Issue: August 2007
In This Issue:
Heather N. Peterson of Heislerville, Cumberland County, a senior Honors student majoring in chemistry and minoring in law and justice studies at Rowan University in Glassboro, is spending her summer at the Broward County Sheriff's Office Crime Lab in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Peterson is conducting research in the Broward County's drug lab on the date-rape drug GHB and its derivatives. Additionally, she's collecting and processing evidence for the county's Crime Scene Unit.
Now THAT's a cool internship. Lots of students like Heather are choosing to study law and justice and criminal justice these days, due in part to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and popular TV shows like Law & Order and CSI. Law and justice students can go on to law school and become lawyers, while criminal justice- the system used by government to maintain social control, enforce laws and administer justice-is the basis for law enforcement careers, such as police, court and corrections officers. Police officers are typically required to have at least a two-year college degree before they are accepted into the police academy-if not even higher education.
New Jersey has a wealth of law and justice programs at its colleges and universities and is investing lots of money in improving the state's criminal justice system. On July 24, the U.S. Department of Justice announced more than $7.6 million in anti-crime funding to the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety. The money will be used, in part, to prevent and control crime in the state. At least some of that grant money will no doubt support careers in law and law enforcement.
It's a great time to be a lawyer-or at leasst to look for a job in the legal profession. Experts are calling this an associate's job market. According to The National Law Journal, the number of associates-otherwise known as fledgling attorneys-in the country's 250 largest law firms has increased 76% over the last decade. During the same period, the number of law school graduates has gone up just 7%. Law firms are responding to that crunch by reaching out to a wider array of law schools and fighting fiercely for graduates of top-tier schools. Hit the books, get good grades and you're guaranteed to be one of those in-demand grads.
Susanne Peticolas, a graduate of Metuchen High School, was in a very similar position when she graduated from Rutgers University School of Law in Newark. She dominated her class, serving as managing editor of the Rutgers Law Review, rising to No. 2 and graduating Magna Cum Laude, which is a Latin phrase that indicates the high level of distinction with which an academic degree is earned. Suffice it to say that Susanne was an awesome law school student.
And, as it turns out, an excellent lawyer. Since graduating from Rutgers in 1980 and completing a prestigious two-year clerkship with a federal judge, Susanne has spent the past 25 years honing her skills as an attorney with Gibbons, P.C. in Newark. When she started as an associate in 1982, Gibbons had 37 attorneys. Today Susanne is a director in the Real Property and Environmental department for Gibbons, which now has four offices and more than 200 attorneys practicing in all areas of law.
"Most of my time is spent in environmental litigation," explains Susanne, who typically represents corporate clients. "Communication and problem-solving are the skills I use all the time. Lawyers have to be good written and verbal communicators. You need to be able to persuade judges and regulators-you need to be able to persuade the other side that your position is reasonable. And when it comes to problem-solving, it's very helpful to be able to step outside of your own perspective and see the other side. It's by seeing where there are commonalities that you can work toward some kind of resolution. It's not all about winning." Integrity, adds Susanne, also helps ease courtroom tension. "Your word today is very valuable," she points out. "People have to be able to rely on what you say. I've been in a lot of litigations where the positions are separated. If you treat everyone with courtesy and compassion while at the same time protecting your client, it makes everything a lot easier and less stressful."
Here's a good one. On the first day of his internship a few years ago, a young grad named Andrew McDonald created a website for himself. He never thought that anyone would mind if he named the blog after the company he was working for...or if he just happened to write daily about what was going on in the office. They did mind. Soon after, Andrew became a Busted Blogger!
Lesson No. 1 in the workplace: You are accountable for your actions! It's important to understand accountability and responsibility before you get a job, says Mike Noll, education outreach officer for Commerce Banks' BASE Academy, a business class that Noll and others teach to New Jersey high schoolers. Here are some of Noll's workplace words to live by: