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The Community Effect Employers Benefit from Penn Law's Ability to Produce Strong Team Players
By Matthew E. Pilecki

Heather Frattone L'98, associate dean for career planning and professionalism, leads the effort to equip students with the skills they need in a changing job market. One skill stands out: the ability to work in teams.  
Heather Frattone L'98, associate dean for career planning and professionalism, leads the effort to equip students with the skills they need in a changing job market. One skill stands out: the ability to work in teams.
Graduates entering today's job market may not have the same outlook that their parents once had. But Heather Frattone L'98, who runs the office of Career Planning and Professionalism, says Penn Law students' commitment to each other and their community gives them a leg up, even in a bad economy.

"Our students are very focused on their role in the community at the Law School and not just about themselves as individuals," said Frattone, associate dean for career planning and professionalism at Penn Law. "They're really good at helping each other in a selective job market."

And the consensus among employers is unanimous, she said. Penn Law graduates make great team players.

"It's seen in the market," Frattone said. "We hear from employers that there's something different about Penn Law students. The defining characteristic is how much they are able to come in and be a part of a team and the firm; to be a responsible member of the organization.

Our students stand out for these skills."

Keir Gumbs L'99 was recently promoted to partner at the Washington, D.C., office of Covington & Burling LLP, making him one of the youngest at the firm. David Martin, a partner at Covington and co-head of the firm's securities practice, said that Gumbs represents a level of excellence that he has come to expect from Penn Law graduates.

"When you practice in a large firm like ours the final sort of ingredient is that you must be committed to being a colleague of your partners," Martin said.

"I've had the chance to work with a number of Penn Law graduates and I would say uniformly I've felt that the people that come from Penn Law have a very strong commitment to the practice, to the firm, and to the collective interest…that's the way organizations should function. Keir is certainly at the top of a very good group of people, in my view. I'm delighted that he's done so well here, but there are others behind him and presumably we'll see more."

Frattone has noticed, however, that the newest generation of law students is more technologically dependent than ever before - a trait that is often attributed to Generation Y or those born after 1980. Many of the programs offered at the Career Planning and Professionalism office focus on getting students to put down their smartphones and engage in face-to-face communication.

Today's law students have access to a tremendous amount of information on the market and the practice of law, Frattone added. Frattone encourages students to utilize the information in thinking about their long term career goals and the skills necessary to achieve these goals.

By way of example, the Career Planning and Professionalism office brought employers and students together for a Speed Networking program in February. In eight minute intervals, students met with fifty practitioners to inquire about their areas of interest and their individual career paths. The goal, Frattone said, is to "get students to start thinking about the value of networking and how important those relationships are in long term career development."

"One positive by-product of this market is that students and recent graduates are strategically thinking about what their longer term goals are and how they are going to achieve them," she said. "This is a shift from years past."