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Threat Level: Constant

Brian Levine says the UMass Cybersecurity Institute

Brian Levine says the UMass Cybersecurity Institute’s work is “security for the common good.”

 

Make no mistake, we live in an increasingly interconnected world, and the technology that makes that possible is always under threat from those who would mine, expose, and exploit data — often in life-altering ways. So while it’s no surprise that the cybersecurity field is rife with job opportunity, exactly how much opportunity (a half-million open jobs nationally, according to one study) may still raise eyebrows. Area universities with cybersecurity degree programs hope those statistics also raise interest in a challenging field that offers good pay and the chance to do some truly meaningful work.

It’s impossible to envision a world that doesn’t need cybersecurity, Brian Levine said, and that’s not exactly good news.

“I don’t think there’s any way this will go away, unfortunately,” he said, after listing common threats ranging from malware and ransomware attacks to massive breaches of consumer data. “It’s an ever-present problem. So what we do here is really important.”

He was referring to the UMass Cybersecurity Institute on the Amherst campus, which launched in 2015 with the mission of advancing what it calls “security for the common good,” said Levine, the institute’s director. For example, he has worked over the past decade to build tools used by law enforcement around the country — and the world — on cases of internet-based child sexual abuse (for example, the sharing of exploitative photographs).

“That’s a privacy issue, and a forensics issue,” he said, stressing that the institute’s researchers never lose focus on the human benefits of their work — in other words, it’s never just a technical exercise.

“The courses we offer are influenced by research that we do,” he went on. “We have a lot of pride in moving the research we’re doing into the classroom.”

That high-impact work is appealing to many who enter this profession, but one of the most obvious draws is the career opportunity. Matt Smith, director of Cybersecurity programs at Bay Path University, noted that a half-million jobs in cybersecurity are open across the U.S. — more than 20,000 of them in New England, and roughly two-thirds of those (13,389, according to the national CyberSeek research project) in Massachusetts — the 12th-highest total among all U.S. states.

“The industry is changing so rapidly.Turn on the news — one day they’re talking about ransomware, another day it’s the Colonial Pipeline attack … it’s all about security. So, workforce in this industry is in demand.”

“The industry is changing so rapidly,” Smith said. “Turn on the news — one day they’re talking about ransomware, another day it’s the Colonial Pipeline attack … it’s all about security. So, workforce in this industry is in demand.”

That’s the other side of the ‘bad news’ coin — at least for people who want to make a career of defending against threats that will only continue. “It’s real job security, with high starting salaries. You’re going to retain employment and have opportunities to upscale.”

Reflecting the many different niches in cybersecurity, Bay Path offers three undergraduate degrees in the field — digital forensics and incident response, information assurance, and risk management — as well as a master’s degree in cybersecurity management.

“We renew the courses every time we go live, sometimes two times a year,” Smith said. “Every time it’s being presented to another cohort, we look at the information being presented and decide if it’s still applicable, or how it can be improved upon.”

Matt Smith says the constantly evolving nature of threats means job security

Matt Smith says the constantly evolving nature of threats means job security and advancement opportunities for today’s cybersecurity professionals.

For example, “the Colonial Pipeline incident hadn’t happened two years ago — so, let’s talk about that this year and remove something else from the course. We’re always going through the courses, tweaking them, fine-tuning them, and I think that sets us apart from other universities. We handpick the material we incorporate, and we update it, and we use the best forensic software we can.”

And that’s a challenge, said Beverly Benson, Cybersecurity program director for the American Women’s College, Bay Path’s all-online arm, which offers intensive, accelerated versions of the undergraduate cybersecurity programs taught at the main campus.

“I am constantly doing research on threats, making sure my curriculum and content is fresh, because the reality is, those individuals who are trying to attack systems, they don’t take vacations,” she told BusinessWest. “We need to stay abreast of everything to make sure students are getting as up-to-date a curriculum as possible.”

The industry’s constantly evolving nature makes it attractive to many career seekers, she added.

