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Going Back to Law School

ebrief feature

Four current students talk about why they chose law
Feature by Carolyn Mattus

Signing a contract, negotiating an acquisition, developing a new product. While these tasks are widely regarded as typical of the business world, they are also actions that have significant legal ramifications. Many businesspeople, therefore, are seeking to gain greater understanding of their world and gain essential new skills by going to law school.

Before she was an Associate Analyst setting parameters and running queries to identify potential new stock ideas for hedge fund management group Astral Capital, Bethani Williams, BC Law ’10, was a philosophy major at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

However, she was led down a rather different road after talking to a friend with an intense interest in economics. With a strong background in logic, employing Williams was a natural choice for Astral.

Eventually, Williams became more interested in the legal issues surrounding the formation and functioning of the fund more than crunching numbers. She also admired the lawyers who both worked for and against the fund.

“Had I known securities law, I would have been able to spot more chinks in the armor of companies I researched that were under scrutiny or could potentially come under scrutiny,” she said. “Also, a general knowledge of the law would have helped me spot incipient legal trends that would eventually have effects on the market in general.”

Rather than pursue a certificate as a Chartered Financial Analyst, Williams chose to go to BC Law in order to satisfy her curiosity about the legal world, as well as open more doors for herself in the future.

“A law degree allows for versatility in career choice,” Williams said. “Also there is a definite advantage to knowing the law from a business perspective and knowing business from a legal perspective.”

Like Williams, Matthew Mazzotta, BC Law ’10, sought to expand his professional options by getting a law degree. As the Morning Executive Producer for New England Cable News, Mazzotta oversaw news programming, and as a result, was constantly exposed to lively and intriguing debates on politics and public policy. But after awhile, being behind the camera and sitting at the news desk wasn’t enough for him.

“There are some great things about journalism, but you’re not specifically driving [news] other than deciding what goes on the air and what doesn’t and how you present it,” said Mazzotta. “There’s an element of being detached from it all.”

Seeking to become more of a driving force in the public realm, Mazzotta enrolled at BC Law because of its dedication to public interest law. Mazzotta hopes to become involved in the public policies to which he once gave airtime.

“There is an ethos of caring about the bigger world [at BC Law] and that was very important to me,” said Mazzotta.

An entrepreneur who served as the Project Manager of a startup software company in 2004, Conor O’Brien, BC Law ’09, found himself managing a variety of business affairs with no prior experience doing so; he had been a politics major at New York University. O’Brien taught himself the ins and outs of running Talking Panda, a translation software designed specifically for iPod.

“Every single task I had to do was pretty novel, whether it was getting people to help us provide content or produce software boxes for us,” said O’Brien.

He also faced legal issues with which he was unfamiliar, specifically when a Chinese company had stolen several aspects of Talking Panda, from the programming, to the writing on the product’s box. It was interest in these issues as well as his general interest in law that prompted O’Brien to go to law school.

“Even though at the time I didn’t have a whole lot to do legally because [the company] had a legal team, the legal challenges led me to the conclusion that law school would be where I would end up,” said O’Brien. “A lot of the legal issues that came up with the software company intrigued me most and I found that I wanted to tackle them.”

Like Williams, O’Brien sees a law degree as a way to have an advantage over others.

“Not everybody in business has a law degree,” he said. “It is a unique thing that can give you a leg up on your competition. Also, the type of thinking you learn and skill set you develop is applicable to a number of different areas.”

Joanna Kornafel, BC Law ’10, majored in politics in college like O’Brien, but had more of an international focus, thanks to spending her years growing up in several different countries. After graduation, found a job at McKinsey & Co., a management consulting firm. As a Program Specialist, Kornafel coordinated 27-30 global workshops that focused on building one-year associates’ problem-solving and interpersonal skills.

While Kornafel found her work to be extremely rewarding, it had its limitations, mainly due to an insufficient understanding and maneuvering of the law.

“We also worked on the visa process for faculty members from different countries.  This was a complicated and frustrating process,” she said. “It would have been incredibly helpful to have a law degree in weaving through the laws and requirements for each country.”

With her eyes set on learning more about international law, Kornafel enrolled in BC Law School this year. Kornafel said she was attracted to BC Law not only for the various clinical programs available and its location in Boston, but also because of the international programs it had to offer.

“Its study abroad program in London is quite intriguing, as it allows students the opportunity to immerse themselves within another legal community,” said Kornafel. “I think it is increasingly relevant in today’s world to have that sort of experience and exposure, particularly in the business world.”