Interviewee: Dixie Miller
Interviewer: Elizabeth Cruz
Date: July 22, 1987
C: This is an interview with Dixie Miller, Director of the Center for Professional
Career Planning. My name is Elizabeth Cruz and I will be conducting this
interview with Ms. Miller today, Wednesday, July 22, 1987, at the Holland Law
Center on the University of Florida campus. Ms. Miller, I would like to thank you
for being here and for spending your time, I know you have a very busy
schedule. I would first like to have a brief history. Where were you born?
M: I was born in a small town in Sumter County, Florida probably no one has ever
heard of. I was raised in a small town between Gainesville and Ocala called
C: In what year were you born?
M: I was born in 1946.
C: Where did you attend high school?
M: I went to a small high school. The name at the time was Reddick High School.
It is now known as North Marion High School, but it, too, is a small high school.
There were only fifty-five people in my high school graduating class. They had
actually consolidated the school the year before, otherwise I would have had
twenty-five people in my high school class.
C: Where was your high school located?
M: In Reddick, Florida.
C: Where did you attend college?
M: I attended the University of Florida.
C: I understand that between 1974 and 1976 you were in the Personnel Division
here at the University of Florida.
M: That is right.
C: What were your responsibilities there?
M: When I first began with the University after having graduated from the University
of Florida, I worked in a training and development division which was responsible
for interpreting policies and procedures of the University. I worked on training
programs for new employees and regular employees, and I conducted orientation
workshops and things like that. Then I was transferred to Central Employment
where I interviewed applicants and referred them out for employment to the
various departments of the University.
C: How did you become interested in the Center for Professional Career Planning?
M: One of the positions that I was helping to fill at the University was for the position
that I am now in; a friend of mine encouraged me to apply for it. I did, and was
offered the position here at the University of Florida College of Law and have
been here ever since.
C: What is the Center for Professional Career Planning all about?
M: We help students to find positions; we help the law firms to fill their positions.
So it is a matter of counseling students, coordinating the on-campus interview
program, other job listings, alumni placement bulletins, and things like that.
C: Tell me some of the history of the placement program at the University of Florida.
M: Prior to my being the placement director here, the position was handled by an
assistant dean of the law school who had other responsibilities besides
placement. I believe he probably even taught some law school classes. Then it
was determined that they needed someone to do placement on a full-time basis,
and I was hired to do that. Back then, of course, the operations were not nearly
as large as they are today. My first year at the law school for example, I believe
we had probably forty-five or so on-campus interviews compared to these days
when we may have more like 300 on-campus interviews scheduled. Also, the
students did not utilize the office nearly to the extent that they do today, so the
operation has grown over the years.
C: Do you know when this program was started?
M: There has always been someone, I am sure, doing placement, but the first
full-time placement director was hired in 1976. That is when I started working
C: What is the need for such a program?
M: To coordinate the hiring needs of the employers who want to hire students and to
counsel the students on ways to go about finding employment.
C: Tell me about the placement director who preceded you.
M: The only placement director that I am aware of was an individual who was also
an assistant dean who had other responsibilities, and placement was just one of
his functions. I do not know who was here prior to that individual.
C: What services are offered by this program?
M: We have a number of services that we offer. First of all, counseling services are
available to the students. I do both personal counseling and assisting the
students in preparing their resumes and writing cover letters. We sponsor
various programs during the year. We will have experts in specific fields come
in and talk with the students perhaps about the type of law they specialized in.
Or maybe they will come on campus and talk to them about what it takes to be
successful at getting a job. There are just any number of different programs that
vary from year to year. Probably the most obvious of the services that we
provide is that of coordinating the on-campus interview program. As I said, we
will schedule about 300 on-campus interviews in a given year. We will collect
the resumes of the students who are interested in applying for the positions, mail
them out to the prospective employers, and then schedule the student interviews
C: What is the on-campus interview process all about?
M: This office serves really more as a clearing house for students and employers.
We just provide the forum by which we make it easy for students to be
interviewed and employers to come here and interview the students.
C: Who comes to interview the students?
M: Primarily the employers who come on this campus to recruit will be members of
law firms, although we also have government agencies and maybe a few
corporations, state attorneys, public defenders, and legal aid officers. The
majority of those who come here are associated with private law firms.
C: What are the employers looking for in the students?
