In the wide-ranging field of Criminal Justice, many individuals find their calling in law enforcement or in some other realm of public service. But for a growing number of young professionals in Metro Detroit, certain aspirations lead them to take on one of the country’s top-tier legal professions: attorneys.
Attorneys, or lawyers, have long stood as some of the Motor City’s hardest working individuals in the professional business atmosphere. While many workers are those of the blue collar persuasion here in Motown working along the factory lines, these professional folks instead opted to tough it out through many grueling years of law school and spent their days climbing the rings of success upon the legal ladder.
The reward? In most cases, a high-paying, highly respectable profession that can last a lifetime. So is it worth all of the extra time in school to earn that top-notch education to become a lawyer in today’s “modern Detroit”? Jennifer Colagiovanni is an Associate Attorney with Wachler & Associates, P.C in Royal Oak and discussed her views and opinions on the skills needed to work and flourish in Michigan’s burgeoning legal system.
Obviously, becoming an attorney takes many additional years of education. What percentage of your background in criminal justice and legal information in the criminal justice field that you obtained in school do you use currently in your regular profession?
“I currently practice in the area of healthcare law, so I don’t necessarily call upon the specific rules of criminal law or criminal procedure in my day-to-day work. But legal education in criminal law and procedure helps law students understand how the American justice system works, particularly in terms of due process rights and constitutional protections, which goes beyond just criminal law practice.
“An understanding of these principles is important in any area of practice and can certainly impact your representation of a client’s interest. Likewise, in healthcare law, it is possible for a matter to start in the civil arena and ultimately have potential criminal implications for a client. As such, it is important to have the criminal law and procedure background you learn in law school to identify these types of potential issues if they arise.”
As an attorney, do you feel like your current profession suits your educational background well? Is there any other profession that you could see plausible, or at least possible, with your intricate experiences not only in school, but in a professional setting?
“I think law school really provides you with a critical thinking skill set that can be applied to a variety of professions. People often say that law school teaches you how to think like a lawyer, and I would tend to agree. As an attorney, clients look to you to assess a situation or dispute and essentially problem solve in some fashion–whether that be through a formal process like litigation or negotiation or crafting a creative resolution.
“Beyond the traditional practice of law, I think the ability to think critically and work towards a favorable resolution to a problem for your client or company could be a valuable skill set in a variety of professional settings including business management, consulting and government. I think you see attorneys in all of these areas.”
In your opinion, how important is obtaining a degree or advanced degree in the legal/criminal justice profession? And is there one type of degree or course of study that is better than another? Do you see these trends changing anytime soon?
“If you are interested in practicing law, then the only avenue available is to pursue a law degree and ultimately take the bar exam. This process does not seem to be changing in the U.S. anytime soon. At least in my own educational experience, I was not required to specialize in any particular area of law while in law school. This leaves you with the option of taking classes in a variety of areas that interest you and ultimately practice in any area of law you choose. It is not necessarily the rules of civil procedure or evidence or the the cases you read in law school that you call upon as a practicing attorney, but instead the critical thinking and legal writing skills that you take away from the experience, that can be applied in any area of practice.”
Michael Ferro is freelance writer and a graduate of Michigan State University where he majored in Creative Writing and received the Jim Cash Creative Writing Award. Born and bred in Detroit, he currently resides in Ypsilanti Township. Additional writing can be found at Examiner.com.