The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Panel gives practical advice on future legal careers

SMU law students received valuable career advice, including how to best put their law degrees to use, from Dallas attorneys during a panel discussion on Tuesday. In the Law Fields 101 event, three lawyers from different areas of law reassured the student audience that feeling confusion about the future of their career is a normal step on the path to becoming a lawyer.

The panel featured Emmanuel Obi, an associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, Leticia McGowan, a school attorney for the Dallas Independent School District, and Vicky Blanton, the senior benefits counsel for American Airlines.

The prominent attorneys advised law students on what different fields of law demand from a lawyer. The event, sponsored by the Black Law Students Association, the Hispanic Law Students Association and the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, featured an audience of around 40 law students from all three years in law school.

Victoria Harriet, president of the BLSA, asked the panelists a series of questions related to how they ended up in their current fields and what advice they have for current law students.

One common sentiment among all three speakers was that they are not necessarily in the field of law they expected to be in when they were law students; therefore, students should not limit their options.

Obi debated between pursuing a degree in business and attending law school while he was an undergraduate student at SMU. Ultimately, he enrolled in SMU’s Dedman School of Law, making him a “double Mustang.” For Obi, corporate law is enjoyable because it combines his “love for business” and his “intrigue of the law.”

On determining your future career path, Obi said, “Confusion is a normal part of the process and part of your internal journey.”

Being a law school student tends to be one of the most stressful periods in a lawyer’s life. Between the demanding class work, trying to land an internship and preparing for the Bar exam, it is easy for students to crack under pressure. The panelists urged students not to let the decision of choosing a field of law add to their stress.

According to Blanton, it is not worth worrying about something that is likely to change.

“Even if you know what you want to do, you don’t really know what you want to do,” Blanton said.

Similarly, McGowan feels it is not practical for a student to try and focus on a single area of law. For her, a career in education law “happened by fluke.” What she does believe to be critical to a law student’s career is networking.

“You have to be able to make connections,” she said. “You don’t know how or who will connect you to your next job.”

Blanton said a law student should strive to “become an expert.” The “popular” area of law is always changing and there will “always be a need for lawyers to clean up messes.” She added that rather than focusing on one area, students should “always be willing to engage and willing to learn.”

All three of the panelists admitted that the stress doesn’t end after graduating from law school. Being a lawyer is a rewarding job but also a demanding job, and prospective lawyers must always keep in mind that it’s nearly impossible to know where your career will take you.

Blanton reminded the audience not to forget that “you were a person before you were a lawyer.” She acknowledged the job is overwhelming at times but emphasized that “practicing law is what you do, not who you are.”

 

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