Professional Development News
Debt relief specialist shares tips with Brandeis Law students
Brandon Hanson, student debt specialist with Equal Justice Works, visited the Brandeis School of Law March 20, 2018, to speak about managing student loan debt and earning forgiveness.
His presentation was sponsored by Brandeis Law's Office of Professional Development and Equal Justice Works, a nonprofit organization dedicated to mobilizing the next generation of lawyers committed to equal justice. Part of the organization's work involves educating law students across the country about earning debt forgiveness through public service work.
Louisville entrepreneur, real estate developer Gill Holland talks the value of a law degree
Trying to pin down Gill Holland's job title is tricky.
He's a film producer, record label founder, sustainable real estate developer and community builder. He also has a law degree — from the University of North Carolina School of Law — and he credits his legal education with helping him explore a variety of opportunities.
He visited the Brandeis School of Law on Jan. 31, 2018, to speak with students about his career and the many ways a law degree can open doors.
After graduating from law school, Holland spent just 15 months at a law firm before deciding to pursue a career in film. He has now produced more than 100 films, including several award-winners and several that have been shown at the Sundance Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival.
Holland came to Louisville via his now-wife, who is from the city. Before his arrival, he didn't know much about Louisville, but he has learned that it is full of talent and opportunity with a rich history of independent thinkers.
"Jennifer Lawrence, Muhammad Ali, Hunter S. Thompson, Thomas Merton and Louis Brandeis — all independent thinkers," he says.
Once he settled in Louisville, Holland and his wife bought what is now The Green Building and developed it into the first commercial building in Louisville to have a Platinum LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. With the renovation of The Green Building, Holland became more involved with the neighborhood association and eventually helped rejuvenate what is now the NuLu neighborhood, a destination for restaurants, shops and real estate.
"Sometimes it takes an outside perspective," he says.
Holland is now working to revitalize Louisville's Portland neighborhood, a historic district in West Louisville that has seen crime, poverty and vacant buildings in recent decades. He credits the University of Louisville for its plans to move its MFA program to a renovated Portland warehouse in 2018.
"The pre-eminent higher education institution in the Commonwealth of Kentucky is moving west of Ninth Street," he says. "It's great leadership."
As for how his law degree has helped in his many career paths, he sees it as a way to open doors.
"The great thing about having a law degree is that people think you're smart. It is a very well-respected degree and you can parlay it in many ways. It is only a win."
And as a practical matter, Holland's legal education has come in handy too: "I still do contracts every day," he says, noting that ironically, contracts was his worst grade in law school. "I still do law every day — and I save lots of many for my businesses."
Holland's visit was arranged by the law school's Office of Professional Development, which often brings in guest speakers to talk with students about career paths. It was co-sponsored by Brandeis Law's the Sports & Entertainment Law Society and the Business Law Society.
Workers' rights conference is 'amazing experience' for Brandeis Law student
As a first-year law student, Chad Eisenback has two and a half more years of legal education ahead of him. But he's already experienced something he says will be hard to top — in October 2017, he attended the Peggy Browning Fund's National Law Students Workers' Rights Conference.
“It was one of the best, most amazing experiences I’ve had in education in general," Eisenback says.
The conference, which promotes itself as a chance for law students to gain "insight into becoming an advocate for workers and their families," had a personal tug for Eisenback. As an employee at a local manufacturing company, he is a member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has more than 2 million members.
Eisenback, who has been a union steward for two years, had a chance to meet one of SEIU's attorneys, who was moderating a panel discussion about graduate student union organizing.
You could say that unions are in Eisenback's blood. His parents are retired from law enforcement, and he is a lifetime beneficiary of their specialized union, the FOP.
He has his parents' careers to thank, in part, for his decision to pursue a law degree. Growing up, he had only one option for attending take-your-child-to-work days: the police department. When he was about 10 years old, he accompanied his mother to the courthouse.
