Graduate Report: Spring / Summer 2012 - Here's How I Help...

For some UConn Law graduates, supporting their alma mater means making a gift to the annual fund, providing money support to sponsor events or by making a gift to an endowed fund. While private financial support is vital to the institution – and greatly encouraged and appreciated – there are many other important ways graduates are giving back, including assisting in the student recruiting and admissions process; enhancing career awareness on the part of current students; helping students gain confidence and marketability; and, of course, helping UConn-educated attorneys find rewarding work.

Here's How You Can Help:

Want to join the ranks of UConn Law graduates who use their time, expertise, contacts and resources to assist the staff in Admissions, the Career Planning Center, and Student Services? For more information please contact:

Admissions:
Ellen Keane Rutt '90, Associate Dean for Enrollment Management and Strategic Planning

Career Planning Center:
Aimee Houghton '06, Director

Development Opportunities:
Ron Fleury, Director of Development

Graduate Events:
Julia B. Dunlop, Director of External Relations

Student Services:
Karen Demeola '06, Assistant Dean of Students

 

 

For the most part, engaging in the life and continued success of the University of Connecticut School of Law is often quite easy. Here’s a look at how several distinguished graduates are using their time, expertise, contacts and resources to advance the goals and objectives of their beloved alma mater, its students and fellow graduates.

Admissions Outreach

Each year, the Law School Admissions staff works tirelessly to attract a highly qualified and talented pool of applicants. But that’s only part of their job. Once they determine which applicants will be offered a place in the incoming class, it’s time to go about encouraging the best and the brightest to enroll.

Chrystal Szeto ’09 has been assisting her alma mater with admissions-related tasks since 2007, when she was a work-study student assigned to the Law School Admissions Office. “I started out conducting campus tours for prospective students and their parents,” says Szeto, an associate at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP’s Hartford office, where she represents institutional investors, fund managers and lenders in complex workouts, insolvency proceedings, and litigation. “Eventually, I was given the opportunity to go to Fairfield University to meet with prospective [UConn Law] students and answer their questions about preparing for and applying to law school. Since graduation, I’ve come back to campus each year to participate on the graduate panel at the Law School’s Admitted Students Day.”

Szeto, a member of the Connecticut Asian Pacific Bar Association, emphasizes that it is easy and rewarding to do what she does in support of Admissions. “I’ve been performing outreach for my undergraduate institution (Columbia University) since I graduated, and knew I wanted to be involved with UConn’s outreach and admissions process as well. I don’t think it takes any special skills to do what I do, just an interest in getting the word out about the great opportunities UConn Law and the greater Connecticut legal community have to offer. I think prospective students appreciate an honest perspective.”

Szeto, who also finds time to mentor Asian and Hispanic Law students, is quick to recommend that Law School graduates get involved in helping Admissions. “It’s a great way to stay connected to your school,” she says. “It’s also a great way to meet the… students [who will] eventually become your firm’s summer associates, externs and associates.”    

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“UConn Law provides a terrific value proposition for its students and graduates, in terms of academic excellence, tuition and post-graduation career opportunities. Why not share it with as many people as I can?”  Chrystal Szeto ’09

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Karen DeMeola ’97, who headed up Admissions until July 1, when she became assistant dean of Student Services, says that changes in the market make it more important than ever to address the concerns of prospective Law School students right off the bat. “Part of that involves making sure we are engaging all of our constituencies to help us recruit, matriculate and retain our student population,” she says, “so when we look at our recruitment calendar each year we identify a number of events at which alumni can help out.”

According to DeMeola, those events include recruitment fairs, such as the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund event in New York City; large forums sponsored by the Law School Admissions Council in New York, Boston, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago; smaller fairs on individual college campuses; and small group or one-on-one meetings in the conference room of a graduate practicing just about anywhere in the world. “It is no longer enough for us as administrators to give the speech,” explains DeMeola. “Applicants are often more honest with graduates and current students than they are with us as to why they might not be putting UConn in the number one spot…Having alums behind the table has made a huge difference.”

