8th annual pre-law panel: Alumni offer insight to aspiring lawyers

Charles Beers, Senior Writer

The journey to become a lawyer is not an easy one, but those with the passion and persistence to see it through to the end will love the profession. This was the main takeaway from the University’s Eighth Annual Alumni Law Panel & Lunch. The event was held on April 1 in the ELC Walls Lounge and featured a panel of distinguished alumni eager to share advice, insight, and career stories.

The panel consisted of four experienced alumni: Jeremy K. McKown ’96, the Assistant General Counsel–Patents at Johnson & Johnson; Michael A. Goldstein ’81, EVP and General Counsel at Castleton Commodities International; Mary H. Barnes ’87, Senior Counsel for Coperion Corporation; and Maurice A. Nernberg ’61, a founder, attorney, and shareholder of Maurice A. Nernberg & Associates. The discussion was moderated by George A. Tsougarakis ’83, a partner at Hughes Hubbard & Reed, LLP.

Each panelist hailed from a different background and offered a unique glimpse of the legal process. Upon graduation, many were uncertain about their future.

“I had no idea what I was going to do,” Goldstein said.

Nernberg recalled how he worked as a tax lawyer in the early stages of his career until opening his own practice and doing a lot of trial work.

The panelists advised students to broaden their skill sets in order to prepare for their futures.

“Law is a discipline you can always go back to,” Barnes said. “The more degrees the better. If you have other interests, pursue those first.”

The other panelists concurred, suggesting that students should refrain from having too narrow a focus during their undergraduate career. McKown explained how his knowledge in other fields “set [him] apart from colleagues during the interview process.”

In terms of the optimal major for a potential law school student, the panelists again emphasized flexibility. The group came to a consensus that no specific major was better than another in terms of securing a successful law career, so long as the student is engaged in the material and performing well in class.

“Having a different perspective is valuable,” McKown said.

Nernberg emphasized the necessity of commitment and having a passion for law.

“There a lot of attorneys who hate the practice,” Nernberg said. “Many defense lawyers feel trapped and have to follow the orders of larger companies.”

Others were more optimistic.

“What I do is important and I enjoy the challenge. It is important to do something you enjoy,” Tsougarakis said.

“Study what you like, because ultimately, what you do will be experiential,” Goldstein said.

Students reacted positively to the event and were inspired by the alumni.

“The luncheon allowed us students to get answers for all the pressing questions that we had in regards to our possible career paths in the field of law. We gained invaluable knowledge as to what to expect when applying to law schools, while in law school, and after graduation. I was fairly set on pursuing a career in law before the luncheon and I am even more motivated following it,” Andrew Coder ’19 said.

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