“I remember meeting a particular attorney. He always wears flashy suits. Even though I didn’t know his name or know exactly what an attorney was at the time, it was the feeling of meeting a celebrity or a role model," Eisenback says. "I knew that I had ultimate respect for him and what he does. I want someone to be able to look at me one day as able to do what he does — ultimately, have a voice for the vulnerable.”
It's that mission of being a voice for the voiceless that motivates Eisenback's interest in labor and employment law.
“As far as labor law goes, I’ve seen the results of negative outcomes when an employee’s rights are being taken away or infringed upon and how much of a detriment that is on somebody that is struggling week to week. And they can’t do anything because they don’t have the resources available to them like the employer does," he says. "On the labor side, typically it feels like it’s an uphill battle. Ultimately, the company has the financial resources, the best attorneys. You’re going up against that.”
Eisenback credits Brandeis Law's Office of Professional Development for helping him apply for the conference and Professor Ariana Levinson for providing him with resources and contacts once he was selected. He also credits his wife, who cares for their two children as he works and attends law school.
Brandeis Law students mingle with local lawyers thanks to mentoring program at Frost
Brandeis Law students mingled with local lawyers at the LCLD networking event at Frost Brown Todd Nov. 9, 2017.
Several Brandeis Law students had the chance to mingle with local practitioners at an event organized by Frost Brown Todd Nov. 9, 2017.
The firm runs a Leadership Council on Legal Diversity mentoring program for diverse students at Brandeis Law. The program targets first-year law students, but students are encouraged to get involved at any stage in their law school careers.
Students are paired with a lawyer mentor for an academic year. Mentors can offer advice on resumes or interview skills as well as introduce students to other lawyers in town or even provide insight on maintaining a work-life balance.
"The great thing about the program is that students can get out of it what they want out of it," said Sara Abner, a partner at the firm who is co-chair of its sub-committee on mentoring. Abner is also a graduate of the Brandeis School of Law (1990).
In addition to the one-on-one mentoring, the program offers students a chance to participate in group networking and professional development events.
The LCLD's mentoring program operates in more than 30 cities across the country. At Frost, the program comprises 22 attorneys for the 2017-18 academic year — 17 from the firm and five from GE Appliances' in-house counsel team.
The mentoring program is one way to hep foster a diverse legal field, a goal that Abner holds dear.
"It's really important to have the perspective from all different groups of people in the practice of law," she said. "It lends to the practice of law, it betters our society, it enhances everybody."
Abner noted that the program's definition of diversity is broad and encouraged law students who may face obstacles of many kinds to learn more.
To learn more or get involved in the program, email Abner or Frost attorney Rebecca Ragland.
3L gains practical experience at pro se divorce clinic
Cyndi Magruder started working in the Louisville Bar Assocation's pro se divorce clinic as a first-year student at Brandeis Law mostly to help satisfy the school's 30-hour service requirement.
But now, as a 3L, she's still involved with the clinic, and she says it's brought her more than she expected.
For starters, she's gained the practical skill of learning how to perform a divorce. Because the clients at the clinic are representing themselves, Magruder and the clinic's attorney volunteers don't offer legal advice but instead inform clients of their options and provide assistance in completing paperwork.
"It's a skill. In Family Law, they don't teach you how to do divorces," Magruder says. "Every attorney needs to see this and experience this because it's real life. It's people trying to navigate this convoluted process on a real level."
Magruder, who has a background in social work and also works at the law school's Ackerson Clinic, already has experience working with people from all backgrounds. But for law students who need practice working with a variety of clients, Magruder says the divorce clinic is a great option.
The clinic, which began in 2007, is open about two mornings a month and serves about 20 clients per session. It's located at the Jefferson County Judicial Center. Magruder's frequency at that location has also been beneficial to her in a practical way: She knows the best parking spaces, has built relationships with the clerks and knows her way around the building. All that is valuable information that will serve her well when she eventually begins her practice in Louisville.
