OUTLOOK: A Closer Look— Alumni Bar Mentoring Program
Director of Alumni Career Development Matthew Pascocello has advised American University Washington College of Law graduates for more than two decades, helping them prepare for new changes in the legal industry. If you want to know what skills firms are looking for, ask Pascocello. Because his focus is alumni, he has paired with the Office of Development and Alumni Relations to help the law school improve services for its new graduates before the bar, during their initial job searches, and in the months and years that follow.
“Having served as WCL’s exclusive alumni counselor for over 20 years, I have had the privilege of working with thousands of our graduates in all facets of their career and professional development,” Pascocello said. “When meeting with alumni, I strive to make an authentic connection while providing them with the resources, contacts, opportunities, feedback, and guidance they need to reach their goals or overcome particular hurdles.”
Pascocello’s core objective remains unchanged: to work with alumni from the day after graduation to the day before retirement, and anywhere in between, to help them find meaningful and fulfilling work in the legal and law-related sectors.
“What has changed is the business of legal practice. The increased competition from non-legal service providers, and the tightening of employer expectations for practice-ready employees who can hit the ground running, adding value from day one,” he said.
This is true regardless of sector—private, public, public interest, or judicial, Pascocello noted. “Employers expect law schools to produce graduates who are much more in tune with employers’, and ultimately the clients’, needs,” he said.
WANTED: TECH SAVVY
“Millennials are definitely playing a key role in transforming legal practice,” Pascocello said. “Many bring technological skills into the workplace that a number of more senior attorneys, who aren’t digital natives, don’t possess but probably should!”
As a foundational premise, Pascocello said lawyers need to know the basics of Microsoft Office, PowerPoint, and Excel, as well as effective calendaring and project management systems. Certain practices, including litigation-heavy positions, may require additional tech skills such as case management programs and eDiscovery platforms, he said.
Pascocello encourages students and alumni to “avoid a negative social media footprint, but being social media savvy is a marketable skill and can help bring visibility to your passion, writings, and accomplishments in the law, as well as be compelling for some legal employers who might appreciate the positive press or buzz you can bring to their organization.”
Pascocello holds over 400 counseling sessions per year, including setting up mock interviews to help alumni “work the kinks out and be prepared to answer the difficult questions.”
“I always encourage alumni to be prepared, be authentic, and be enthusiastic,” he said. “Do your due diligence. Understand the employer, industry trends, and the person you are meeting with. Be able to articulate and demonstrate your enthusiasm in a way that both connects with the organization and reflects authenticity.”
Pascocello said he is excited to continue to work closely with the Office of Career and Professional Development as he “connects more dots, in terms of leveraging alumni contacts” and uses these new relationships to support both the career and professional advancement of our alumni and stature of the school.
His weekly Alumni Career Development Listserv (circulation 6,600+), Alumni Mentor Database (over 800 alumni participants), alumni webinars, featured alumni profiles, and robust alumni services website have become mainstays of WCL’s alumni services.
“What I enjoy most about this job is the personal and professional satisfaction I get from connecting with our alumni in meaningful ways, often during stressful or dynamic times in their lives,” Pascocello said. “I want them to feel not only supported here, but also to convey that this institution has your back.”
For more about the career and alumni services Pascocello offers, visit https://www.wcl.american.edu/career/students-alumni/