M: Well, they all want to have people who are bright, personable, and highly
motivated. They are all pretty much looking for the same sort of thing in a
person. Many of the employers who come on campus tend to place a lot of
emphasis on high academic qualifications. The smaller law firms often prefer to
hire someone who has been recommended by someone else, rather than spend
his time and money to come here on campus to interview. While we do have
firms of all sizes that recruit here, the majority are probably the larger law firms
who have a lot of money to spend on recruitment.
C: What are the students looking for in the jobs?
M: It depends on the type of law that they have determined they want to go into.
Naturally, most of them are looking for jobs that offer the potential of making a lot
of money. Most of the students are highly motivated and therefore they want a
job that will be a challenge to them. They want a job that will pay them well.
But then there are other students who are more interested in a different type of
legal employment, such as programs working in a legal aid office or helping the
poor with legal problems. So it depends on exactly what he or she is looking for
in a job. They vary according to what they are looking for.
C: How many students actually find jobs immediately after graduation?
M: It depends on how you look at it. We do two surveys a year. The first survey
we take at graduation to determine what percentage of the students have jobs at
that time. We also do a follow-up survey which is taken three months after the
Bar results are released to determine what percentage of the students have been
placed at that time. The reason we do the two separate surveys is because
many legal employers cannot or will not hire a law school graduate until he or
she has passed the Bar. Therefore, for some students bar membership is a
necessity before finding employment. So we do the survey three months after
the bar results in order to give the students a chance to conduct a job search
once the student has become a member of the bar.
C: How tough is the competition for jobs?
M: It depends on what the student is looking for. If the student wants a job with a
big prestigious law firm that pays a lot of money, the competition is very intense.
For the most part, those law firms will not only recruit at this law school, but they
may go to other law schools to recruit as well. So the student is not only
competing with his or her classmates, but with students at other law schools as
well. Many of the law firms only want to talk to people who are in the top ten or
twenty percent of the class. So competition for those jobs is very intense.
Competition for positions in smaller and medium-sized law firms is not
necessarily as intense, but those employers are more difficult to locate. Again,
they do not necessarily come on this campus to recruit, they sort of sit down and
wait for a student to go to them. Those firms do not usually pay as much money
as the large firms do. The financial reward is not as large in the smaller or
medium law firms.
C: How do you help students prepare for interviews, prepare resumes, and find
M: Well, we have a number of services that we provide. We have handbooks which
tell them how to prepare resumes as well as how to interview effectively. In
addition to that, I will set up an appointment for students for private counseling
and help with their resumes. We also have workshops where we have
employers come to tell the students what they look for in an applicant. We also
will do videotaped mock interviews for a student who feels he is having trouble in
his interview or is just concerned about how he is going to come across.
C: How are women and minorities doing in the job market?
M: First, I will address the subject of women. I would have to say that they are
doing as well as anyone, especially where the larger firms are concerned. Many
of our female students are highly qualified. I think the type of woman that comes
to law school probably is a very highly motivated student. Therefore, if she
comes to law school, she is probably going to work hard and do very, very well,
and so she is extremely competitive in the marketplace, especially where the
larger firms are concerned. Probably the majority of our minority students will
accept jobs with the government for the simple reason that they do still to some
extent have trouble finding employment with private law firms. They can find
employment, but it may not necessarily be the exact employment that they would
C: Is the Center helping minorities to find the jobs they want?
M: We attempt to help them, but we cannot tell law firms whom they have to hire.
We do have several programs set up specifically for minority students. For
example, beginning next year there is going to be a Southeastern Minority
Students Job Fair in Atlanta. At that job fair we hope to attract some of the
larger firms across the nation to come and at least interview our minority
students. Then from time to time we have had special programs dealing with
problems that minority students encounter in the interviewing process. I think
that where the larger firms are concerned at least, it is not that they do not like to
hire minority students. They feel the student, regardless of whether they are
minority or non-minority, has to have a certain academic standing before being
considered by the employer. If a minority applicant has the same kind of
qualification that the firm is seeking, then I do not think that that applicant has too
much trouble. It is a matter of having the academic standing that the firm
C: What kinds of jobs are there available to law students?
M: Well, in addition to private practice, there are positions with the government at
the state, federal, and local level. A large percentage of our students will go to
work as assistant state attorneys or assistant public defenders. Here in Florida
we do not have as many opportunities in the corporate field, because we do not
have that many corporations with large, in-house legal departments. The
majority of our students do prefer to stay in the state, so when I talk about
opportunities, I talk from the viewpoint that most of our students are looking for
jobs in Florida. There are other opportunities. A lot of our students will accept
judicial clerkships--that is they will clerk for a judge, either a state or a federal
judge, for one or two years after graduating from law school. That is considered
to be a good stepping stone into other opportunities. I am looking at this list
here from our recent placement statistics, and the majority do go into private
practice. Sixty-eight percent from the most recent graduating class went into
private practice with law firms.