Students interested in volunteering at the clinic should contact Lea Hardwick, the LBA's pro bono/public service director.
Brandeis Law 3L spends summer in immigration office of Department of Justice
Rising Brandeis Law 3L Marianna Michael was driving home after a final exam review and stressing about the end of the semester when she got a phone call that set the course for her summer.
The person on the other end of the call was offering Michael a position with the Department of Justice’s Summer Law Intern Program.
Michael accepted, of course, and began preparing to spend the summer in Washington, D.C. She didn’t know much about where she’d work or what she would be doing, but when she arrived, she learned she would be interning in the DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review in the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer.
The office’s work is rooted in the Immigration and Nationality Act, sections 274A and 274B.
“The office is composed of an administrative law judge and his clerk, but it’s also composed of the chief administrative hearing officer and her counsel,” Michael says. “I got to work with both the clerk and the counsel. I got a lot of experience in both policy work and regular law work. I got to write orders and memos and motions and I was able to listen to pre-hearing conference calls and really see what the clerk experience was like. My last assignment was to write a decision, so I got that experience, which was very helpful.
“On the counsel to the chief administrative hearing officer side, it was a lot of policy work, really focusing on internal issues that may arise and essentially being proactive about things that may happen in the future,” she says. “I thought it was really interesting to see how they planned and to see how they made sure they were in line.”
Michael came to law school with the dream of practicing immigration law, and she’s a fellow with the Brandeis Human Rights Advocacy Program, which advocates for the rights of immigrants, noncitizens and refugees.
When she applied for the internship, President Obama was in office. By the time she accepted, President Trump had been elected. With the change in administration and expected changes to immigration policy, Michael wasn’t sure the work she would be doing that summer would align with her values.
“I was a little bit nervous about what I’d be doing. But then once I learned what I would be doing I was much more comfortable,” she says. “I was working in immigration-related employment cases. It was very code-based.”
That tie to employment law touched on another of Michael’s interests.
“I worked at private law firm last summer and fell in love with employment law,” she says. “This summer was just a really beautiful blending of both of the subject matters that I’m interested in.”
As for the government work, Michael surprised herself with how much she enjoyed it and would now consider pursuing a career in the government.
“I really like the pace. They can really take the time and make sure they got the right answer. The pressure was alleviated a little bit,” she says. “They’re doing work that they love and they know they’re doing it well.”
Michael encourages other Brandeis students to apply for summer jobs in larger markets. Even if the opportunity seems far-fetched, she has found that employers appreciate the perspective that a smaller school like Brandeis can offer.
And she encourages Brandeis students to work with the law school’s Office of Professional Development. From alerting her about the intern program to guiding her through the application process, she credits the office with helping her land the position.
“They put me in contact with people who worked with the DOJ. It was such a great experience. My fellow classmates and I were skeptical to apply because there are so few opportunities within the program, but it’s possible. I’m proof of that.
“I think I’ve gotten the best legal experience that I’ve had in my whole law school career.”
Brandeis Law 2L pushes her boundaries during rural-focused fellowship
Sue Eng Ly wanted to spend her summer working outside of her comfort zone.
For Ly, a rising 2L at Brandeis Law who has always lived, studied and worked in large cities, that desire led her to the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia.
As a fellow with the Rural Summer Legal Corps, Ly is working with Blue Ridge Legal Services in Harrisonburg, Virginia, to educate tenants of manufactured home parks about their rights.
Laws governing manufactured homes, also known as mobile homes, vary by state. In Virginia, residents own the home but rent the land on which it sits. The residents of the houses and the owners of the land are subject to landlord-tenant laws, and Ly has spent much of the summer visiting residents and informing them of their rights.
“For a lot of people, they don’t expect much,” Ly says. “They expect their landlord to mess them over.”
One common issue is arbitrary evictions. A landlord might evict residents without proper notice, and because residents have to pay a fee to move their home, they often are unable to afford to move. That means they have to find new housing or sell their home. And because many residents aren’t aware they can contact a lawyer in these cases — or they can’t afford a lawyer — they often aren’t able to assert their rights.