“It’s not a repetitive type of field. There may be a framework to adhere to, but as technology advances, so does the work that needs to be done. Our world is becoming more connected and interconnected, and data is everything. Think about the gadgets in our homes — even washing machines, dryers, and stoves are connected to the internet. We need people to understand how to keep that data safe.”

For that reason, Benson went on, “cybersecurity touches everyone, whether it’s healthcare, financial services, food service, the travel industry, the Department of Defense, you name it. We’re a very interconnected world, and we’re able to do things faster because of data — so we need to protect that data, whether it’s at rest, in transit, or in use.”

 

Defending Data

Levine listed a number of ways the cybersecurity research — and classwork — at UMass affects real people.

“One professor looks at ensuring that people have censorship-free access to information on the internet, which can be very important if you’re a dissident in a country that has censored or filtered it,” he said. “Another professor works with differential privacy, and his technology is being used by the U.S. Census.”

That term refers to technology that allows the government, corporations, or anyone else to release statistical information while not exposing people’s individual data.

Beverly Benson

Beverly Benson

“It’s not a repetitive type of field. There may be a framework to adhere to, but as technology advances, so does the work that needs to be done. Our world is becoming more connected and interconnected, and data is everything.”

“One problem with studies that collect information about you and release it later is the possibility that someone’s personal details can be inferred by looking at the data set,” Levine said, noting that differential-privacy measures ‘fuzz’ the information so the statistics are accurate, but don’t reveal information about any one person.

“We have courses on what some people call ‘ethical hacking’ — how to analyze a computer for its vulnerabilities and learn to defend those vulnerabilities. It’s teaching students to be white hats,” he explained, adding that other classes delve into reverse-engineering security, digital forensics, ethics and law, and securing distributed systems — which, these days, means cryptocurrency.

“Cryptocurrencies are one of the hardest challenges — no one is in charge, and people are exchanging things of value,” Levine said, adding that, whatever the topic, UMass brings in experts with practical experience in the field to teach students. “We don’t want everything taught from an ivory-tower point of view. And we want to teach techniques that will survive past graduation in a quickly evolving field. It’s not just computer science.”

At the American Women’s College, Benson said the average age of a cybersecurity student is 35, many no doubt drawn by the expansive opportunities in the field. “We have career changers, we have people in IT fields who are looking to specialize, and some are new to it, looking to learn more about cybersecurity and join the workforce.”

She’s also gratified that the program is making a small dent in what is currently a male-dominated workforce, to the tune of 80%. Part of the pitch, she said, is the reality that work in this field is wildly varied.

“We have the opportunity to demystify cybersecurity,” she said. “I explain to our women that cybersecurity is more than someone being in a basement coding. Part of cybersecurity is things like risk management, which can be a more consultative approach, helping someone understand assets, risks, and how to protect against vulnerabilities. Those are not technical skills; those are essential business skills.”

Smith agreed. “This hits on financial services, healthcare, government, you name it. Every industry has been affected in one way or another by cybersecurity.”

He should know, having worked in a number of sectors, ranging from the Pentagon to the financial-services world, and he often calls on professionals who actually work in those fields to bring their real-world expertise to Bay Path students. “A lot of programs are computer-science-driven; they’re experts in coding and programming. When you jump into cybersecurity, it’s a different animal.”

Introducing more women into the field, and all the sectors it influences, would be a healthy development, he said.

“I’m the program director, but also their cheerleader,” Benson agreed. “They know my motto is ‘dare to dream,’ and having a diverse workforce will bring about diversity of thought, diversity of problem solving, diversity in the ways people will collaborate. And I think that’s so needed.”

 

Making Connections

Another needed element is networking and making connections in the field early, Smith said. Many Bay Path students take advantage of a Mass Cyber Center mentorship program, working with large companies like Baystate Health, Travelers Insurance, and MassMutual.

“Networking doesn’t happen only when you go to conferences,” he said in explaining the value of such programs. “And most employers, after an internship, offer something on the spot — they’ll say, ‘please, when can you start?’”

