by Ethan Day
For students attending the Law Alumni Roundtable on Oct. 12 who were under the impression that only one path leads to a successful law career, a discussion quite to the contrary was about to unfold. The Lawyers’ Roundtable — “Realities of Practicing Law Today,” sponsored by the Harpur Law Council, featured eight attorneys — all alumni, with backgrounds as diverse as the departments of the liberal arts college they graduated from.
“I came to Binghamton with a severe stutter,” 1975 graduate Glenn Moss said. “I couldn’t imagine myself as a lawyer because they speak all the time, and I didn’t see myself that way.”
Not only did Moss become an attorney, but he went on to work for the WNYC Communications Group, Court TV, and as a consultant to the telecommunications industry, among other roles — hardly what one would expect from a student hampered by a speech impediment.
“One of the great things about being at Binghamton and getting out of Brooklyn was that I learned to become myself and appreciate myself, and I learned, in a sense, to speak — I found my voice here,” said Moss of his path to success. “My real experience intellectually, and my connection, is Binghamton, because here is where I became me.”
Moss, a history major who wrote several plays while at Binghamton, was just the first speaker from a group full of stories just as notable. Jeffrey Rogoff ’90 followed, highlighting how his undergraduate interests became real-world opportunity.
“I found that I was really drawing on my economics classes from Binghamton,” the economics minor said of his time in law school. “Also, many of the classes at Binghamton were Socratic.… It was nice to get into the habit of being called upon and being expected to come up with answers.”
After just two speakers, the talk had already touched on several concentrations within Harpur College, from economics to philosophy, all of which resulted in alumni practicing law in areas driven by their own interests. Rogoff — who was new to the panel this year — went on to become senior trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of the Solicitor in New York, where he draws on his economics background to this day. Those in attendance also heard from Jeffrey Tanenbaum ’73, a mathematical sciences major who also took his undergraduate work at Binghamton and combined it with a law degree to create his own rewarding career.
“The math actually came in very handy for me because the type of work I did was very analytical,” the retired partner said. “Companies were coming into the firm looking for assistance and we had to work through reorganizations and bankruptcies with them.”
Tanenbaum worked for Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP for 32 years, where he represented major creditors, debtors, and investors in Chapter 11 cases and similar matters. He told the audience that his math background at Binghamton wasn’t just helpful, it was essential. Math of another kind entered into the roundtable discussion at several points. Each panelist had his own opinion regarding the significant cost of law school, and the debate on prestige versus value.
“You have to balance the cost of going to a law school like New York University School of Law with the debt you’re going to have,” said Richard Alpern, chair of the Harpur College Law Council. “You can go to a lot of law schools and get a great education and you don’t have to have all that debt.”
The founding member of Harpur’s Law Council and 1969 graduate also advised perspective law students to know what they like, and be ready to adapt for wherever that takes them.
“I didn’t know what I was going to be when I went to law school,” Alpern said. “Find something that you like and be flexible enough to change.”
There was a balance between panelists who attended first-tier law schools and those who chose value-based options. Regardless of this distinction, all seemed to be in agreement that there is no right or wrong choice, as long as students have carefully determined what will best serve their goals. Similar was the discussion on large versus small firms. Each made it clear that there is no “best” option, but rather it’s a matter of personal preference.
The entire event could have well been labeled a presentation on combating stereotypes and misinformation about the legal field. Instead of attorneys who were unhappy and driven only by money, attendees were presented with eight individuals proud of their profession, driven by lifelong interests, and happy to share their positive experiences.
Whenever themes of diverse passions, self-exploration, or value came up, mentions of Binghamton University and Harpur College were never far behind. “The strength that we had as students and you have as students is that you are the best and brightest students, and we have the best and brightest professors — we learn how to think,” Alpern said as he closed his remarks. “That’s incredibly important. It’s using what you’ve learned here to do well in your careers.”
Last Updated: 6/3/15