Assistant Dean for Career Services Melissa Lennon is the newest president of NALP, the National Association for Law Placement. We checked in with her to find out more about the role, how she got there, and what she plans to do during her tenure.
TLS: Congratulations, President Lennon! Can you share a bit of background about NALP and the role you’ll be filling for the next year?
ML: NALP is an association of over 2,500 legal career professionals who advise law students, lawyers, law offices, and law schools in North America and beyond.
What brings NALP members together is a common belief in three fundamental things. First, all law students and lawyers should benefit from a fair and ethical hiring process. Second, law students and lawyers are more successful when supported by professional development and legal career professionals. Third, a diverse and inclusive legal profession best serves clients and our communities. That’s why NALP members work together every day to collect and publish accurate legal employment data and information, and champion education and standards for recruiting, professional and career development, and diversity and inclusion. For more than forty years, NALP has played an essential role in the success of our members and the lawyers and law students they serve.
TLS: In your acceptance speech, you outlined your policy goals, among them a focus on lawyer and law student well-being. Why have you chosen this focus and what do you hope NALP can do to impact it?
ML: It couldn’t be more important, and it is time for wellness to be front and center in law firms and law schools. We cannot be successful if we are not well. The Report from the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being has made it clear that lawyers and law students demonstrate a high rate of mental health and substance abuse challenges – a situation that is exacerbated by the stigma about seeking help. This task force is designed to shine a spotlight on the problem of lawyer and law student wellness and will create a resource outlining various tactics for all members to use.
TLS: You also charged your fellow “NALPers” with re-imagining the entry level legal recruiting process – most commonly referred to as OCI. Why does the process need to be re-imagined and what changes do you think are possible?
ML: Isn’t it interesting – our industry has undergone fundamental change, yet the recruiting process big law firms use has not altered for decades. Most stakeholders would agree that the process is too compressed for thoughtful decision-making, qualified students are left behind, and we have not made lasting progress on diversity and inclusion. I am confident we can identify strategies to innovate, and am hopeful schools and firms will take some chances to improve.
It is time for wellness to be front and center in law firms and law schools. We cannot be successful if we are not well. ~ Assistant Dean Melissa Lennon
TLS: Your acceptance speech was profoundly personal, and in it you shared your journey into NALP leadership as well as your conviction that anything is possible. How has this conviction helped you in your professional life and what do you think it holds for law students and young lawyers today?
ML: Well, I haven’t always owned that conviction, but have grown into it over time. I have been helped in my professional life by slowly but surely taking more risks and pushing outside what comes naturally and comfortably. Getting my Executive MBA at Temple was also part of this journey. There is a lot of content in the MBA program that does not come naturally to an English major trained as a lawyer! NALP as a professional organization is tremendously welcoming and open to volunteers. The organization gave me many opportunities to discover what leadership qualities were possible within myself.
TLS: Finally, you mentioned Philadelphia’s well-documented inferiority complex. What message have you carried, or will you carry, to your fellow NALPers about what makes Philadelphia – and Temple – great?
ML: We have to get better at the humble brag around here. The neighborhoods, the food, the sports, the arts – Philadelphia is deep and rich and truly wondrous. Temple is part of Philadelphia’s greatness, and is woven into the fabric of the city. Regarding the law school in particular, as I travel for NALP, people have noted our rise in U.S. News and our all-time-high employment percentage. They ask about the reasons for this trend, and for me this is simple. Temple Law School students are great. They are diverse, passionate, smart, and committed. It is an honor to be NALP’s president this year, and a special part of that is the opportunity I have to continue to promote the law school and our students nation-wide.