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Winter Law Session

Alumni attorneys lead the Winter Session classroom

by Amanda Glodowski

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Alumni panel examines ‘Life During Law School’

by Tania Rahman

Harpur College students eager to enter law school post-graduation gained the opportunity to hear first-hand insight into its true experience during a panel discussion from alumni during the “Life During Law School: What is Law School Really Like?” event at the Union.

Binghamton University alumni returned to their alma mater on March 14 in order to impart words of wisdom that those who wished to follow in their footsteps could utilize. Each panelist shared personal advice on the best ways to cope, during the stressful experience that law school entailed, to more than 20 attendees.

Matthew DeSaro ’09 BA, BS, ’11 MPA, was the sole panelist who was still attending law school. He was able to offer advice learned from his daily routines.

As undergraduates, the best way students could prepare for law school is to take advantage of any opportunity to make a presentation, or allowed them to talk in front of a group of people.

“Force yourself, break through your comfort zone,” said Justin Salkin ’10, who works as an associate at Hiscock & Barclay LLP.

In regards to ways students could spruce up their résumés as undergraduates, the panelists recommended diversifying the extracurricular activities they were involved with, including building experience by working at different law offices in order to hone a particular interest.

Another suggestion offered to students in preparation of law school was to get ahead in studying for the LSAT. Panelists advised attendees to take courses with professional programs such as Kaplan, and to avoid delaying taking the exam.

In response to several students expressing concern over the hours of tedious reading as well as the competition they may face in school, Michael Boykin ’08 reassured the audience.

“Treat a day in law school the way you would treat a day at Binghamton,” said Boykin, who is an assistant D.A. in Brooklyn.

Though law school is undoubtedly a tough environment with students constantly striving to top one another, the graduates made light of the situation.

“Picture Lecture Hall 1 filled with people who like to hear the sound of their own voice,” Salkin said.

Despite their varying experiences in law school, the four visitors unanimously emphasized the same piece of advice: They warned the audience against entering the field unless they were absolutely certain that they wanted to practice law.

Nine successful Harpur alumni attorneys shared their perspectives with prospective law students during Winter Session.

The course, “Current Issues in Legal Practice,” was held over the span of three January days in Times Square, where students were able to sample several areas of the field, ranging from immigration to employment to finance.

“We wanted to offer the students a unique insight into the practice, and allow them to reach a level of understanding that undergrads are typically not privy to,” said Nolana Quince, Harpur pre-law advisor. “The prestige of the alumni who have agreed to come speak with the students has caused this course to surpass all of my expectations.”

Jessica Lorden '83 studied political science at Harpur College before advancing to Duke University School of Law. Lorden is employed at IBM Corp., where her main focus is human resources and employment law, but she also works on aspects of intellectual property ownership. She spoke to the students about her pursuit in balancing her professional career with her family life, as well as the importance of personal growth in one's career.

“What I recommend to all of you is that you think about ‘T shaped’ skills,” Lorden said. “Think about the top of the T: that’s the breadth of the skills. Make sure that with every job you take, you broaden your skillset. You also have to pay attention to the vertical part of the T: that’s the depth of your skills. Every single job that you do should reinforce those two things. Those things are the best recipe for a comprehensive you in lawyering.”

Lorden also serves as vice chair of the Harpur College Advocacy Council, and is a mentor to Harpur students in the Liberal Arts to Careers Externship (LACE) program.

Bobby Liu '93 graduated summa cum laude from Harpur College with a double major in economics and history before attending New York University School of Law. Currently chief operating officer and general counsel of M.D. Sass Securities, Liu spoke about a financial approach to law, specifically talking to the students about hedge funds. Liu also stressed the importance of grades, and keeping and open mind during one's undergraduate career.

“You don’t know what the future is going to be, so keep your eyes open,” Liu said. “The most important thing right now is to learn about as many areas as you can, while getting the best grades possible. Law is all about pedigree.”

Michael Garcia ’83 (pictured at top) graduated with honors from Harpur College with an English degree. He then went on to earn his J.D. (summa cum laude Valedictorian) from Albany Law School. Garcia is a partner at the New York and Washington D.C. offices of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Garcia formed an open discussion with the students with topics ranging from immigration law to stop and frisk policies, while maintaining honesty in describing the field.

“It’s the best job in the world,” Garcia said. ”You can do whatever you want. You can do a white-collar security case, terrorism case, gangs, or work on major narcotics trafficking. Your office will give you anything, and there will be headlines in the paper with your name, and the only thing your office asks from you in return will be everything.”

The students were eager to take advantage of this unique opportunity and get a more realistic sense of the field they plan on pursuing.

“I’m trying to get a broader sense of the field, and figure out what kind of law I want to pursue,” said Tara Dennington, a junior double majoring in politics, philosophy, and law, and history. “All the speakers have had interesting experiences in their fields, and have a lot of great advice to offer us. They were in my shoes at one point, and show you how to get from here to there. I’m getting such great insight of what lies ahead for me.”

Sohil Sharedalal, a senior majoring in political science was also thankful for the perspective gained through the Winter Session, saying, “It’s very encouraging; we are now where they used to be, and the fact that they’re so successful shows us that the possibilities for us are endless.”

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Last Updated: 3/1/17