That’s huge for new graduates, who typically enter the work world in significant debt. “We’re one of the industries that actually tackles that cohesively. We’re actually getting them employed at a very high-level-paying job, thus cutting down on student debt,” Smith noted, adding that a graduate’s employer will often pay for further education as well.

Speaking of connecting students with careers, the UMass Cybersecurity Institute recently secured a renewal of its CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, which began in 2015.

The latest grant will support approximately 31 scholars at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the university’s computer science and electrical and computer engineering degree programs by offering them full tuition and fees, a stipend ranging from $25,000 per year for undergraduates to $34,000 per year for graduate students, and a professional-development fund for one to three years of their degree program. In addition, students complete an internship at a federal agency during the summers and, upon graduation, work full-time at a federal agency in a cybersecurity role for one to three years at full pay and benefits. Then they’re free to move on, but many don’t.

“We’ve done this for 34 students already, and the vast majority have stayed in the government after their service period is up,” Levine said, noting that federal opportunities range from working at the Pentagon to protecting land and wildlife with the Environmental Protection Agency; from tracking down cybercriminals with the FBI to joining the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which swoops in to manage ransomware attacks.

“This program will help create a new generation of cybersecurity professionals and researchers to address novel and challenging problems facing society,” said Sanjay Raman, dean of the College of Engineering at UMass Amherst. “These students will help to modernize the executive-branch workforce, advance science and technology at government laboratories, and secure our national defense.”

It’s that kind of real-world impact that inspires those who teach the next generation of cybersecurity pros.

“This is why I get up in the morning,” said Bay Path’s Smith, who worked in counterintelligence around the time of 9/11 and remembers how the world changed. “We did a lot of things to protect our country, and I’m proud of that. Now, I want to give back to the students and help them pick up some of the stuff I’ve learned, so they can excel in a workforce that’s begging for anybody with interest in their field.”

His job, and that of his department, is to stay at the forefront of developments in the field — and, again, they are constant — and continue to hone and evolve the program so it remains relevant and on the cutting edge.

“We want our students to stand out in the industry and get hired,” he said. “And we’ve been very fortunate — our students are landing some amazing jobs.”

 

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Law

Passion for Practice

Last week, Western New England University School of Law graduated its latest class, all of them surely thinking about the road ahead — specifically, the bar exam and the planned first stops on their career paths. But they’re also reflecting on long-term goals and the experiences and mindsets that have shaped those ambitions, in a field of law as broad and diverse as it is challenging. BusinessWest spoke with four of them to put a face — several, actually — on the WNEU Law class of 2019.

Stand Up and Represent

Sometimes, a work experience is more than that, because it sparks a passion. For Kate Malone, she found that passion interning for the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), a public-defense organization, in Northampton.

“I really admired the attorneys I worked with and the people who put such effort and compassion into what they do every day, regardless of the client,” she said. “I really like being in that role — even when the facts are against me, I like being able to stand up and represent somebody.”

An interest in work that serves the public interest wasn’t new for Malone, but she had been searching for the right role.

“I initially wanted to find some way to use my degree working in the community, and I started doing work in the immigration clinics,” she said, noting that, during her first summer away from WNEU, she traveled to Guatemala to learn Spanish in an immersion program, then came back and split time between school and the public-defense work.

“I’ve always found a way to relate to people I serve and trying to find ways to give them not only a great defense, but the best opportunities going forward.”

There was a time when Malone had envisioned herself across the aisle, in a prosecutor’s role, especially during her undergraduate years at Smith College, when she interned in the Victim/Witness Unit of the Northwestern District Attorney’s office. “I knew that I wanted to be a trial lawyer after spending my summer in court with the victim witness advocates,” she said, adding, however, that her work with CPCS led her in a different direction. She did credit the DA’s office, however, with lending her the sensitivity she finds necessary for her work as a public defender.

