Sue Henry Center for Pre-Law Education co-sponsors the Careers in Law Panel

Written by Maia Anderson, CAS communications intern

The Sue J. Henry Center for Pre-Law Education hosted its first Careers in Law panel on Wednesday, April 4 as part of the Career Exploration Series from the Center for Career Exploration & Success, which highlights different industries 5 times per year.

The event began with a 30-minute networking session in which pre-law students were encouraged to talk to panelists and gain practice in essential skills, such as introducing themselves professionally.

The 4 panelists, Gregg Bachmann ('84), Gary Becker, Robert Brown ('85), and Melissa Schuett ('11), all revealed that they had taken very different paths to end up in their current positions in the field of law. Their unique experiences advancing in the ranks served as encouraging stories for the students in attendance.

Diverse Pathways

"Everyone has a different story," said Shelby Summers Ballard, assistant director and College of Arts and Science liaison in the Center for Career Exploration and Success. "My hope is that students realize that not everything is ABC. Sometimes we have different paths, and that comes out in our panels."

Schuett, who received her M.Ed. from Miami in 2011, gave a good example of a non-traditional path to a law career, describing her start as a business owner, to coaching Miami Mock Trial, to having two kids while in law school. In her current job as a junior associate, she said she enjoys the variability in her work.

"One of the most exciting things is that it's not always clear what you're going to do day to day," she said. "I may do a research project on search and seizure for a criminal case, then get a call from someone and do something completely different."

The panelists also discussed the kind of background one needs if they plan to attend law school and pursue a law career. They stressed the fact that no single educational background is perfect.

"Just because you're a music major doesn't mean you can't go to law school," said Brown, who majored in math and statistics at Miami.

Bachmann graduated with an English degree, and he believes the skills gained in his undergraduate years helped greatly during his time in law school.

"Analyzing literature is similar to what you do as a lawyer," said Bachmann. "You have to be able to read, understand, and analyze things. English was an ideal major for what I ended up doing in my career."

He also stressed that while going to a law school with a high pedigree can be advantageous, it is not imperative to attend a school of Harvard's status.

"We don't really care about what school you go to as much as what experience you have and what you can do," said Bachmann.

Advice for Students

The panelists also gave advice to students who aren't yet sure if a career in law is what they want. According to Schuett, the best thing a student can do is to be curious.

"Don't hesitate to ask. Use your resources. Ask all your questions. That's how you learn, that's how you get value out of your opportunities," said Schuett.

Bachmann's advice was to take every opportunity available to them to explore their interest in law.

"Go in and get involved with the law early, develop a passion for it, call a lawyer, find out what it's really like," added Bachmann. "What do you like about it, what do you do on a daily basis?"

The panelists discussed the way the field of law is changing. According to Becker, the things lawyers from this generation will have to deal with will likely be very different from his generation.

"Most likely your generation is going to have to work much more on an international level," said Becker.

"I hope students got some insight into what law school and the practice of law is really like so they can figure out what truly interests them," said panel moderator Maria Vitullo, director of the Henry Center.

Junior international studies and Italian major Sam Coughlin said that he is considering going to law school and pursuing a career in law but is uncertain if it is the right path for him. He attended the event in hopes of getting information he needs to decide his future.

"I'd say I got peace of mind, and the panel kind of put a human face to this process," said Coughlin.

Evan Jones, majoring in international studies and French, said he developed a new interest in law and attended the panel with the goal of learning as much as he could about what law is as a career.

"I definitely learned a lot," said Jones. "There was so much information, but honestly, as far as law goes, my biggest takeaway was that it's so variable. There're so many paths you can take that are very new to me. Whenever you hear about law, you think about being in the courtroom and defending a client from a criminal case, but there's so many other options."

Brown told the students that it is imperative to know that not everyone will take the same path in the career of law, and it is okay to not know exactly what you want to do during your undergraduate years.

"I hope students learned a little bit more what the real world of law is like," he said. "Coming out of undergrad I had no clue, so hopefully this helps shed some light. Just in the questions afterward and the one-on-one, I was able to help some people realize there's a lot of avenues in the world of law. It's not just LA Law or whatever's on now!"

For more information, contact the Center for Career Exploration & Success at