Four Boston College alumni shared their insight and experience regarding various legal professions over Zoom on Oct. 1.
BC’s pre-law adviser and the panel moderator, Salvatore Cipriano, asked how the panelists’ experiences as undergraduates at BC shaped their path to law school.
“In addition to wanting to be in a career in which I felt I was making a difference, I think what’s also very important is that in the law field particularly, we’re solving problems all the time,” said Dineen Riviezzo, an acting Kings County supreme court judge and BC ’89.
“Whether it’s immigration problems, financial problems, criminal problems, … [it’s] finding the moral, just solution to the problem that we’re facing … [and] wanting to be men and women for others”
Other panelists echoed similar motivations, crediting their initial interest in law to the multifaceted experiences and opportunities they had access to at BC. The panel also discussed the progress that has been made in addressing the racial inequities in the United States and the work that is still to be done.
Angela Donkor, a litigator at international law firm Cleary Gottlieb and BC ’12, said that although it’s been a difficult year for everyone, it’s been particularly difficult for the Black community given the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 coupled and nationwide reckoning on racism.
“Even though the law has a long way to go, and there are still so many things we can do, I think it’s important to look at just how far we’ve come,” Donkor said. “…We have to continue the responsibility of paving the way.”
Several panelists emphasized how rewarding it is to make use of their law degree by advocating for others and giving people a voice. Heather Perez Arroyo, a staff attorney at the PAIR Project ad BC Law ’17, said that she considers her work deeply fulfilling.
“When the law is against you, when not everything is lined up for you, to see that person come out, either with a status reunited with their family, or just in a better position than they were when they met you, is a really gratifying feeling,” she said.
Cusaj Thomas, BC’15, BC Law ’19, and CGSOM ’19, is a business law associate at Goodwin Procter. Thomas reminded students who are thinking about a legal career pathway to return to BC’s quintessential three questions: What brings me joy? What am I good at? And what does the world need me to be?
“There’s a wide range of potential things you can do in the legal profession, and it’s important to understand what you are going to have fun with and enjoy waking up every day to do,” Thomas said.
When the panel opened up to questions from the audience, one student asked which undergraduate classes were most helpful in law school. Riviezzo replied that she wishes she has taken more English classes, because no matter what type of field you go into as a lawyer, writing is essential.
The final question from the audience was about how to navigate the financial aspects of the law school process. The panelists acknowledged how intimidating this part can be, but also urged students in the audience not to let financial implications discourage their pursuit of a law degree.
“Coming out of law school and undergrad with all these loans … you can do it,” Riviezzo said. “We did it, you can do it too. … If you think critically about what your expenses are going to be, you can do it. … If you follow your passion there’s always a way.”
Donkor said that despite growing up in poverty and being a first-generation college student, she now has financial independence and is very happy that she decided to pursue a legal career.
“You can’t let money stand in the way of what it is you want to do with your life,” Donker said. “I sit here now, three years out of law school, and it was absolutely worth it.”
Featured Image by Leo Wang / Heights Staff