Opening Statements

House Calls

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Photo by Kristine A. Strom

Looking to land that first job? In a practice-group rut? Or do you want to change careers entirely? If you’re a University of Iowa College of Law grad, help is on the way.

And if there’s a balding guy with a Vandyke beard at your door right now, well, help has just arrived.

Steve Langerud is the school’s assistant dean for career services, and for nearly two years he’s been making house calls to career-challenged alumni, meeting face to face with them across Iowa and in major cities like Denver, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. So far he’s helped more than a hundred Hawkeye lawyers, from the newly minted to the nearly retired, figure out what they need to do to become well-adjusted, contributing members of the legal profession.

It all starts with a call to Langerud’s office—or more likely, a “how goes it?” sort of cold call from Langerud if he knows he’s heading to a particular city. Meetings with lawyers in Iowa are easy to schedule, but those in other states may need to wait until Langerud is planning to be in the area for a conference or other event. It’s not so ideal for the out-of-staters, Lange­rud acknowledges, but he hopes that’s only temporary. By the end of the year, the school plans to expand the program to five additional cities and do more career counseling with current students.

Langerud thought up the career office structure while working with alumni from Grinnell College, a small, private liberal arts college in Iowa. When he brought the idea with him to his new position, he was concerned that he’d encounter reticent alumni, unwilling to identify themselves as dissatisfied for reasons of pride. Instead, he says, people have been thrilled. The biggest group of dissatisfied alums out there? Male attorneys in their 40s, he says.

The idea is intriguing, says Gihan Fernando, president of the National Association for Law Place­ment. It’s not uncommon for law schools to do some sort of alumni outreach with interview training sessions or programs where there is a critical mass of students, he says, but Langerud’s individual attention sets Iowa apart.

And if the wobbly economy results in serious law firm belt-tightening, more lawyers may be putting out the welcome mat.

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