Women in Law Panel

by Ama Debrah

So, you’re thinking about law school, eh?

Last Monday, the Athena Pre-Law Society hosted a panel, Women in Law, featuring three Barnard alumns on the top of their game in the law field. Kim G. Scefler BC ’79, is currently a partner at Levine, Plotkin & Menin where she represents clients in the media and entertainment industry. Sophia D. Tawil BC ’99 is an associate attorney at international corporate powerhouse Cravath, Swaine & Moore. Lastly, Aliza Reicher BC ’02, associate attorney at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, concentrates on business finance and restructuring.

The panelists were first asked what attracted them to a career in law. The panelists all agreed that they wanted a career that would present them with a challenge everyday and that they like the “intellectual stimulation” of the ever-evolving job. Tawil also mentioned that she was attracted to the building aspect of corporate law, whether it’s building contracts or relationships with clients.

“…whatever you choose to do in life, you must fulfill your passions.”

However, all the pre-law hopefuls leaned forward in their seats when the conversation turned to how exactly the panelists got to their high positions. While they did credit their education as Barnard as good preparation for law school, they stated that their specific majors did not really apply to their current jobs. For them, the most important aspect of getting ready for a career in law was the job experience prior to law school. For example, Tawil worked as a paralegal before going to law school, and Reicher mentioned that her work experience was “critical” to understanding the workplace dynamics of a law firm. Scefler, however, who entered law school right after graduating from Barnard, stated that if you are already confident that law school is the path for you, going to law school directly after graduating will give you a head-start in your career.

Kim G. Scefler BC ’79,  partner 
at Levine, Plotkin & Menin

All the panelists also emphasized that the law career is extremely competitive, which leads to long and rigorous hours. Scefler, who works a minimum of ten hours a day, mentioned that “navigating the balance of life is the biggest challenge” of maintaining a career in law, and that it is necessary to put in time doing lower-level work practicing law in your early years to distinguish yourself as a top lawyer. Reicher, who was the youngest of the panelists at twenty-six, joked that the long hours of law makes you become “really boring” because it’s necessary to be on-call 24/7, making it difficult to date and maintain a social life. Tawil, currently the mother of a 15-month old child, stated that juggling work with a family life should not be a discouragement for law hopefuls, and that if you carve out space for yourself before going into the workforce, a balance can be achieved.

The law field can also be difficult for entry as a woman. Scefler mentioned that when she graduated from law school, there was no part-time track for women to start their careers in law and Reicher stated that while most big firms seem very “friendly on the face” for women involvement, she was regularly underestimated by her clients due to her young age and gender.

Each panelist stated that while a life of law may be difficult, ultimately, they love their job and would not trade it for any other career. Tawil stated that although she doesn’t have much time for additional hobbies, her work serves as her hobby, and she feels extremely fulfilled by her job. Scefler emphasized that whatever you choose to do in life, you must fulfill your passions.

Ama Debrah is a sophomore at Barnard and Food Editor of The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of Applying to US Universities and Levine, Plotkin & Menin.

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