Executive director tells teens of law degree advantages

Issue September 2003 By Carla Del Bove

A visit to the MBA this summer helped several high school students learn they can achieve their career goals, which in law can be varied and fulfilling.

Director meets with teensMBA Executive Director Abigail Shaine met with the 10 students, who are participating in University of New Hampshire's Upward Bound Program, on July 23 at the MBA's Boston office.

The students came to the MBA with their two college chaperones to learn about the benefits of having a law degree. Upward Bound is a nationwide program that helps eligible low-income students achieve their dreams of being successful in higher education.

"What thoughts come to mind when you think of lawyers?" asked Shaine.

"The media says they're seedy," said one student.

Another added, "They are advocates of students."

The diverse group listened as Shaine led a discussion covering a variety of topics including the challenges facing the legal profession in the media and the limitless career opportunities that a law degree can provide. She also answered basic questions about preparing for the LSAT.

"Legal skills are at the center of everything," said Shaine. "A law degree is not an end in and of itself; it can open so many doors in so many directions and doesn't close any of them."

Shaine discussed many careers that are available to people who possess law degrees. She mentioned the success of the MBA's recent conference "300 Ways To Use Your Law Degree: Career Options In and Out of the Law." She uncovered a number of jobs that are open to attorneys outside of practicing law, including careers in journalism, politics and law enforcement as well as careers in business, public relations and teaching at colleges and universities.

"Law school can equip you for everything," Shaine said. "With your degree you can do anything."

"I have used mine in 150 different ways," said Shaine, who explained that she worked for a corporate law firm and in private business before making the transition to a nonprofit organization.

She touched on the ambivalence that some people have toward lawyers, particularly regarding high profile medical malpractice and insurance cases that are heavily publicized in the media. She explained that for every negative news article there are many more positive stories.

"There are groups of lawyers who work hard to help impoverished folks and help young people in trouble," said Shaine. "I see incredible things being done."

She asked the students to share thoughts on how to spread the word about the positive work that lawyers do.

"Tell the good stories," offered one female student.

Shaine agreed and talked about the MBA's ongoing effort to promote the hard work and volunteerism that members provide.

The students asked for advice on the kinds of undergraduate courses they should take in preparation for law school. Shaine advised them to get involved as much as possible through volunteer work and internships within their local communities. She also highlighted the importance of taking writing courses and added that study groups are a great way for students to motivate one another to succeed. She also stressed the importance of taking classes such as debate, English and foreign languages. Before the meeting ended, Shaine left the students with some lasting advice.

"Get out into different settings to meet with lawyers and to get a sense for yourself of what they do. They are doing amazing things," said Shaine.

The UNH Upward bound program has been continuous in operation since 1996 and has helped several thousand New Hampshire students fulfill their educational and career aspirations.