“I developed a passion for public defense after observing the challenges people accused of crime often face that I did not fully appreciate before,” she went on. “The issues that my clients experience — namely, poverty, substance-use issues, and mental-health disorders — often contribute to them cycling in and out of court.”

As for her immediate plans, Malone will continue working for CPCS — and helping to fill what she sees as a desperate need for public defenders. “I’m happy to be joining CPCS to help fill that gap, and also helping serve the people in the community I grew up in,” she noted.

Kate Malone — pictured, at center

Kate Malone — pictured, at center, with fellow grads Veronice Santana and Claribel Morales — says an internship sparked a passion for public defense, specifically standing up for often-marginalized people.

“I’ve always found a way to relate to people I serve and trying to find ways to give them not only a great defense, but the best opportunities going forward,” she went on. “The way their cases get resolved matters — it has an impact I’d never even considered before law school.”

Taxing — but Fascinating

Emily Eash entered law school with an interest following in the footsteps of her aunt, who operates an estate-planning practice. But she soon stumbled across a different passion — although ‘passion’ might not be the first word most people would use to desribe it.

That field is tax law.

“When I took my first tax course — it wasn’t required, but I was curious — I was hooked, and I wanted to take all the tax courses they had to offer,” Eash said.

She found out she was good at it, too, placing second in the Young Lawyers Tax Challenge, a national annual competition, held in New Orleans this past January. “I was already interested in tax law, and that cemented that I was fairly decent at what I do.”

“Tax is always a puzzle; there are moving parts and different ways you can create a plan or figure out the puzzle to best suit a client’s needs and wants.”

It helps that she considers the wonkier aspects of the discipline, well, kind of fun.

“Tax is always a puzzle; there are moving parts and different ways you can create a plan or figure out the puzzle to best suit a client’s needs and wants. To get the best outcomes, it takes a lot of moving pieces and interacting with the client to help them achieve their goals.”

Eash isn’t sure where her first landing spot will be — she’s still interviewing for jobs, and would like to land in a small to medium-sized firm to start out — but she’s been impressed by the sheer range of opportunities, both in the tax-law discipline and across the legal realm in general.

“Some of my friends knew exactly what they wanted to do and stayed on that track,” she said. “Others, like me, were thinking they’d do something else and found a different branch off the main tree.”

One thing many young lawyers have in common is a desire to help people, and they don’t wait until they’re out of school to do it.

“I’ve done a clinic with the Housing Court in Springfield, and that’s been very gratifying, helping people access the system. Well, it’s not so much helping them, but giving them the tools they need to access the system and have a fair outcome,” Eash said. “That’s been really nice — I’ve been in the Housing Court for seven months, and it’s been a very fulfilling experience, with a lot of courtroom time and client triage.”

Emily Eash

Emily Eash was surprised at how much she enjoyed her first tax-law course — then turned it into a potential career.

From that perspective, the entire field of law may be seen as a series of puzzles to solve — not just intellectual exercises, but challenges with real stakes, and an opportunity to make a difference.

Broad Outlook

Zac Broughton is a bit of Renaissance man when it comes to the law. At least, he’d like to be.

“I think my favorite part about law is that I don’t have to stay with one thing for the rest of my life,” he said. “As law continues to evolve over time — with new technology, new situations, new philosophical debates to participate in — my desire is to be part of that conversation in whatever area of the law I’m working in.”

Broughton, who will be clerking at Connecticut Appellate Court later this year, honed his multi-faceted approach as editor in chief of the Western New England Law Review.

“I loved working through different areas of the law, but also helping other people find their voice to help advance one area of the law or another — and inspiring my staff and reminding them that we’re stewards of the law, and they should help advance it any way they can. What’s the next legal challenge we can help the legal world solve with the piece we were publishing?”

Broughton has dreams of running for public office someday — or at least being involved in the political scene — but he also wants to work in the public sector with underprivileged populations, particularly individuals with disabilities. That’s a passion that started in his undergraduate years at UMass Amherst — specifically, in the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, which runs an organization called the Ability Experience, whose purpose is to raise money for people with disabilities.