“The scales weigh heavily in the landlords’ favor,” Ly says, adding that her office is working to bring a balance to the system in part by educating residents.
“Just because this is how it always is doesn’t mean that that’s how it has to be,” Ly says.
Ly applied for this fellowship through the Rural Summer Legal Corps and was eager to spend time in a community unlike the ones she’s lived in before.
“Since moving to Kentucky, I’ve realized I had this gap in understanding about a significant part of my country,” she says. “I wanted the way I understood the world to be challenged.”
“There’s no way I can be a good advocate if I’m unaware of the struggles of some of the biggest parts of our country.”
Coming in to the manufactured home parks and knocking on doors was an uncomfortable experience, Ly says — she was viewed as an outsider in these small communities where residents have a general distrust of outsiders.
Instead of succumbing to that awkwardness, Ly decided to embrace it.
“Sitting with that discomfort has been good for me because I’m better at empathizing with their doubts,” she says. “Being here has pushed me to constantly keep learning.”
When Ly returns to Brandeis Law this fall, she will resume her work as a fellow with the Brandeis Human Rights Advocacy Program, which works closely with Louisville’s immigrant, noncitizen and refugee communities.
From client counseling to brief writing, Brandeis Law 3L gains experience during NYC internship
Here at the Office of the Appellate Defender, the three summer interns are each given two legal briefs to work on throughout the summer. The first brief contains fewer or less-complex legal issues, where we’re basically begging for a sentence reduction "in the interest of justice."
The second brief always contains more substantial issues of law (constitutional violations, due process issues, erroneous evidentiary rulings, etc.).
I work on one of these two briefs basically every day for 10 weeks, which should speak to the level of time and care that is put into each case.
What is the most rewarding project you have worked on this summer?
My excessive sentence brief is for a client who I legitimately believe was given an undue punishment for her crime. I have had the opportunity to actually meet with her in prison and counsel her through the legal arguments that we plan to make on her behalf.
When you have a client who has suffered grave hardship at the hands of an antiquated and overtly political criminal justice system, nothing can be more rewarding than the look on their face when — while reading your brief — they realize that the cavalry is finally here to get their back.
What skills have you gained during this internship that will serve you in your career?
I’ve had the opportunity to have my work meticulously scrutinized by attorneys who practice in the premier criminal appeals organization in the nation’s largest legal market. There is no doubt in my mind that this has exponentially improved my ability to present written legal arguments.
Additionally, OAD has given me the incredible opportunity to participate in preparation for oral arguments, and even encouraged me to attend when they are finally presented to the court. OAD also allows interns to orally argue their own briefs before the Appellate Division, so you can bet that I’ll definitely be coming back later in the year.
What has surprised you most about appellate work?
Because this city is so large, courts are dramatically overburdened. It’s not uncommon for oral arguments to be limited to five minutes for each side. It’s also unlikely that the court is always able to give each brief the time and effort that it likely deserves.
These realities quickly force attorneys into a Garner-esque exercise in determining the best arguments for their client and presenting them as succinctly and powerfully as possible. Surprisingly, discussions are often centered on what language can be cut from the brief, rather than throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.
What advice do you have for other law students who want to pursue opportunities in large markets?
A few things:
1. Work on your writing. Your cover letter is the first opportunity that organizations have to hear the voice of the person they might hire. Your writing should convey your voice, and it should always be technically accurate in every way. Use your professors!
2. Put in the work to apply everywhere. It may mean writing a hundred different cover letters, but it’s important that you cast a wide net, and it’s important that every organization feels as though they are the only place you have ever wanted to work.
3. Don’t listen to those who tell you that it’s impossible. It’s definitely impossible if you never try.
Alum of the Month: Guion Johnstone
In December 2016, Guion Johnstone took on the role of executive director of the Kentucky Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Kentucky legal community.
