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Rising Stars: A New City Lawyer Prepares for Trial

By Kristin Eisenzopf

Years of putting herself through college and then law school has presented its challenges, but Jill is now, finally, carving out the path of her career. She had always thought she wanted to be a lawyer. A psychology degree and paralegal job convinced her that she was right. Jill now finds herself as an Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Boston where she is excitedly and anxiously preparing for a full trial in court--a big deal this early in her career.

Name: Jill Murray
School: Williams; Boston College Law
Major: Psychology
Years Out of College: 5-10
Title: Asst. Corporation Counsel
Company: City of Boston
First Steps

Though she had been pretty certain since childhood that she would want to go to law school, Jill wanted to explore before committing to three more years of school and tuition. "My father is a (retired) police chief and I have always been interested in criminal prosecution. I knew a person or two that worked in the New York City district attorney's office after college and thought that would be the best way for me to decide if law school was in my future." Jill liked working as a paralegal, so "being accepted by a Tier 1 law school pretty much sealed the deal for me."

From Then to Now

Jill thinks that her liberal arts education and psychology degree taught her general skills that would be useful in any job: how to analyze, strategize, and write. And then her first job as paralegal helped her focus her interest: "Although I liked the people I worked with, I realized that I would rather practice law that entailed more trial practice as opposed to long-term investigation."

Challenges Faced

Paying off her loans for both college and law school while living in one of the most expensive cities in the country has placed some struggles in front of Jill. "I would say the biggest challenge has been managing my debt. Although a law degree opens many doors, I found that certain positions that I am interested in are not an option because I would not be able to earn enough money to live and pay my monthly bills. This is very frustrating and disheartening." In hindsight, Jill would have tried to find scholarships or research grants to help pay for school so that her debt wouldn't be so significant now.

My Experience

As the Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Boston, Jill is responsible for handling litigation cases as well as questions from various city departments. "I am in the somewhat unique position of in-house counsel. Therefore, I usually have pending litigation cases that I work on everyday by doing legal research, drafting briefs, serving discovery. However, I also have daily inquiries from different departments of my client seeking legal advice for a particular situation that may arise. Keeps it interesting."

"As a new attorney, you are not going to know everything and you are going to make mistakes, despite significant preparation." But for those eager to learn on the job, it's worth it. Right now, Jill is excited that she has "a case or two pending in federal court which is a big deal this early in my career."

Advice for Others

"The best advice I have received is cliche but true: no question is a stupid question. The worst mistake a new professional can make is to act like they know what they are doing and then make a fatal mistake. If you seek help first, your supervisor will not get angry."

"If you are not sure you want to go to law or any grad school, do not go just because you don't know what else to do. It's challenging, a long-term commitment and the debt can be limiting afterwards. But if you are interested and want a challenging and evolving career with many different areas of potential practice, law is a great profession."

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