The Law School Magazine  ·  Winter 2013 : Features

1 Degree, 10 Careers in higher education

By - Winter 2013
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A Juris Doctor can be the door that leads to varied and challenging opportunities in any number of specialties. In this issue of All Rise, we take a look at how one degree has served 10 alumni in their careers in higher education.

1. Gregory J. Vincent ’87, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement and Professor of Law at The University of Texas at Austin:

How I use my J.D.: My law degree, along with my Ph.D., gave me the ability to successfully lead a state agency and become a higher education executive in addition to being a professor of law. The negotiation and advocacy skills have been invaluable throughout my career whether in the corporate, governmental, or higher education arena.

Greatest lesson learned in law school: Networking matters. As well, the rigor of the curriculum gave me the confidence to be a successful professional, and the emphasis on professionalism and teamwork has always served me well.

2. James H. Richey ’88, President of Brevard Community College:

How I use my J.D.: The analytical skills honed at the Moritz College of Law are invaluable in my role as a college president in such diverse areas as finance, strategic planning, labor negotiations, human resources, and building partnerships with industry and business.

Greatest lesson learned in law school: The different points of view presented in studying the law instilled a strong belief in team-building and working in a collaborative fashion, an approach I use every day to offer more opportunities to students and create a dynamic future for the college I lead.

3. Lynette Chappell-Williams ’82, Associate Vice President of Inclusion and Workforce Diversity at Cornell University

How I use my J.D.: As the university’s Title IX coordinator and one of the leaders for affirmative action and diversity efforts, my law degree allows me to understand the legal foundation for all the programs I have responsibility for and provides “credibility” when developing programs that are innovative but require cultural change.

Greatest lesson learned in law school: It is important to know who you are and what you want in life to stay focused on what you need to do to be successful and not be distracted by what others think you should be doing.  Law school prepares you for a wide variety of careers, so it is important to find that career that you are passionate about.

4. Steve Webb ’02, Executive Director of Athletics Compliance at Arizona State University:

How I use my J.D.: I manage and direct ASU’s efforts to ensure institutional compliance with all NCAA, Pac-12 Conference, and university rules and regulations governing intercollegiate athletics.

Greatest lesson learned in law school: Law school taught me how to think about and analyze things in a different way. I learned how to take complex fact patterns, distill out the most important facts and arguments, and apply rules and regulations.

5. Larry R. Thompson ’76, President of Ringling College of Art + Design:

How I use my J.D.: I find myself using the skills learned in law school at Moritz almost every day. Although I do not practice law (I’m a “recovering” lawyer), I repeatedly am confronted with policy questions that have legal ramifications, whether it is risk management, contracts, negotiation strategies, regulatory compliance, or employment law.

Greatest lesson learned in law school: The greatest lesson learned in law school was the ability to think through issues from all perspectives and understanding the arguments that others will put forth as we decide major policy and implementation questions that will benefit the college and its students.

6. Christian Spears ’02, Deputy Director of Athletics at Northern Illinois University:

How I use my J.D.: I use my J.D. when I work with our general counsel on a variety of issues (legal and otherwise) that affect our intercollegiate athletic program; when negotiating contracts with agents and apparel companies as well as other business vendors; when I interpret regulations and bylaws that impact how we serve and support our student-athletes, coaches, and staff. 

Greatest lesson learned in law school: How to present my ideas clearly, logically and (most importantly) persuasively. Naturally, understanding the dynamics of a situation or issue and being able to discuss all sides of the issue using critical thinking through quick analysis has been extremely valuable as well.

7. Amanda Compton ’10, Development Officer for Major Gifts at Ohio Wesleyan University:

How I use my J.D.: My legal education taught me, above all else, to be strategic, analytical, to consider all factors, and to look at a situation from different angles. In my work each day, I must consider many elements simultaneously (the interests of the university, the ideal timeframe for a gift, the realistic timeframe for a gift, how a gift can be composed, the history of interaction with a donor, and the interests of the donor, among others); I must be strategic with how to achieve the university’s needs and goals; and I must be flexible and switch to a different plan when new information reveals itself. My J.D. also trained me to be extremely sensitive and thorough when handling gift agreements and details.

Greatest lesson learned in law school: The answer to almost everything is, “It depends!” Also, not to reach a high level of stress because what is in front of you is not the most difficult challenge you will face, and you can get through it!

8. Jeff Kaplan ’76, Senior Vice President of Advancement at The Ohio State University:

How I use my J.D.: My law school training is useful in thinking about problems and formulating solutions by approaching issues from a variety of angles instead of one or two. It also serves to remind me that how one explains the case or matter at hand often is as important as the facts themselves. Finally, it is a good shield allowing me to disregard those who bluster and threaten to sue whenever they don’t get their way.

Greatest lesson learned in law school: Don’t take yourself too seriously; remember that humor is almost always helpful; remember that no one is always right (including oneself) no matter how smart one thinks one is.

 9. Sarbeth J. Fleming ’00, Associate Dean of Admission and Financial Aid/Director of Multicultural Admission at Davidson College:
How I use my J.D.: My J.D. has opened so many doors for me. I remember at graduation we were taught (paraphrased): “Never use logic in an illogical situation.” This way of thinking has helped me advance in my career and been seen a problem-solver at each of my jobs. Since I am a supervisor and work in an office of 31 people, my dispute resolution classes have been invaluable.

Greatest lesson learned in law school: Oddly enough, I recount at least one Ohio State experience daily. Ohio State taught me how to work with so many people from diverse backgrounds. Listening to my classmates, for example, who had experienced being in the workforce in Professor (Joseph) Stulberg’s Employment Law class helped make the subject real. Moritz does an outstanding job with making sure all students understand the materials.

10. Kelly N. (Woods) Widener ’04, Assistant Director of Athletics for Compliance & Student Services at Princeton University:
How I use my J.D.: As the assistant A.D., I must educate coaches, administrators, student-athletes, campus constituencies, alumni, prospects, and supporters of intercollegiate athletics on the NCAA bylaws and Ivy League rules. I administer and provide guidance with respect to these rules on a daily basis. My position requires me to research case precedent when submitting waivers requesting relief from these rules and bylaws. I am most appreciative of my J.D. when I’m able to successfully advocate for my coaches and student-athletes – the most satisfying and rewarding part of my job.

Greatest lesson learned in law school: Don’t schedule Real Estate Finance at 7:30 a.m. if you participate in the intramural bowling league!

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