Before coming to the foundation, she served in several law-related roles, most recently as an immigration attorney and program director of the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic in Lexington, Ky.
Below, she answers a few questions about her time at Brandeis Law and how her legal education has impacted her life.
I wanted to become a lawyer so that I could help underrepresented and marginalized groups. Brandeis, with its strong commitment to public service, was a perfect fit for my career goals.
I also chose Brandeis because of its joint degree program with UofL’s Kent School of Social Work so that I was able to graduate with a JD/MSSW.
How did your experience at Brandeis help you in your career?
Brandeis did an exceptional job preparing me for a public service career. In addition to the coursework and accessible professors, the Office of Professional Development was extremely supportive of my interests and helped me attend conferences and find internships to help advance my career goals.
I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case at all law schools where the emphasis is often on the private sector.
What advice do you have for law students today?
The best advice I have for law students today is a quote by Minor Myers Jr.: “Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.”
It’s important to go to bed each night feeling good about the work you are doing.
Who was your favorite professor and why?
I was fortunate to have many fantastic professors, but my favorite was Professor Laura Rothstein. I had her for Property during 1L year and I appreciated her thought-provoking but very direct teaching style. I went on to take her disability law seminar – an area in which she is a well-regarded expert.
Recognizing my interest in social justice issues, she hired me her as her research assistant in the areas of disability law and diversity in legal education.
Professor Rothstein has kept in touch with me following graduation and remains a source of support and inspiration for me to this day.
You’re the new executive director of the Kentucky Bar Foundation. What are some of the things you look forward to accomplishing in this role?
I am excited about my new position as the executive director of the Kentucky Bar Foundation and the Kentucky IOLTA Fund.
Since 1988, the Bar Foundation has awarded more than $3 million in grants to support more than 160 law-related programs and projects and IOLTA has awarded more than $16.5 million in IOLTA grants.
I worked as an IOLTA fellow at the Legal Aid Society while I was a Brandeis student and was later the director of Maxwell Street Legal Clinic, which received funding from the Bar Foundation. Thus, I am keenly aware of the importance of these funds for organizations throughout Kentucky.
I hope to increase awareness – particularly among law students and young attorneys – of the good work that the Bar Foundation and the IOLTA Fund supports. The more attorneys we have who support the Bar Foundation and participate in IOLTA, the more funding we can provide to law-related projects and organizations in Kentucky.
Brandeis Law students mingle with local legal professionals
A group of about 15 Brandeis Law students gathered on Jan. 19, 2017, for an evening of networking.
The Mentees and Mentors Reception, hosted by the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity and Frost Brown Todd LLC, offered law students a chance to meet with legal professionals.
Weeklong service project introduces 1L to bylaw drafting
When he started his weeklong service project, first-year Brandeis Law student Andrew Klump didn't know much about his assignment -- drafting bylaws for the Louisville Food Co-op.
Klump was assigned to work with Professor Ariana Levinson, a labor and employment law expert, to draft bylaws for the group.
"It was a bit overwhelming at first," Klump says about the project. "But I did a little bit of research and Prof. Levinson was great at helping me transition into bylaw work."
His weeklong project was coordinated by the Office of Professional Development. The projects offer 1L students an opportunity to perform their 30-hour public service requirement after their first semester. These projects also allow students to experience working in a real-world legal environment.
Klump drafted bylaws for the co-op's steering committee to review. An attorney will review the final product.
Tom Rutledge, an attorney at Stoll Keenon Ogden, and attorney Ryan Fenwick worked with Klump in providing background information and drafting assistance.
The experience was a valuable one for Klump, who is excited about the co-op's mission to address Louisville's West End food desert while providing jobs to invested employees.
Brandeis Law students take part in Downtown Around Town program
On Dec. 12, 2016, 14 diverse Brandeis Law students went on a walking tour of employers in downtown Louisville.
