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Alumni attorneys lead course during Winter Session

By Christine Murray

Several Harpur College students participated in Harpur 300: Current Issues in Legal Practice, spending four evenings in New York City with nine distinguished Harpur College alumni.

The course was held from Jan. 12–15, hosted by Linda Riefberg '81 at the offices of Cozen O'Connor, where students were able to learn from Harpur alumni about their experiences in law. On Jan. 14, students participated in Metro Career Night at the Fashion Institute of Technology and met other alumni representatives from various industries.

The alumni instructors were: Shareema Gadson-Shaw '96; Andrew Bonzani '86; Marc Brown '95, MBA '96; Michael Garcia '83; Heidi Goldstein '81; Richard Greenberg '74; Nelson Mar '94; Linda Riefberg '81; and Frank Vellucci '94.

During the three nights at Cozen O'Connor, students sat through three sessions each night, listening to presentations about certain fields of law, from criminal to education law, and engaging in discussions with each alumnus.

"The core of the course is learning about how successful lawyers in all kinds of practices engage in their field," said Anne McCall, dean of Harpur College and one of the course coordinators.

Riefberg studied political science at Harpur College and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. She received her J.D. from the New York University School of Law in 1984 and was admitted to the New York Bar in 1985. Riefberg, the chair of the Harpur Law Council Steering Committee, received the Harpur College Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013.

Riefberg is currently a commercial litigator at Cozen O'Connor.

Bonzani studied philosophy at Harpur College. He served on the Law Review at St. John's University School of Law and received his J.D. there. Bonzani is a member of the Harpur College Advocacy Council.

"Part of the role of attorneys is customer service. My perspective is, it's all about client service and value, that's what differentiates good lawyers from great lawyers," Bonzani said.

Speaking of the importance of a class such as HARP 300 for students interested in pursuing law, Bonzani said: "These types of programs either damp interest or ignite interest and that alone is valuable. To have this is to have a sort of advanced notice of what you're going to see in law school and what you're going to see as a lawyer.

Bonzani now serves as the senior vice president, general counsel and secretary at Interpublic Group of Companies.

Greenberg graduated from Harpur College with a bachelor's degree in music. He received his J.D. from SUNY Buffalo School of Law in 1977. Greenberg is a member of the Harpur Law Council Steering Committee and has also served as a site sponsor for the Harpur Law Council Public Interest Law Internship Program.

"It's disheartening that 90 percent of my cases don't end in relief for my client, but I love what I do," he said. "I think that one of the ways I serve my clients isn't necessarily getting legal relief for my clients in court, but by being humane and being a lawyer who cares about them and I'll still be there for them even if we lose the case."

Currently, Greenberg is attorney-in-charge at the Office of the Appellate Defender, a not-for-profit law office in New York City. The Office of the Appellate Defender provides high-quality, client-centered appellate representation to defendants appealing their felony convictions as well as post-conviction representation and social services after release.

Aisha Prudent, a senior studying human development and political science, said she would recommend this class to Harpur students interested in law, especially seniors.

"I was a little apprehensive about taking it so late in my undergraduate career, but it certainly proved to be worthwhile," the Long Island native said. "I'm attending law school this coming fall, and I thought it would be beneficial and just generally interesting to know the current issues that certain legal professionals face in their fields."

John Walpole, a junior majoring in political science and history, participated in the course in order to expand his understanding of different fields of law.

"Through lectures and exercises, HARP 300 exposed me to both civil and criminal law and their application within the legal profession," Walpole said. "Overall, this course helped me solidify my interest attending law school and I am grateful that I was afforded this opportunity by Harpur College."

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Last Updated: 3/1/17