DeMeola notes, as an example, that the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education recruitment fair has been staffed with the help of a graduate of Puerto Rican heritage who speaks candidly about his experiences as a student of color at UConn. “That’s a really important piece that goes into the mix for someone who self-identifies as a student of color and ends up matriculating – or not – here,” she says. “Using a graduate for that purpose makes a lot of sense.”

While Admissions welcomes all graduates interested in helping out at recruitment events, “recent” graduates are of particular value due to their familiarity with the “current” UConn Law experience. DeMeola also emphasizes that working at a recruitment fair usually requires only a few hours of a graduate’s time. “We offer to pay for travel to and from an alum’s home, but nine times out of ten they say no,” she says. “They do it because they want to and because they believe in the institution.”

Erik Lohr ’02 is one of those many graduates who believes in the institution that helped prepare him for the success he has achieved, both in private practice and in public service. “My legal education and training have opened doors to some of the most wonderful and fulfilling experiences of my working life,” he says. 

Lohr, an assistant attorney general the Office of the Attorney General in Hartford, regularly helps out at open houses, something he has been doing since his days as a student. “I first attended an open house at the Law School just prior to being admitted,” he recalls. “I am African American, and I distinctly [remember] an African American female who also was in attendance…turning to me and commenting on the lack of a single African American participant on the student panel. Following my admission, I felt compelled to participate whenever possible to avoid a recurrence of that situation.”

Lohr, an adjunct professor in the Law School’s Street Law program, continues. “[As graduates], we all should, in some way, reach back to help and encourage those still coming through the pipeline so that they too will ‘pay it forward’ when their time comes. Others reached out to give me direction…and I now feel an obligation to do the same, although…it has never felt like [an obligation].”

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“We ask our graduates to encourage qualified candidates to apply to the Law School – and to hire our even more highly qualified graduates after they have completed their legal education.” Ellen Kean Rutt ’90, Associate Dean, Enrollment Management, Institutional Advancement and Strategic Planning

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Enhancing Diversity

The University of Connecticut School of Law is fortunate to have a number of graduates who generously donate their time and talents to support efforts to enhance the diversity of the student body and the profession as a whole. Among those generous graduates is Peter Wilson, Jr. ’00, the director of diversity and inclusion for Proskauer Rose LLP (New York), where he helps develop strategies and programs associated with the recruitment, retention and advancement of lawyers from racial and ethnic minority groups and the LGBT community, women, and people with disabilities. “I have been supporting diversity-related events at the Law School since I was a student,” says Wilson, who was the director of diversity and legal recruiting at Day Pitney LLP prior to joining Proskauer. “After I graduated it was very important to me that I remained connected and visible at the Law School…I remember attending Diversity Week [events] when I was a junior level associate and feeling proud that UConn was boldly addressing diversity issues in the legal profession.”

In his position at Proskauer Rose, Wilson reaches out to students at UConn Law, where he conducts on-campus interviews, spearheads the sponsorship of diversity-related events by his firm, and creates and fosters mentoring relationships on an ongoing basis. “I always felt that participating in events and mentoring minority law students was the least that I could do, given my passion for equality and inclusion in the legal profession,” explains Wilson, the vice president of the Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals. “I encourage others to take the time to support the Law School’s efforts and be active in the pursuit to create a more diverse bar. All that is required is that you take the time to show up and engage in the dialogue.”

Wilson continues. “My father always taught me ‘to whom much is given…much will be required,’ and I am motivated to support UConn's diversity efforts because I realize the significance of my law degree…My hope is that I inspire the next generation of graduates… to want to stay active, support their fellow Huskies, and create a more inclusive bar.”

Events and Panels

The Law School Alumni Association and Career Planning Center have teamed up to sponsor on- and off-campus panel discussions geared to helping graduates-to-be and young graduates prepare for the transition from the classroom to the workplace. In doing so, the Law School staff looks for panelists who have been particularly successful in making this transition, such as Cristina Madry ’05, an associate in the Hartford office of Jackson Lewis LLP, and her classmate, Ndidi N. Moses ’05, an assistant United States attorney for the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut and the civil rights coordinator for the Civil Division in Connecticut.

