At one point, the paralegal students at Capital University Law School had three classes on professional development. For some cohorts, these class were three weeks before graduation and too late to provide a real benefit. Shawn Beem, Assistant Dean for the Office of Professional Development, decided it was time to do something new. He designed a one-credit practicum offering students professional development options to complete before graduating. These options included attending networking events, conducting informational interviews, doing an internship, and much more. Each student had to complete 14 hours of practicum work during the program. As part of the practicum, students were required to attend a networking event sponsored by the program. They also had to meet with Dean Beem to discuss professional development topics of their choice. Students used CLIO to keep track of their practicum hours and had to include a detailed description of the event or work completed. At the end of the program, Dean Beem audited the entries to see if the student met the practicum hours.
The required networking day made a significant impact on students. Each summer we invited law firms, corporations, bar associations, and other legal community partners to set up a table and talk to our students. Students would bring a resume, prepare an elevator speech, dress professionally, and be ready to network. We did “speed networking” where students would have about 7 minutes to meet with someone and then move to another table. To end the day, we catered lunch and students and guests sat together to talk. Some students made great connections. Others were offered jobs. At one point we had about 25 guests attend (and many provided sponsorships to help fund the luncheon). Although students were very nervous before the event, by the end they were excited about the day. We were getting ready to plan our fifth year and then . . . COVID. Unfortunately, it changed everything. We encourage programs to consider something like this practicum where students take responsibility for how they complete the course, make choices on what they want to do and when they want to schedule things, keep time, and practice valuable networking skills.