During the tour, they met with attorneys and judges and gained insights about career paths and tips about job searching. The students visited four employers: the County Attorney, the Court of Appeals, Legal Aid of Louisville and Frost Brown Todd.
Attorneys with Frost Brown Todd gave tips on interviewing, advised on what the firm looks for on resumes and cover letters and spoke about the importance of writing thank you notes.
The students then met with Court of Appeals Judges Irv Maze and Denise Clayton. The judges talked with the students about their own career paths and advised the students to explore as many areas of law as possible while in law school to discover their passion.
"As a second-year law student, it was my pleasure to once again participate in Downtown Around Town. During my first year of law school, I was grateful for the opportunities that Downtown Around Town provided: getting to know fellow 1Ls and upperclassmen outside of the classroom, meeting employers from the public and private sectors as well as small and large firms and interacting with diverse alumni who were willing to share their post-Brandeis experience as well as details about their current employment," said student Anesha Blakey. "This year, I was happy to accompany first-year law students as this event provides a wonderful opportunity to learn more about summer positions, in addition to the ability to interact with potential employers in a way that is not often available outside of Downtown Around Town."
The outing was organized by the Office of Professional Development and the law school's Diversity Council.
Two Brandeis Law students leave conference with job offers
At the Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair in October, 10 Brandeis Law students had the chance to attend workshops, interviews and informal discussions about public interest careers -- and two even walked away with job offers.
Second-year student Jennifer Reynolds accepted a position as a summer law clerk for the New Orleans Public Defender.
"It was great being able to talk with an employer who I otherwise would not have had the chance to speak with," she says.
"I did not get many opportunities to attend seminar programming because of the odd timing of my interview on the first day, (but) I was able to see the program featuring Justice Kagan. She is a very inspirational individual, and my favorite part of her interview was when she said that law students are very risk averse, and that every opportunity she took that seemed a bit crazy worked out to be one of the better things she did. This made me feel better about accepting a summer job in New Orleans so far away from home, so I’m extremely happy that I went to the program featuring Justice Kagan."
Another student who got a job offer at the conference is 2L Devon Skeens. Skeens, who is interviewing with more organizations before accepting a position, is hoping to spend the summer of 2017 in New York City. The conference allowed him to network with employers whom he never would have met in Louisville.
"It was an incredible opportunity," he said. "It's the only reason I have a job offer now."
The Office of Professional Development coordinated the trip for the students.
Worker's rights conference provides perspective for Brandeis Law students
Last month, two Brandeis Law students attended the 18th annual National Law Students Worker's Rights Conference, hosted by the Peggy Browning Fund.
Through workshops, panel discussions and a keynote address, the conference educated students about becoming advocates for workers and their families.
"To be in the presence of so many passionate professionals who displayed such deep care for both the subject matter and the clients they serve was, to put it simply, inspiring," said 2L Adam Woody. "I was able to personally interact with several recognized labor attorneys, a previous National Labor Relations Board member and lots of diverse law students from all over the country who care about this subject with the same fervor and intensity that I do myself.
"Ultimately, attending the conference added to my belief that this is the field of law which will satisfy me most as a practicing attorney and that in pursuing it, I am on the right path."
First-year law student Calesia Henson also attended the conference. As a former fourth-grade teacher, she approached the meeting with that experience in mind.
"I was thinking about employment law from the perspective of teachers," Henson said. "I want to advocate and be a voice for them."
When she was teaching, she observed administrative inefficiencies and injustices that made it harder for educators to do their jobs in the classroom. Her experience as a teacher inspired her to attend law school, she said.
The Peggy Browning Fund is a not for-profit organization established in memory of Margaret A. Browning, a union-side attorney who was a member of the NLRB from 1994 until 1997.
Office of Professional Development to host social media marketing presentation
It’s nearly impossible to talk about professional responsibility and ethics today without including social media in the conversation.
Social media platforms abound, with individuals and organizations maintaining a presence online that can serve either as a promotional tool or, in some cases, a professional landmine.