Zac Broughton

Zac Broughton says he’s excited to explore myriad areas of the law — and perhaps run for political office — during his career.

That’s a lot of goals, but there’s nothing wrong with exploring myriad paths in the law, he said. “To say I’ve settled on one area of the law right now is not true. But that means every day, I go to work excited and interested in what comes next.”

Broughton understands that a law degree doesn’t have to mean working in what people might consider traditional legal settings. For instance, at UMass, he earned a master’s degree in higher education administration, and can envision himself someday working in the higher-ed field.

“Today, there’s a host of outside things impacting how higher education operates in law, such as funding Title IX; it’s an incredible time to be working on a college campus and seeing how that intersects with the law.”

In short, it’s good to have options.

“I still want to run for office; I want to work in government,” he said. “It’s all interesting to me.”

A Passion on Hold

Sara Idris was on the cusp of middle school when 9/11 changed the complexion of the country, in many ways for the worse.

“Soon after that, the Patriot Act came out, and I was hearing about these people imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay without cause,” she recalled. I wrote a lot of research papers on that, and it became my passion to go to law school and get justice for people who can’t get justice for themselves.”

As a student of Pakistani descent, she was sometimes harassed in school in the coming years, but the perpetrators were never disciplined, which further solidified her resolve to be an advocate for victims of persecution — or worse.

“I knew the injustice done to me wasn’t on the level done to people all over the world, and I saw a future for myself in human-rights law.”

She’s not sure when that future will arrive, however. As she works to finish her education — she has one class left to finish and will take the bar exam in February — she continues to work as a form filing specialist at a local intellectual-property law firm.

Sara Idris

Sara Idris says it can be difficult to match one’s passions to financial realities coming out of law school, but she intends to reach her goal of advocating for victims of social injustice.

“I really enjoy this, and I can see myself working here long-term,” she said. “I have a passion for public interest, but given the amount of loans I have, I don’t know if I can risk working in public interest for the next 10 years at a salary that’s probably lower than I’m making now.”

But Idris and her fiancé have a career plan that involves methodically paying off those loans and perhaps navigating her law career toward the issues she’s most passionate about.

She also realizes that a juris doctor degree doesn’t necessarily mean taking the title of lawyer at all. In fact, many law-school students enroll in order to use the JD to move up in the worlds of education, business, finance, nonprofit management, journalism — the possibilities are endless.

“I spoke with my supervisor here, and she talked to me about how other people have moved up in different departments not working as lawyers, but utilizing the skills they’ve learned in other ways.”

That’s one value of the degree, she went on. “While I want to practice law, I don’t necessarily have to.”

Still, it’s not hard to imagine Idris, down the road, standing up, as she put it, for people struggling to defend themselves against all manner of injustice, and could use a passionate advocate.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Law

Degrees of Improvement

By Kayla Ebner

Claudia Quintero was inspired by a lawyer who helped her — and now gets to do the same for others.

Claudia Quintero was inspired by a lawyer who helped her — and now gets to do the same for others.

In the years immediately following the Great Recession, many law-school graduates were challenged to find employment, let alone their dream job. But the picture is gradually improving, as evidenced by the experiences of recent graduates of Western New England University School of Law.

Claudia Quintero calls it her dream job.

That’s how she characterized the position she landed as a migrant/farmworkers staff attorney at the Central West Justice Center in downtown Springfield.

It’s a dream job, because she’s doing essentially what she always wanted to do and what she went to Western New England University School of Law to do — help people, but especially in the same way that an attorney helped her when she was 16 years old.

She met an attorney through a legal-services program in Los Angeles, where she grew up, who helped her apply for and obtain her permanent residence in just five short months. Quintero was always impressed and grateful for her own attorney’s diligence, and thought, “I want to be just like her.”

Like she said, hers is a dream job.

And those have been quite hard for law-school graduates to attain in recent years. In fact, for some time after the Great Recession, taking any job became the goal and, for most, a hard reality.

