As a field attorney in New York, Alejandro Ortiz works for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB enforces the National Labor Relations Act which grants private-sector workers the right to organize collectively to improve their working conditions. This is often done through formation of a union, but the law protects a broader range of worker activity, too, so long as it's done collectively and for the purpose of improving work conditions.
Tell us a little about your work. What do you do, and what might a “typical” work day look like?
In this role, I mainly investigate allegations of "unfair labor practices" against workers by employers and unions (e.g., firing a worker because of the worker's union activity), and prosecute employers and unions when necessary. I usually have 7-12 cases at any given time at various stages of investigation. My typical day begins with a large French-pressed coffee, followed by answering emails and phone calls and some legal research and report writing. I often have an affidavit scheduled, which is a half-day in-person interview where I assess allegations and write a sworn statement for the witness. Through collection of affidavits and documentary evidence from "charging parties" (often workers or unions) and "charged parties" (employers or unions), as well as non-party witnesses, I compile a report on my investigation. On the strength of that report, my boss decides either to dismiss the initial charge (filed by the worker) or issue a complaint against the employer or unions. If we issue complaint, then we begin an administrative trial, though that is rare.
How did Colorado Law help you in your job search?
I met with Career Development Office staff and faculty during and after law school to help with my job search. This included a judicial clerkship after law school and my current job with the NLRB. They critiqued my résumé and writing samples, gave me cover letter and interview tips, and referred to me contacts for informational interviews. All of these steps helped.
I then applied through the NLRB's Honors Attorney program, which I learned about on the NLRB website. I was told I was one of 500 applicants. Lucky for me, I had three contacts inside the New York City office who helped bring my résumé to the attention of the hiring manager. This helped me to get noticed and secure an interview.
Please talk a little about “people skills” and networking specifically. How has your professional network made a difference in your career?
I landed my current position because of help from inside the NYC NLRB office. I knew one employee there from when I was a volunteer law clerk in Puerto Rico after law school; another I met through a mutual friend in Denver when I was a law clerk; and the third—a high-level manager—went to law school with my father. I thus had three contacts, at varying degrees of familiarity, who helped shepherd my application through so I could get noticed and interview.
What advice would you give to current students with respect to finding a job?
Meet with the Career Development Office. Talk to your professors. Be friendly to everyone. Do not be shy about asking for advice, including referrals. Remember that most people get jobs through knowing someone.
If all else fails and you graduate without a job (as I did), try to volunteer for a judge, which is what I did. I moved in with my father (in Puerto Rico) and worked for a federal magistrate for a few months. That experience gave me a strong writing sample and reference and helped me land my first paid job out of law school—a federal clerkship with Judge Christine Arguello—which in turn helped me negotiate the Honors Program with the NLRB.