How I Got My Job: Focus on Two 2010 Graduates with Non-Law Firm Jobs


Raquel Myers (Research Health Science Specialist with the VA)

Where will you be working after you graduate and what will you be doing?

I am working with the Veterans Administration here in Salt Lake City as a Research Health Science Specialist with the VINCI program. My job is to preserve HIPPA and Veteran patient privacy while allowing researchers to access authorized national VA data. I also manage the VINCI Service Desk.

When and how did you first make contact with your employer?

I applied for the job via in late December 2010.

How did you get the job?

I searched, applied, once the Federal HR processed me, they forwarded my  application material to the local VA center and someone here called me for an interview.

What kinds of things do you think helped you land you job?  Experience in law school, something else?

This is not a legal job. A JD was not a requirement for the position, although I do deal with HIPPA. I did not go to law school to be a traditional lawyer. I was conducting health policy evaluation before law school, and it made sense to me to get a JD instead of just doing a 2-year post-doc with someone who was doing health law research. I came from a public health/research background and it was those skills that helped me get this position. I deal with a lot of health data at my current position, so knowledge of medical records, medical terminology, epidemiology, statistical applications (SAS, Stata, SQL, etc), and the research process helped me get this job.

What tips do you have for students who are job seeking?

Apply to everything that is available even if you do not meet 100% of the criteria. The worse that can happen is that they don’t call you. If all else fails, volunteer! In the past, doing that has gotten me in the door and subsequent job offers.


Jonathan Koerner (In-House Investment Counsel, Utah Retirement Systems)

Where are you working now that you have graduated and what are you doing?

I stayed with Utah Retirement Systems (“URS”), who I worked for during law school. Upon passing the bar, URS created an in-house investment counsel position for me.

URS is an independent state agency charged that manages $24 billion reserved to pay the pensions and retirement benefits of 185,000 state and local employees within Utah. As investment counsel, I facilitate the investment transactions of the investment department. This includes working with outside counsel to negotiate deals and investment management contracts with money managers across the world and in all asset classes – including equity, fixed income, private equity, real estate, and absolute return (such as hedge funds). Each deal is typically $50 million or more.

In the wake of the Dodd-Frank Act and related regulatory reform, I have also been researching new rules proposed by the SEC and CFTC and corresponded with their various departments to provide comments and feedback prior to rule finalization.

When and how did you first make contact with your employer? 

After my first year at SJQ, I spent a year in the MBA program at the business school. I received a business school email notification of an information session being held by URS, who was looking for an investment analyst intern. I attended the session, developed immediate interest, and made it a point to speak with the URS analysts presenting that day. I mentioned that I was a joint-degree JD/MBA student with much interest (and some experience) in financial markets.

How did you get the job?

As it turned out, the legal negotiation and deal process had been a consistent bottleneck for URS. They hadn’t considered adding someone with legal experience prior to meeting me at the information session, but afterwards realized that an investment intern with some legal training could improve their process with outside counsel. After two successful interviews, I was offered a six-month internship as an investment analyst with some legal liaising duties on the side.

I quickly discovered that I could create value in URS’ process by increasing internal control of legal issues and consistency in negotiations – as well as decrease negotiation time. When the six-month internship ended, I discussed full-time options with the Chief Investment Officer, who helped create a full-time investment analyst & contract specialist position. While I had to scale back a bit with school, URS worked with my schedule. Within another year, the position became purely legal.

Upon graduation from the JD/MBA program in 2010, I prepared a cost-benefit analysis of me staying versus complete outsourcing, along with a long list of benefits of in-house legal management. URS had never had a staff attorney and it was unclear whether URS would create a position for me as I continued to progress in my career. After URS looked at my proposal, we agreed on a fair salary and here I am.

What kinds of things do you think helped you land you job?  Experience in law school, something else?

Diversification of skill, experience and interest. I was passionate about what I wanted to do and I could do it for URS. I continued to build skills in my areas of interest. I stood out for those reasons. Then, with a foot in the door, I created value for URS and when appropriate, pointed out the value in a quantifiable way.

What tips do you have for students who are job seeking?

The foot in the door is the hardest part, I know. Start with an internship, contract work, or whatever you can get. Start now. Start here.

Diversify yourself. Don’t just be a good or great student – there are plenty of great students. Be unique; offer your employer something that only you – or very few – can bring. I was not in the top ten percentile of my class… or twenty… or thirty….

The most any employer can wish for is that you add value. Remember that you’re never worth more to an employer than the value you create. Improve process. Reduce inefficiencies. Be creative. Cross borders. If you approach your career with the attitude of “what value can I create?” as opposed to worrying about what you can get from a job in terms of promotion or salary, you will always have opportunities to choose from because they will come to you. Creating value takes creativity and constant attention.

Networking can be useful, but don’t expect anything without first building a strong reputation of creating value… creatively.