But the situation is improving, said Laura Fisher, director of Law Career Services at WNEU Law. She used the phrase “pretty steady” to describe the current climate, and while that’s a long way from ‘robust,’ ‘healthy,’ ‘solid,’ or other, more positive terms, it represents an improved picture and a better forecast for recent graduates.

“When the economy really took a hit in 2008 and 2009, every sector of the economy was disrupted, including law schools and law graduates,” said Fisher, adding, however, that “we’re seeing a rebound now.”

She offered some numbers to back up those words.

At WNEU Law, the class of 2017 graduated 101 students. According to data from the American Bar Assoc. (ABA), 43 of those graduates were employed at long-term, full-time, bar-passage-required jobs 10 months after graduation. Nineteen graduates were employed at what are known as ‘JD advantage jobs,’ meaning passage of the bar exam is not required, but that having a juris doctor degree provides a significant advantage.

Of the 101 graduates, eight were unemployed and seeking. Others were employed at both professional and non-professional positions or seeking a graduate degree full-time.

“The 10-month report for the class of 2017 indicates that the percentage of students with full-time, bar-passage-required, JD advantage, and other professional positions is 71.2%,” said Fisher. “This figure is approximately equivalent to, but slightly elevated, over the previous year, which was 68.9%.”

Laura Fisher

Laura Fisher

The ABA gathered that, nationally, 75.3% of the class of 2017 had long-term, full-time jobs requiring or preferring JDs. This is an increase from the previous year’s sum of 72.6%. However, the ABA credits the higher percentage of employment to “an approximately 6% decrease in the size of graduating classes at law schools nationally” (more on that later).

“When the economy really took a hit in 2008 and 2009, every sector of the economy was disrupted, including law schools and law graduates. We’re seeing a rebound now.”

Slicing through all those numbers, Fisher sees an improving job market and more opportunities for the school’s graduates — in the field of law, but also other sectors where a law degree is quite valuable, and these sentiments are reflected in the experiences of some of WNEU’s recent graduates, like Quintero.

For this issue and its focus on law, BusinessWest talked with Fisher and several recent graduates to get some barometric readings on the job market and where a law degree can take someone these days. For many, their landing spot was, in fact, a dream job.

Cases in Point

In 2013, the graduating class at WNEU included 133 students, said Fisher, summoning more numbers to get her points across. At that time, 49 students were employed at long-term, full-time, bar-passage-required jobs.

Although the class size at WNEU has decreased since then, Fisher said this is entirely by design. She noted that WNEU, along with other schools, are keeping the class sizes at “a reasonable size that’s reflective of what the market entails.”

Daniel carey

Daniel carey

Despite smaller class sizes, Fisher believes these numbers do not reflect a lack of opportunity in the job market.

“Although the market out there still feels pretty flat and we’re being careful about the number of law students we’re producing, I still feel like there’s plenty of opportunity out there,” she said. “Our alumni go on to do wonderful things.”

“Law school to me seemed like a natural way to really combine a lot of my interests and abilities. I’ve always kind of viewed the law as a way to help people.”

And she used that phrase to describe work both inside and outside the courtroom.

Daniel Carey, assistant district attorney (ADA) at the Northwestern District Attorney’s office and WNEU Law class of 2017 graduate, fits into both categories.

“Law school to me seemed like a natural way to really combine a lot of my interests and abilities,” said Carey. “I’ve always kind of viewed the law as a way to help people.”

Beginning law school in 2013, he was looking for a way to get his foot in the door, so he applied for a job at the DA’s office. He landed one as district court administrator, working behind-the-scenes to help the ADAs. He’s been there ever since, but has continued to move his way up. Since starting his role as ADA, Carey has served as director of the Drug Diversion and Treatment program for two years, a new initiative he helped launch for people struggling with addiction. It assists with treatment, rather than putting people through traditional criminal-justice prosecution.

In addition to his role at the DA’s office, he also served on the Easthampton School Committee and was elected to the Easthampton City Council. And he’s currently running for state representative — a significant change in career-path course from his original plan of being a high-school English teacher.

