Arturo Thompson joined the College of Law in October 2019 as the newly appointed assistant dean of the Career Development Office (CDO). He arrived with a diverse skillset and unique experiences collected over an expansive professional life.
Thompson hails from the small town of Hereford, Arizona. He launched a career in marketing and communications in Tucson, where he ran a small ad agency with
a couple partners before later joining a multi-national software company based in Houston, Texas. The move allowed him to live in a market where his wife, Karen Ford Manza Thompson, could also pursue a career in nonprofit organizational development, After two years in Texas, Thompson was recruited by Jack Morton Worldwide which required a move to Chicago. That move was short-lived, after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 led to job reductions in the marketing industry. He found himself at a crossroads and decided to go back to school. Thompson first finished his undergraduate degree at Dominican University, a small school outside Chicago and then went to law school at the University of Kansas School of Law, where he graduated in 2006.
Thompson began his law career with a move back to Tucson where he practiced for five years before he was recruited by his alma matter to work as the assistant dean of the CDO at the University of Kansas. He developed programs there for nine years until he was hired by Dean Elizabeth Kronk Warner after a nationwide search.
Thompson has been working diligently to fulfill his vision for the CDO since starting his new position. CDO veterans Jaclyn Howell, Jim Holbrook and Heidi Smith round out Thompson’s team at ULaw. The group provide an array of services to law students preparing to enter the work world following graduation. “The College has extraordinary employment numbers,” Thompson noted, adding it is his foremost goal to see CDO becoming an integral part of student life.
Thompson aims to make CDO more connected with law students by engaging with them before they enter the building for their first year. Developing those relationships over the course of a student’s time in law school is essential, he said. Thompson has implemented that philosophy so far through developing deep and intense engagements with students by providing hour long one-on-one coaching sessions. In those meetings, Thompson works to identify a student’s core interest.
“Being a lawyer is really hard. Being in law school is really hard and to be able to identify the space and the kind of opportunity that students want, even if they have never thought of it or realized it, can make a huge difference in their success and happiness,” said Thompson.
So far the approach is paving the road for students’ success. Cambre Roberts, a third-year law student graduating with the Class of 2020, worked with Thompson to find career opportunities to match her interests earlier this year. Thompson worked hard to help Roberts find a fit to foster her interest in juvenile justice.
“When I started law school, I always had in my mind that I wanted to move out of Utah following graduation. However, in my third year, I ended up questioning whether I could actually make the move from my home state. Fortunately, I was able to seek out the help of the Career Development Office to work through what I really wanted career-wise,” said Roberts. “Not only did CDO send me to the Northwest Consortium Public Interest career fair, but that fair resulted in an offer for a dream job with the Metropolitan Public Defenders office in their juvenile division. Although it took a lot of time to make the decision, with the support of the career development office, and Arturo Thompson in particular, I was able to make one of the most exciting and life-changing decisions thus far, and can’t wait to make the move to Portland, Oregon in the fall.”
Thompson said he’s hopeful all students like Roberts have positive experiences with CDO. His mantra is to never book a meeting with a student for under an hour to provide adequate time to discuss goals and options.
“We will use the hour. I will ask big questions and never give straight answers. We do not want to insert our bias. I will give homework and then we will do more meetings to try to figure out what the student really wants, outside of the opinions of others. There are lots of reasons to do this, but the primary reason is to figure out what the student wants, what motivates them, what career will be the best fit and not just in their career, but also more broadly. This will make the hard days at work doable if they love what they are doing,” he said.
The second core focus for the CDO is to be customer-service oriented, Thompson said. Building relationships with alumni and employers in the community is at the top of his to-do list during his first year on the job.
A third goal will be to help students increase their professionalism. Thompson noted that the faculty do a phenomenal job of teaching students the technical skills of how to write and analyze, but that students need to leave the law school with a good understanding of how to act like a professional.
“We need to make sure we are producing students that know how to act like a professional in an office, in a courtroom, in the community, how to network and how to deal with the nervousness of that, how to dress and then help them understand the grace of correspondence. Sometimes a letter is more important that an email, sometimes a face to face over a voicemail,” said Thompson.
Thompson wants to engage with alumni and the broader legal community to advance the CDO’s mission. He hopes those with job openings will give the CDO a heads up and reach out to learn about potential recruits soon to be on the marketing following graduation.
SERVING MASTER OF LEGAL STUDIES STUDENTS
The second class of students of the College of Law’s Master of Legal Studies program is set to graduate this year, bring a new set of job placements for the CDO team.
Jaclyn Howell, associate director of CDO, is taking the lead for MLS alumni services.
The office will provide personalized outreach and individualized counseling, career-related programming, a specialized student/alumni job board, and a conscientious inclusion into the greater law school community.
“We formally invited each student to our office for a career “check-in.” Since most of these students have full-time jobs, we work with them at their convenience to explore career goals and identify the various ways the MLS degree can help them leverage advancement opportunities within their organizations and elsewhere,” said Howell, an MLS alumna who graduated in 2019. “While not every student will require assistance from the CDO, each of them should — at the very least — know who we are, what we do and how we can serve them as a member of the law school community.”