The Brandeis Law Office of Professional Development is hosting a presentation Nov. 1 in conjunction with local marketing experts to teach students how to best market themselves on various social media platforms.
But in addition to the perks of social media, it’s also important to understand its pitfalls.
“As attorneys, we must be careful,” says Laurel Hajek, assistant dean of professional development. “The stakes are high when you can’t take something back.”
Hajek emphasizes to students that whatever they put online will be there forever. She encourages 22-year-old law students to think 20 years into the future. Would they want an immature Facebook post to come back to haunt them as they’re running for office?
“That generation shares everything. For them, it’s a release. It’s natural,” Hajek says. “For other generations, it’s not appropriate.”
And especially for those in the legal profession, every post is fair game.
“The rules of professionalism and confidentiality for lawyers are so important,” she says. “There could be a mistrial. There could be big implications. You’ve got to watch everything.”
A version of this article originally was published in the Louisville Bar Association's October 2016 issue of Bar Briefs.
Non-profits must be run as businesses, says DC attorney
Just because a lawyer holds a Juris Doctor does not make him or her qualified to practice non-profit law.
That was a message from attorney Andrew Morton, who spoke at Brandeis Law Sept. 27. Morton is partner and chair of Washington D.C. firm Handler Thayer's sports and entertainment law group. He serves a client base of professional athletes, Olympians, actors, entertainers, artists, chefs and other public figures who wish to maximize their social impact.
"Quite literally, my entire practice has been built on fixing what pro bono lawyers who want to hang out with famous people have screwed up," Morton said.
During his presentation, which was organized by Professor Goldburn Maynard and sponsored by the Larry Franklin Speaker’s Fund and the Office of Professional Development, Morton also encouraged students to explore a variety of career opportunities.
You can view his entire presentation here.
Prof. Sweeny explores connection between legal writing and professional development in new article
In the latest issue of The Second Draft, a peer-reviewed publication of the Legal Writing Institute, Professor JoAnne Sweeny explores ways that legal writing professors and professional development officials can partner to teach students professionalism.
"Because there are many aspects to acting professionally that should be taught to students throughout their law school careers, the first-year legal writing course is a good place to start with some of the basics of communicating skillfully and with the appropriate level of formality," Sweeny writes in "Teaching Professionalism and How to 'Act Professionally' by Coordinating Legal Writing with Professional Development."
"I decided to emphasize the importance of 'acting professionally' to my students by placing it in an academic setting and requiring that my students practice their professionalism skills to get feedback and formal (graded) assessments," Sweeny writes. "To that end, I worked with the Dean of Professional Development to train my students, through lectures and skills exercises, to begin to act like professionals by anticipating the needs of their readers and tailoring their communications to that reader (whether a client, colleague or future employer) with the appropriate level of formality and polish."
Alum of the Month: April Wimberg ('13)
April Wimberg ('13) is the September 2016 Alum of the Month.
Wimberg is an attorney in Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP's Litigation practice group, where she focuses her practice in bankruptcy matters and creditors’ rights, as well as complex commercial litigation. She has an extensive background in corporate finance and strategy, as well as experience representing clients in state and federal courts on a wide range of issues.
Prior to joining the firm, Wimberg spent 10 years working on Wall Street and in corporate strategy for Fortune 50 companies. She has assisted companies across the globe with a wide range of business services from raising capital to managing working capital.
We asked her to reflect on her experiences at Brandeis Law.
Why did you choose Brandeis?
Going to law school was an opportunity for me to start a second career, and I knew I wanted to spend this career in my hometown, Louisville.
I had spent most of my first career in finance in New York, and when I returned home I realized that I had lost a significant network of colleagues. When I considered going to law school, building a network and fostering opportunities in Louisville were big considerations. I looked at law schools all across the country, and my search easily determined that Brandeis was the only school for me.
What is your best memory from your time at Brandeis?