Madry, who serves on the board of directors of the Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association and the Law School Alumni Association, has been participating in panel discussions since her first year out of law school. “I graduated from UConn Law in 2005 and my first panel discussion was in 2006,” she says. “It was entitled ‘Balancing the Scales – Law School Application and Success Workshops,’ and the discussion was aimed at diversifying not only the classroom but also the bench and bar. I was truly honored when a Law School student reached out and asked if I would be interested in offering my perspective as a recent graduate. I became even more enthusiastic…when I learned of the panel discussion topic, as I knew I had valuable personal and professional experiences to share.” As recently as November 2011, Madry served as a panelist at a Hartford graduate gathering for members of the classes of 2002-2011, where the topic was “The Most Important Lessons Learned Since Graduation.” She says that the key to being an effective panelist is a willingness to speak from the heart. “It has been my experience that students are genuinely interested in knowing how you handled a problem, how it impacted you, what you did right, and what you would do differently if you could,” says Madry, whose practice is concentrated on employment litigation and preventive counseling. “To answer these questions in any meaningful way, you must be prepared to have a frank and heartfelt dialogue about your successes and setbacks.”

Given her enthusiasm for giving back, it is not a surprise that Madry recommends that other Law School graduates consider sitting on panels at Graduate Gatherings across the state and nation. “The students who attend the panel discussions are eager to hear what you have to share and are very appreciative of the time that you set aside,” she explains. “They truly make you feel like an awesome individual.”

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“I take a lot of pride in my alma mater and want to see it succeed in the generations to come. To that end, my husband and I donate what we can to assist in making the UConn Law experience just as great for students going forward as it was for us.” Cristina Madry ’05

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Ndidi Moses has been serving on Law School panels since her days as a student, when she participated on panels directed at newly admitted students and students still in the process of thinking about attending law school. Since that time she has participated in several other Law School events, including a September 2011 graduate gathering in Stamford, where Moses sat on a panel entitled, “Early Career Transition: How to Set Your Path.” “For me, (serving on) panels is no different than having a conversation with someone and giving them advice,” says Moses, past president of the George W. Crawford Black Bar Association. Despite the ease with which Moses handles her role as a panelist, she finds the experience highly rewarding. “I enjoy knowing that I can make a difference in someone’s life,” she says. “Also…UConn is one of the few places where when I introduce myself as an assistant United States attorney people actually smile.” Moses, who also serves on the board of the Law School Alumni Association, adds that she has directly benefitted from the support of many older attorneys and mentors. Among the UConn Law graduates she credits for helping her along the way were Peter Wilson ’00 at Day Pitney LLP; Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Lubbie Harper, Jr. ’75 (who reached out to Moses when she was a clerk at the Connecticut Appellate Court); Jeffrey White ’03 and Linda Moran ’87 at Robinson & Cole LLP (where she practiced for two years); District Court Judge Vanessa Bryant ’78; and Randall Pinkston ’05 and Frank Borges ’78, both of whom she met while planning an event. “They [and many others] made me who I am today, and I am forever in [their] debt,” she says.

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“I try to never say no to a request from the Law School.” Ndidi Moses ‘05

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Networking

Starting work at a large law firm or public agency can be an intimidating experience for a new – or veteran – lawyer. To help ease the stress of that transition, Jem C. Sponzo ’06, a trial attorney at the Department of Justice’s Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL) in Washington, DC, makes a conscious effort to reach out to UConn Law students beginning work at her office, as others did to her. “OIL features brief biographical sketches of new attorneys, including where they attended law school, in its newsletter,” says Sponzo. “After I was listed, a few OIL attorneys who were also UConn graduates approached me, and we planned a lunch. I have since had the opportunity to greet two UConn grads at OIL, and I have been fortunate to meet other alums working in other government offices here in DC. Our lunches are a pleasure, but helping new attorneys see…how rewarding government service can be has been far and away the best part about welcoming fellow UConn alums to Washington.”

