Defining career and professionalism

Students were waiting to meet Kristine D. Bridges to review plans to help them as they pursue a law degree.
Bridges, University of Tulsa College of Law assistant dean and director of professional development, is working with these future attorneys so they have a more clearly defined career path following graduation.
‘‘My main goal is to elevate the professionalism of law school graduates and create relationships with alumni,’’ she said. ‘‘I also am working with students as they develop those soft skills as attorneys.’’
Soft skills defined by Bridges are the ability to network and develop relationships among students, business professionals or attorneys they meet.
Professionalism also means learning through this interaction how to deal with clients.
An attorney never knows what a client’s mental state might be when contacted for legal services.
Attorneys need to know how to handle a client, give complete legal advice and move forward.
Generation gaps are found in the legal profession because many students text each other while their older counterparts do not use the technology and deflect those skills to others. That generation gap also applies to the courts because judges often do not personally check emails.
On campus she will be creating more programs for attorneys that will involve the community.
A professional development day began last year and she plans to continue that tradition that will help build more off campus opportunities that will mean opportunities for students.
A career fair is planned in March 2010 with the University of Oklahoma College of Law and Oklahoma City University College of Law. The event will be in March in Oklahoma City.
Bridges will be representing the face of the law school when talking about employment for students.
Bridges wants students to go online to upload resumes and check on jobs.
The drawback is students don’t come to her office to talk about opportunities and challenges within the profession.
‘‘I am trying to match students and alumni, getting both parties together with the skills needed in a law practice,’’ she said. ‘‘About half the TU law students come from out-of-state. Many will return to their home communities after graduate, but some like Tulsa and stay. That is where balancing relationships is important.’’
Dean Janet Levit has been talking with Tulsa firms encouraging them to use local graduates first as they look at applications from negatively economically impacted areas.
Bridges will be developing more contacts in Washington, D.C., St. Louis and Dallas.
She was surprised to learn that about one-third of the attorneys working in Washington, D.C. are TU law school graduates.
As a result, she endeavors to establish and maintain contacts with those alums, reminding them of their roots while exploring the employment possibilities for graduates.
This type of work is familiar to Bridges who earned an undergraduate degree in communications. Before becoming an attorney she worked for a non profit organization.
After law school she got involved in a litigation practice and ‘‘loved it.’’
Bridges brings practical experience to the post because she has six years experience as an attorney.
She graduated from Baylor Law School in 2003, had her own practice, then worked with a large law firm.
As a solo practitioner, she did a lot of family law. As a member of a law firm, she represented some Fortune 500 companies.
As a law student, she worked in a clinical practice at the Barton Child Law Clinic at Emory Law School.
Other work included clerking for a federal magistrate.
It was that work that helped Bridges understand more deeply the importance of preparing students to be professional and understanding its relationship in representing clients.
Bridges was attracted to the TU position and Tulsa since it keeps her family — husband and two daughters — close to relatives. Tulsa also is a good mix between Waco and Dallas where she was raised.
As she welcomed a student into her office, she took another step towards helping a student take another step on the career path and become a qualified candidate in the future job market.

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