating and passing the bar, she was offered a full-time associate position.
“Without a doubt, none of this would have been possible without making that initial connection at Lavender Law,” Carrie said. “The firm’s responsiveness and proactive recruitment made its commitment to diversity apparent at the outset. I could not have asked for a better outcome.”
Carrie is still working at Saul Ewing and is proud to be a part of a firm with such a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. She had some advice for the next generation of law students looking to make that all-important connection at Lavender Law. “Be brave, be confident, and, most importantly, be yourself! Remember, a firm wants to hire you, not your resume.”
She also emphasized that the Career Fair was not the only time that students could make a professional connection. “Take advantage of every opportunity to talk to people. You never know where your next job offer will come from, so don’t make the mistake of thinking the person lining up with you for the lunch buffet isn’t worthy of a friendly salutation. Overall, try to enjoy, learn and have fun! Every connection is worth making and every experience is worth having.”
- 11 Jun, 2014
- Liz Youngblood
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