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Students Explore Career Options for Law Graduates

Students network with panelists Bryce Besser '04 (C) and Kristen Knepper (R)

“A law degree is one of the most versatile and empowering of all professional degrees,” Matthew Lab told California Western students. Lab is assistant director of the law school’s Career and Professional Development Office (CPDO). “There are so many different career paths you can take with it.”

“Exploring Options in the Law,” a series of four special events sponsored by CPDO, allows California Western students to hear from lawyers who have pursued some of those different pathways to successful careers.

“Exploring Options is designed to show our students that there is no single path to becoming a successful and happy lawyer,” Lab said. 

The first presentation on September 11 featured an accomplished group of civil practice attorneys who collectively practiced in more than 18 areas of law in small, medium, and large law firm settings as well as in-house. The second Exploring Options panel on September 18 focused on attorneys who practice in non-traditional areas such as in-house regulatory compliance, nonprofit consulting, and risk management.  

“They may not practice in a traditional firm, but they are still lawyers,” Lab said of the non-traditional practice panel, which featured two California Western alumni.

Panelist Erin M. Adkins ’10 is the Assistant Athletic Director of Compliance in the University of San Diego Athletic Department. 

“Every day I apply the skills I learned here at California Western,” said Adkins, who would like to use her legal skills and experience to become an athletic director.

Bryce C. Besser ’04 is a senior analyst for litigated claims at UC San Diego, where his legal training comes into play every day. He practiced both environmental law and labor and employment law before he decided to change careers and look for an in-house counsel position.

“I leaned on our career advisors here to help me make that jump,” Besser said. “UC San Diego is a great place for me. It opens the door to many other opportunities and I’m still doing legal work that I really love.”

Kristen Knepper is an academic account manager at Thomson Reuters, the company that owns Westlaw. She worked on Capitol Hill for two different U.S. Senators, including Ted Kennedy, and also practiced with a securities litigation firm.

“I didn’t like securities litigation, but at Westlaw, marketing and management were new to me and I found I really liked those things,” Knepper said, who can easily relate to the experiences of law students who are Westlaw customers.

Rich Geisler is a public policy lobbyist and land use consultant, who also practices law. He also stressed the importance of passing the bar exam, whether you practice law traditionally or not.

“I do suggest that you take the bar and pass it,” said Geisler, who also teaches and works as a real estate broker. “Even if you don’t want to get into the legal field, it gives you a little more credibility.”

The panel definitely opened up new career possibilities for the students who attended.

“I already know that I don’t want to pursue a traditional legal career, so what they had to say was really valuable,” said 1L Jessica Darling. “It reaffirmed that I’m making a good choice and it was wonderful to hear their perspectives and why they’re doing what they’re doing now.”

“I heard about a lot of interesting career paths other than traditional courtroom experience,” said 3LTrashon Herndon. “My interest happens to be in sports law and I got the chance to hear about sports law compliance from Erin Adkins. That could be an area of interest because it could lead to an athletic director position.”

The next two presentations are coming soon. On October 2, the third Exploring Options panel will feature criminal prosecution and defense attorneys from the state and federal courts and promises to provide some good fireworks. The series wraps up October 9 with a panel featuring attorneys in the public interest and nonprofit sector.

The Thursday panels are held in the Moot Court Room at 12:15 p.m. and offer lunch as well as the opportunity to network with panelists.

To learn more about the services and resources our Career and Professional Development Office offers students and alumni, click here.