While Sponzo looks forward to the opportunity to meet and greet other graduates of her alma mater on and off the job, she also hopes to serve on Law School panels geared to assisting students and young graduates as they pursue their legal careers. “I remember being asked as a student to speak as a panelist regarding opportunities in international law after interning with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,” says Sponzo, who interned at Human Rights Watch during the fall of her 3L year. “While I'm certain there are many alums with far more fascinating careers than mine, I can’t think of a better way to thank UConn than to help students see the potential their degrees will have and [to] help them get excited to make amazing careers for themselves.”  

Legislative Internships

State Senator Martin Looney ’85 has served in the Connecticut General Assembly for more than 30 years. For close to ten of those years, Looney has called on student interns from UConn Law to help him meet the needs of his constituents. “Over the years, our Law School interns have been engaged in a series of research projects evaluating proposed legislation,” says Looney, who is currently in his fifth term as Senate majority leader. “They also have been quite helpful undertaking comparative studies about how other states have dealt with problems we are grappling with here in Connecticut.”

Looney, who was elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives two years prior to beginning law school, says that he first got involved in taking on UConn Law interns at the recommendation of former Senate Majority Leader Cornelius “Con” O’Leary ’82, an adjunct professor who has co-taught the Legislative Process course at the Law School for the last several years. “As someone who is also a teacher (Looney is an adjunct faculty member in political science at the University of New Haven and at Quinnipiac University), I thoroughly enjoy interacting with the Law School interns. I also enjoy addressing Con’s class on the legislative process.”

Looney emphasizes that there is a strong interest in UConn Law in the Connecticut General Assembly because such a large group of attorneys serving there are graduates. “There is a very strong connection between the Legislature and the Law School,” he says, “and it’s bound to stay that way.”

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“The benefits to the legislator far outweigh the work involved in having and evaluating a Law School intern.” State Senator Martin Looney ’85

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Job Postings

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission in Washington, DC makes it a point to post job openings with the Career Planning Center at the University of Connecticut School of Law. Why? According to Jason K. Levine ’05, chief counsel to Commissioner Robert S. Adler, the Commission knows first-hand the quality of UConn Law graduates. “Everywhere I have worked I have encouraged the HR department to participate in UConn Law’s career service efforts,” says Levine, who spent three years with Kelly, Drye & Warren LLP before moving on to the Federal Election Commission and Consumer Product Safety Commission. “Last year, I also had a chance to be involved in the hiring process for a summer legal intern in my commissioner’s office. One of the law schools we posted the position at was UConn – and I’m thrilled to say we had a great experience with our UConn legal intern.”

Levine believes that until more alums who have left New England reach out and bring new graduates into their legal communities, UConn Law will remain a “hidden gem in Hartford instead of the nationally recognized law school it could be.” Accordingly, he encourages his fellow Law School graduates to help their alma mater in whatever ways they can. “I feel very fortunate to have had a great experience at UConn Law and believe it prepared me in many ways for where I am today,” he says. “Any small contribution I can make to other UConn Law graduates having a similar experiences seems like the right thing to do.”

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“There are many ways graduates can assist our students, from posting job opportunities to conducting mock interviews…Graduates can also assist our office by participating in panels and brown-bag discussions, attending career fairs and availing themselves to informational interviews.” Aimee Houghton ’06, Director, Career Planning Center

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Job Shadowing

Observing the daily duties and responsibilities of a working attorney is a great way to get a feel for all that is involved in a particular legal position. Not every lawyer is willing to be shadowed, however, for fear that it is too time-consuming and distracting. Not so for Ann Guillet ’87, senior assistant public defender for the Division of Public Defender Services at Enfield Superior Court, who welcomes the opportunity for law students to shadow her. “The time commitment is not usually much outside of the normal working day,” she says. “What is needed…is [enough] time fit into your day to educate the law student about the way in which the criminal courts work in Connecticut. This not only includes reviewing criminal statutes and Connecticut Practice Book requirements, but also the various pre-trial diversionary programs available to our clients. All of this requires the attorney to be patient, especially with students who have not had much experience with criminal practice.”