He is not the only one who was initially unaware of where a law career could take them. Nicole Mule, another member of WNEU’s class of 2017, did not know she was interested in law until she took classes during her time as an undergrad.

Nicole Mule

Nicole Mule

With a major in criminal justice and a minor in communication at the University of New Haven, she was required to take several law courses that were taught by lawyers. She mentioned that the classes were taught very much like they are in law school.

“It made me realize why advocating for businesses was so important. As an attorney, I can have a significant effect on my clients’ businesses for their benefit.”

“After that, I was hooked,” she told BusinessWest.

When in law school, she noted that she did not put all her focus into one practice area, and eventually gravitated toward employment law. In 2016, she accepted a summer position with the firm Robinson+Cole, which has offices in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and several other states, and was offered a job.

She’s currently an associate in the firm’s labor and employment group, representing both public-and private-sector employers in a variety of labor and employment matters.

Both of her jobs during law school helped her realize her love for this profession.

“It made me realize why advocating for businesses was so important,” said Mule. “As an attorney, I can have a significant effect on my clients’ businesses for their benefit.”

Firm Resolve

Both Carey and Mule graduated with law degrees but have gone on to completely different professions. This wide variety of career options is another reason why the job market for law school graduates is doing better than it was 10 years ago.

For Caroline Montiel, another 2017 graduate from WNEU, combining two of her biggest passions was important, and she was able to find the perfect fit.

She completed her undergraduate studies in chemical engineering, and after receiving some inspiration from her host dad while studying abroad in Spain, she decided to get her law degree. However, Montiel had a different experience than some of her peers while applying for jobs during law school.

“I was applying every week, at least one job a day,” said Montiel, adding that she applied to five jobs a weekend. For every 50 applications she filled out, she hoped to get one interview.

After she passed the bar exam, she began her career with a judicial clerkship in Connecticut Superior Court. In mid-June of this year, she began her new job as patent examiner at the Patent Trademark Office in Washington, D.C., working in the field she fell in love with during law school.

Much like Carey, Montiel, and Mule, Quintero completed several internships during her time at law school, including one with the people who helped her obtain permanent residency. She began applying for jobs during her third year of law school, and ended up sending in applications to about 10 jobs. Quintero’s strategy was simple: apply to places where she knew she would be happy.

“I was very picky about the kinds of jobs that I applied to just because I have a very specific thing that I want,” said Quintero. “I don’t like to divert energy or waste time doing things that I know I’m not going be happy doing.”

She got about three offers and ended up at Central West Justice Center. She said she was nervous that she wouldn’t get a job she wanted or that made her happy, but having a strong network was an important factor. Though it was a fairly seamless process for her, she noted that it took some of her friends much longer to find jobs.

“I was very cognizant that I was lucky,” she said.

There are certainly benefits to knowing what you want, and Montiel noted that having an idea of the type of career one wants to go into before starting law school can be very helpful.

Overall, Fisher said she sees that JD-advantage jobs are rising in popularity, both nationally and at WNEU. She noted that a lot more people are using their degrees for JD-advantage jobs in positions like higher education, data privacy, and security.

The JD-advantage sector is a route that students are becoming more interested in, she went on, not because there are fewer jobs elsewhere, but because they are interested in trying alternative paths.

Fisher mentioned that some students choose to opt out of the traditional path at a law firm because it can be stressful, and they want a good work/life balance.

Market Forces

Fisher wouldn’t say the market is booming for law-school grads — again, ‘steady’ was the word she chose, and she chose it carefully — but she does believe there are many opportunities out there in the legal job market because of how valuable it is to have a law degree in countless professions.

“A law degree is valuable far above and beyond how it can help you practice law,” said Fisher. “There’s a lot more you can do with it. Going through the process of learning how to think about laws and regulation and risk, I think all of that just lends itself to creating an employee who’s very aware, very mindful, and very responsible.”

For the graduates, that means a better chance of landing a dream job.

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