What does it take to succeed as an attorney? Sharing their stories, the alumni panelists at Homecoming Weekend’s “Achieving Success in Today’s Legal World,” held in the Berger Atrium, represented a broad range of experiences, from sole proprietors to corporate litigators, criminal investigators, investment bankers, and government department heads.
“There was so much diversity on the panel, with so many different career paths, and still, there were consistent themes running through their talks,” said Christina Refhilwe Mosalagae, a candidate for LL.M. ’14 and a representative on the Cornell Law School Alumni Association executive board. “You must be a brand. You must be flexible. You must be confident. You must be able to connect. You must have passion. Because regardless of your choice, that passion is what’s going to push you forward, and that’s what you need to become a lawyer in the best sense.”
John Vukelj ’83, a partner in the litigation practice at DLA Piper, opened the panel by discussing the importance of establishing a personal brand to identify what you do best. He was followed by Ladd Hirsch ’83, a senior litigation partner at Diamond McCarthy in Dallas, who encouraged students to apply for jobs beyond the northeast, using social media to explore opportunities in markets Cornellians rarely visit.
Using herself as an example, Angelique Crain, J.D./LL.M. ’02, director and senior counsel for procurement at Diageo North America, emphasized the importance of flexibility in following an unpredictable career path. “Stay open minded,” she said, “and always be ready for new opportunities, because you never know where you’re going to end up.” New Zealand’s Christopher G. Hogg, LL.M. ’81, managing director and head of FIG capital markets at Macquarie Capital Advisors, addressed stateside opportunities for students from abroad, and talked about finding his own unlikely career in banking.
Having risen from environmental lawyer to assistant attorney general to deputy commissioner, Mary B. Griffin ’88, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, urged students to take advantage of every job, gaining hands-on experience as they moved up the ladder. Then, before opening the floor for questions, Vukelj underlined the importance of working hard at everything you do, and always maintaining the connections you make as a law student, which will keep propelling your career forward.
“As a student spending a lot of time in the classroom and in the library, it is sometimes hard to have a perspective on post-graduate life,” said Minsuk Han, a candidate for J.D. ’14 and a representative on the Cornell Law School Alumni Association executive board. “The panel discussion truly helped students like me understand what can and will happen after graduation, and how we can best prepare ourselves.”
To view a Flickr gallery of the event, click here.