Many of my best Brandeis memories revolve around the ideological debates that would occur everywhere in the school. I was surrounded by so many intelligent people with different ideas on how our country should be shaped by the law. Our class spent so much time sharing our ideas and trying to convince others to accept our opinion. We debated our core ideas and beliefs unfiltered by clients or intimidated by barriers to change.
How did your experience at Brandeis help you in your career?
Brandeis gave me a strong foundation in the law, but also gave me the opportunity to start my career.
The Office of Professional Development connected me with an internship at the County Attorney’s office, which allowed me to work my first year of law school and become familiar with the Louisville court system. That experience was invaluable.
When I spoke with the office again about my experiences and goals, I was able to find a great internship opportunity with Bingham Greenebaum Doll, where I continue to work.
What advice do you have for law students today?
Treat law school as your first legal job. Law school is your opportunity to build your legal reputation. That reputation will one day help you with job opportunities, referrals and representing clients across the table from your classmates.
Who was your favorite professor and why?
This is the most difficult question because I had some of the most fabulous professors, including Susan Duncan, Ariana Levinson, Richard Nowka, Sam Marcosson and Luke Milligan.
If I have to pick, I will say that Lisa Nicholson was my favorite. She had a passion for business law that was almost uncontainable. She dedicated so many hours to me, sitting in her office discussing law and life. She undoubtedly found her calling in life as an educator.
But I also need to say that I will always be grateful to John Cross and Manning Warren. After having a baby and not being able to take certain classes, both sponsored me in independent studies so I could still have the benefit of learning those subjects under their guidance. I don’t know that I would have found that support anywhere but Brandeis.
'Embrace feedback,' Office of Professional Development advises new attorneys
Although no one likes to be criticized, embracing and even soliciting feedback is essential for new attorneys.
In a recent article on GoodCall.com, Assistant Dean for Professional Development Laurel Hajek advises new attorneys to push themselves to improve.
"The best way to do this is to get out of your comfort zone and ask others to give you honest feedback,” she said.
Among Hajek's other advice for attorneys just starting out in their careers:
- Continue to network and build relationships within your organization.
- Be engaged in your workplace -- don't just 'show up' every day.
- Seek out mentors inside and outside your organization.
You can read the full article here.
How this Brandeis student is balancing law school and a full-time career
To say Lori Frey Wells’ path to Brandeis Law was a winding one would be an understatement.
Wells, who will graduate from Brandeis this December, has been working full-time at health insurance company Humana the entire time she’s been in law school.
Eight years and several career moves — including a year in Texas — after undergrad, Wells knew law school was in her future.
“I just really wanted to help people,” she said. “That was the driving force for me.”
Her decision to go to law school was met with a mixed reaction from family and co-workers.
“Everybody kind of thought I was crazy because I was on a trajectory at Humana,” she said. “But it was that passion in me that made me want to follow my heart.”
She enrolled at Northern Kentucky University’s Chase College of Law in its part-time evening program. For a year and a half, she and a friend carpooled the hour and a half to NKU several times a week.
After getting a new position at Humana with more flexibility, Wells transferred to Brandeis Law in January 2015.
Wells started at Humana in the Medicare Risk Adjustment (MRA) Department. She’s now the risk advisor for MRA in the Medicare Regulatory Compliance, working closely with that area’s legal counsel.
“It’s really a combination of understanding the law and understanding the business,” she said of her current position, which is J.D.-advantaged.
Her law school studies have helped her “distill lots of information and complicated regulations into what the business needs to know.”
And Wells took a health care law course this summer through iLaw, which provides online J.D., post-J.D. and non-J.D. programs.
“That gave me an even bigger boost of confidence,” she said.
As for juggling a full-time career with the rigors of law school?
Time management is key, Wells said.
She set the expectation early with her family and friends that her time would be limited while she was in school, and said she is fortunate to have a supportive husband.
“It’ll be interesting to see what our lives are like when I’m not in law school,” she said.