RECORD Editorial: Students should demand more of OCS and OPIA

BY

We are scarcely a month away from November, and the Office of Public Interest Advising’s hiring process is standing still. Meanwhile, students trying to use the Office of Career Services’ snazzy new web site have been met with constant frustration, as the site has crashed repeatedly, and at the most inopportune times. It is no secret that students have a habit of doing things at the last minute, but the system should have been designed to handle the expected capacity.

OCS seems to have done the best it can, testing the system during the much-smaller 1L OCI last year, extending deadlines and generally working to help students who get burned by glitches in the system.

With regard to OPIA, the situation is a bit more tricky. When Dean Robert Clark announced the long-overdue hiring of another full-time adviser, students applauded. The move should have been made a long time ago — most of our peer schools had larger public-interest advising staffs, or at least more full-time personnel. (It should also be noted that several peer institutions have larger offices of career services as well.)

But as 2L hiring season approaches, and 1Ls gear up for their own first shot at the job market, OPIA is still without the staffing resources it needs to do the job.

Without a second full-time adviser, 2Ls will likely face long waits for advising appointments. Given the desirability of HLS 2Ls in the law firm job market, any additional barriers to public interest hiring are likely to drive them toward the OCI process, which already enjoys considerable comparative advantages in attracting HLS students (computer problems notwithstanding). Given that such a massive percentage of 2Ls and graduating 3Ls start their careers in law firms (over 90 percent, not including students entering clerkships), a move that causes those numbers to go up even more is an unfortunate mistake.

The difference between this and previous years is that this year, it seems that OPIA is understaffed by choice. According to Director Alexa Shabecoff, literally hundreds have sought the position. While her and the administration’s search for the absolute most qualified candidate is laudable, this situation does not lend itself to further dallying.

With the job market still relatively poor, this year is likely to see record numbers of 1Ls seeking public interest jobs. Ideally, one would hope the new full-time adviser would have time to get acclimated to his or her work before having to deal with the difficult process of finding public interest jobs for 1Ls. The longer that Shabecoff and the administration wait, the more difficult the new adviser’s job is likely to be. And 1Ls — already the group in the worst position job-wise — will be the ones who suffer.

OCS and OPIA’s travails both should serve as a lesson for future years. Both the computer and hiring problems could have been alleviated with better planning and more attention to students’ needs.

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