Guillet urges other UConn Law graduates to invite law students to shadow them for a day, a semester, or as a summer intern. “It is extremely important, especially in the field of public service, to explain to future attorneys the importance of what we do, why we do it, and the reason that we have to be positive role models,” says Guillet, who has been a public defender in the Connecticut Superior Court system since 1988. “Lawyers in general often get a bad rap and…there is still a common perception that we (public defenders) are not ‘real’ lawyers…It is important to show students that civil service is an important part of our criminal justice system and that the University of Connecticut School of Law has produced many fine attorneys and jurists. Job shadowing is a perfect opportunity to share skills, network and have seasoned attorneys as resources for newer attorneys beginning in practice. It is a great avenue to give back to [UConn] in a non-financial, yet valuable, way.”

Guillet adds that her experience as a Criminal Clinic student under clinic founder Michael Sheldon (now an Appellate Court judge) and Todd Fernow ’83 (the current head of the Criminal Clinic) was an invaluable training ground for the everyday practice of criminal law. “Having interns [shadow me at work] has allowed me to share my experiences and knowledge in a job I absolutely love in a non-academic environment, but with many of the same benefits and opportunities for learning as I had in the clinic setting.”

Mentoring

From October 2003 to March 2011, Mark Dubois ’77 served as the Connecticut Judicial Branch’s first chief disciplinary counsel, a position in which he was responsible for investigating and prosecuting a wide range of lawyer discipline matters, as well as the unauthorized practice of law. That experience makes him a particularly valuable mentor for newly-minted and veteran lawyers alike, though his mentoring dates back to 2001 when he was an assistant clinical professor at UConn Law. “While I was at [UConn] I was advisor to the Student Bar Association and the student trial lawyers group,” says Dubois, who is now counsel to Geraghty and Bonnano LLC in New London, where his practice includes ethics and compliance issues in law, government and business. “Since leaving the fulltime faculty, I have continued to teach at UConn and Quinnipiac [School of Law] as an adjunct. I tell students that I am a resource that does not end when the class is over.”

While serving as Connecticut’s chief disciplinary counsel, Dubois, a member of the Connecticut Bar Association’s mentoring committee, spent a significant amount of time “extricating young lawyers from trouble and helping them avoid getting disciplinary records.” To help ensure that they stay on the right path, Dubois offers them the opportunity to “call anytime for advice and guidance.”

“We are looking forward to the newly updated on-line community where graduates and students can connect more easily. We hope this new platform will assist in building lasting mentoring relationships across the globe.” Aimee Houghton ’06

A litigator for more than 20 years before joining the Law School faculty, Dubois says that there is a gap between what is learned in law school and what lawyers need to succeed. “Mentoring can fill the gap for many [young lawyers] in solo and small firm environments where they do not have access to experience lawyers for direction.”

Looking ahead, Dubois hopes to enhance mentoring opportunities for, and on behalf of, Connecticut attorneys. “I am presently vice president of the Connecticut Bar Association and will be president in two years,” he says. “I hope to use that position to continue to advance the goal of making mentoring and support for law graduates a part of both the legal culture and the process of bar management and leadership.”

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“The University paired me with a mentor my first year of law school (Superior Court Judge Angelo L. dos Santos ’73) who mentored me throughout my entire law school experience and thereafter… He was a tremendous resource and offered me much encouragement.” Cristina Madry ’05

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On-Campus Interviewing

Thanks to James O. Fleckner ’98, Boston-based Goodwin Proctor LLP has been an active player in the Law School’s on-campus interview (OCI) program since 2006. “When I came to the firm as a lateral associate, Goodwin had not been regularly participating in on-campus interviewing,” says Fleckner, who heads Goodwin Proctor’s ERISA litigation practice, where he defends financial services institutions, employers, officers and directors against claims arising from employer-sponsored retirement, health and welfare plans. “I lobbied my firm’s recruiting department to begin interviewing at UConn. They agreed.”