C: What are the salary ranges?
M: The ranges are quite extreme. From last year's graduates, we had our ranges
probably anywhere from $17,000 as an assistant state attorney up to $55,000
with a private law firm in Miami or in Washington D.C. or one of the other major
metropolitan areas. So, as you can see, there is quite a range.
C: Could you tell me, what is your involvement with the National Association for Law
M: The National Association for Law Placement is an organization of which all
schools are members that is all accredited law schools. It is an organization
that is set up to provide information to make our jobs a little bit easier. It is an
excellent organization and I have been involved, of course, in starting it here at
the law school. In the past, I have been very active in helping out on numerous
projects. I guess the two biggest projects that I have taken on during my time
here at the law school were, first, I was the coordinator of one of our national
conferences which was held at the Don Cesar in St. Petersburg Beach. We
probably had 500 people or so that attended that. I was responsible for
speakers at the program and for coordinating all of the events of the conference.
I also was regional coordinator for the Southeast one year. Part of my
responsibility in that position was to coordinate the southeast regional meeting of
the National Association for Law Placement. Sometimes I helped out with other
projects such as surveys and special projects that the organization has taken on.
C: So what does the organization really do?
M: Their primary purpose is to provide information to placement offices and legal
employers so we are not all duplicating efforts.
C: How early do law students need to begin preparing to enter the job market?
M: If a person has decided to go to law school or is thinking about going to law
school and is really on his toes, he will probably give me a call before making the
decision to enter law school. That is to find out what the job market is like and
what will be necessary in order to get whatever kind of job he or she expects to
get. For example, I will get calls from a lot of older students who are wondering
whether or not to give up successful careers to come back to law school. In a
case like that, the student is very wise to check and see whether or not there is
an opportunity out there. For example, I received a call yesterday from an
engineering student who was trying to decide whether or not to come to law
school. So if a student has any questions whatsoever of whether or not there
are the opportunities that he or she expects, he will probably call me at that point
in time. As far as actually becoming involved in finding a position, while the
student does not need to start looking for that position until the beginning of his
second year in law school, the student does need to be aware of the fact that the
whole process of attending law school and eventually finding a job requires a lot
of involvement so as to be qualified and be competitive with other students. So
it is not just a simple matter of going to law school and getting a law degree and
getting out and getting a good job, the student must have always demonstrated
that he is motivated, that he is an involved type of person and has participated in
various law school activities that will in some way set him apart from the rest of
the students that he will eventually have to compete with. Most students these
days do clerking for law firms, whether at a private law firm or a government
agency or corporation after the second year in law school. If the student intends
to do that, then the interviewing process will really begin for that student at the
beginning of the second year of law school.
C: What do you do for your students once they are out of the program?
M: We maintain an alumni mailing list. Right now we probably have around 300
alumni on it. We publish a monthly alumni placement bulletin which is sent to all
of those graduates who are on our mailing list. It lists all positions which
graduates will be qualified for and interested in. It is currently about a
twenty-page publication, and so it is quite an extensive list of opportunities
available to graduates.
C: If you had something that you could say to the students that you work with, what
would you tell them, or give them advice on?
M: First of all, a lot of students go to law school and are disappointed when they
graduate with the type of employment they are able to obtain based on their
qualifications. A student needs to have realistic expectations of what he can
expect when he graduates from law school. Not every law student will be able
to go to work for a large firm and make $55,000 a year. I believe that an
applicant needs to know before making the decision to come to law school that
there are limits to what he will be able to do with his degree. That is not to say
that the graduate will not someday be able to acquire fame and fortune, but it
may not be an immediate gratification, it may take a while. It may take the
student's being out of here and making a name for himself before he will be able
to have the kind of job that he expected to have when he started law school.
Also, I think the students need to know what the practice of law is all about. I
think a lot of people enter the profession and then are not happy with it, because
they did not quite know what to expect. That is not something that they learn in
law school, so my advice would be to talk to people who are out there who are
practicing law before you make a decision to attend law school, so that you can
decide if it is right for you.
C: Have some students dropped out of law school after being in it?