As a lawyer practicing at a national firm with an increasing international presence, Fleckner believes it is important to be able to help provide opportunities to upcoming UConn Law graduates interested in finding a legal career outside of Connecticut. “Having lived and worked in Connecticut before moving to Boston, I know that the Law School is well known and highly regarded in Connecticut,” explains Fleckner. “What I see as an opportunity is to find ways to introduce the Law School and its graduates to people outside of [the state] who may not [be] familiar with the school.”

For Fleckner, participating in the Law School’s OCI program is both beneficial to his firm – and a simple matter of giving back to his alma mater. “I have been afforded some tremendous opportunities in my career, and I hope to be able to do the same for others coming up,” he says.

Career Planning Center Director Aimee Houghton ’06 adds that she and her colleagues are always available to assist graduates with their hiring needs. “We hold on-campus interviews throughout the year and host a career fair in February, as well as a more formal Firm Review Reception in April,” says Houghton. “We [also] currently run two off-campus interview program in August for Boston and New York employers.”

FACT: Immediate employment opportunities for current UConn students or fellow graduates can be posted on Symplicity, the Career Planning Center’s online employment database, by logging in to https://law-uconn-csm.symplicity.com/employers/; e-mailing careers@law.uconn.edu; or faxing the job posting description to (860) 570-5317.

Summer Associates

Summer associate opportunities are often associated with large law firms with significant human and financial resources. Tell that to Jane I. Milas ’86, of New Haven-based Garcia & Milas, who has been providing summer associate positions for UConn Law students on a regular basis for many years. “When I started as an associate at the predecessor to Garcia & Milas, the firm already had in place a practice of hiring summer associates, and that practice has continued to this day,” says Milas, whose law practice focuses on construction and commercial litigation, as well as alternative dispute resolution. “I first became involved though the on-campus interviewing program at UConn.”

FACT: Five of the six attorneys at Garcia & Milas are UConn Law graduates.

Milas emphasizes that while there is a commitment of time and energy to the summer associate program on the part of everyone at Garcia & Milas, lawyers at the firm are “energized” by the summer associates, who, she says, bring with them a fresh perspective and enthusiasm for the law. “[While] the time commitment is not daunting, it is critical that our lawyers be available to the summer associates for feedback and for general discussion about the law and the practical aspects of being a lawyer,” Milas explains. “The desire to share what it means to be a lawyer and an interest in mentoring a soon-to-be lawyer are important skills in working with summer associates.”

Milas, the managing director at Garcia & Milas, continues. “I would recommend without hesitation that UConn Law graduates become involved with Career Planning and the on-campus interviewing program. Working with the Career Planning Center has been…so rewarding for this firm, and we have thoroughly enjoyed our experience with our summer associates.”

“Each of us can find some way to stay connected with the Law School and help keep it moving forward.” Jane Milas ’86

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FACT: Eighty-two percent of the Law School’s class of 2012 borrowed money for their legal education, and the average total debt for those who borrowed was more than $65,000. “By helping to defray the daunting expenses of a legal education [through, for example, scholarships supported through the generosity of graduates], we can attract and retain the best applicants and have them afford what we all know to be the best education bargain in Connecticut – a degree from UConn Law School,” says Associate Dean for Enrollment Management, Institutional Advancement and Strategic Planning Ellen K. Rutt ’90.

Feature: Here's How I Help
Curricular Reform
Faculty News
Around Campus
Graduate Profile: Traci Cipriano '97
Graduate Profile: Michael Lynch '12
Alumni Association Awards Dinner
Giving Back: Pullman and Comley
Giving Back: Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Remembering: Robert M. Cook '99

Promotions:

  • Alice Bruno, executive director, Connecticut Bar Association
  • Diane C. McEnroe '88, partner, Sidley Austin LLP
  • William J. Egan '90, partner, Robinson & Cole LLP
  • Douglas M. Connors '95, partner, Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP
  • Anne Davis Barry '01, partner, Cantor Colburn LLP
  • Jeffrey J. White '03, partner, Robinson & Cole LLP
  • Mario F. Coppola '04, partner, Berchem, Moses & Devlin, P.C.
  • Alexander D. Pencu '04, partner, Meister Seelig & Fein LLP
  • David E. Rodriguez '05, partner, Cantor Colburn LLP