M: Sure, a few drop out, but naturally the majority go ahead and graduate. A lot of
students will decide that they do not want to enter the practice of law. After
completing three years of law school, they may have decided at that point that it
really is not right for them, and so they do not have to seek a job in the legal
profession. The law degree is valuable in other types of professions, but they
may not actually be able to utilize that law degree in the sense that they will get
when they go out there and practice law. They may decide that it is just not right
C: Is there anything that you would like to add which you think is important?
M: Where this office is concerned, probably what is most interesting is the
importance that career placement has taken on in just the time that I have been
here, which is now about eleven years. When I first started working here, as I
mentioned to you previously, we only had around forty-eight on-campus
interviews for the year. Out of the student body of 1000, we may have only had
100 students who had been utilizing the office. Today, however, the whole idea
of legal recruitment has taken on such great dimension that we now have 300
recruiters coming on this campus. We probably have out of a student body of
1000, 650 registered as using my office in the fall. That has happened for
several reasons. First, as the years have gone by, the services of this office
have expanded, and I believe the students have learned that by coming here
they can get some useful information and help in getting out and finding a job.
So more students are using the office.
Also, the University of Florida has become a highly reputable law school,
and as each year goes by its reputation has increased that much more.
Therefore, the recruiters that are here on campus are not just local recruiters -
that is they are not just Florida law firms, but they are law firms from all over the
country. For example, this fall coming up  we have forty Atlanta law firms
scheduled for interviews here. I think eleven years ago we may have had two or
three Atlanta law firms. Because the economy is good here and the job market
is very strong, we have national law firms that have opened up branch offices in
Florida, so most of the major national law firms now recruit at Florida. They may
be recruiting primarily for their local law office, but nevertheless it is helping the
University of Florida College of Law, because we are now being recognized
outside the state of Florida by those national law firms that have branch offices
here. So this has all helped the reputation of the College of Law.
I wanted to add that the placement program has grown dramatically over
the years. There was a time, for example, when the sole function of the
placement office was just to put a few notices up on the board for students
indicating that an employer was looking for somebody, but there was no
counseling, and there certainly was not the on-campus treatment program the
way it exists today. I do not believe they published an alumni placement bulletin.
We have alumni out there who have volunteered to act as advisers to the
students seeking jobs; either advising them according to their particular
specialization in law or maybe the geographic area where they practice. We
have a telephone answering service where students can call in to get recent job
listings that have come into the office. Again, we have sponsored a lot of
programs during the year that help to teach students how to be more effective in
the interviewing process. We have job fairs that we schedule in other cities.
For example, we participated in the Young Lawyers Job Fair, which is held every
year in conjunction with the mid-year meeting of the Florida bar. Last year we
started an off-campus recruitment program in Washington, D.C., where we take
our students to be interviewed by law firms and government agencies there. So
there is just a lot going on that did not go on in the past. Every year that goes by
we come up with something additional to do. So, off the top of my head, those
are the types of programs that are coming to mind, but there are other things that
we do as well. Most of these programs are set up in a manner which will help
the students make decisions. We do not make decisions for the students, we
just provide them with the information so that they can make their own decisions.
C: How many students do you usually take out of Florida to get interviewed?
M: For the off-campus program in Washington, D.C., last year was the first year of
the program, and we took about twenty students. Most of the employers who
participated in the program were the large, private law firms. As such, they had
extremely high requirements and were only interested in the students who were
in the top ten percent of the class. I would have been able to take fifty students
had I had fifty students who met the qualifications, but limitations were based on
whether or not the applicant met the firms' requirements. There is quite a bit of
interest in Washington, D.C., and a lot of the students are also interested in New
York. But for the most part, our students either want to stay in Florida or at least
in the southeast, mainly Atlanta, Georgia.
C: Is there a big law market in New York?
M: Yes, but it is extremely competitive there as well as in Washington, because
students from all over the country would like to go to those cities. It is more
competitive there, and even in Kansas City for that matter, than it will be, say for
example in Tampa or Miami. Most employers will either hire on a regional basis
or they will hire from, say the top ten law schools in the nation. While our school
is an excellent law school, it is not necessarily well-known outside the state of
Florida. Therefore, we are just now beginning to be known outside the state,
and as I said, the influx of large law firms that have branch offices in Florida is
helping us to gain a reputation. In the past we were not that well-known, since
the majority of our graduates prefer to stay here in Florida.
C: How many students that you took to Washington got jobs?
M: Well, out of the ones who went last year, I believe five students received job
offers. I do not know if they necessarily accepted, but they did receive job
C: Well, I think we have covered just about all the bases. I would like to thank you
very much for this.
M: It was my pleasure.
[End of the interview]