Great profs, opportunities put legal studies alumna on career path
The best preparation for the rigors of law school is a solid undergraduate foundation. That's why Katherine Zellner chose to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies at University of Houston-Clear Lake as the first step to her ultimate goal of becoming a practicing attorney.
"I liked UH-Clear Lake for a lot of reasons," said Zellner, now a professional liability and casualty litigator at Thompson, Coe, Cousins and Irons, a Houston-based law firm. "It was cost-effective, and I really liked the small campus feel. And it has a Legal Studies program specifically for paralegals or those who want to go to law school."
As a student, Zellner became president of the Legal Studies Association and was vice president of the Student Government Association, now called Student Government. "I found that with the adjunct professors in the program, a lot of them are practitioners in the field," she said. "A big part of the program is learning networking. Some professors can help you make connections and get internships and jobs when you graduate from the program."
She said she'd made excellent grades in one of her classes, and the professor chose her to intern for him. "He told me about a research opportunity that I could write a paper about, and it's how I was chosen to win a scholarship. When I went to the scholarship award ceremony, I met Judge Larry Weiman, who asked me to intern for him even though I couldn't because I was still an undergraduate."
After completing her degree at UHCL in 2017, she went to law school at University of Houston. "I made good grades and then I called that judge and asked him if I could still intern for him," she said. "He gave me the internship. I worked for him for a summer and in my third year of law school, he hired me to be his law clerk. Then, when I was out of law school, he hired me to be his briefing attorney."
She said all these connections and critical work experience happened because she'd had an adjunct professor who had invested his time in her and pointed her along the way. Now a practicing litigator since last year, she's just where she'd like to be.
"There were great professors in the Legal Studies program," she said. "The substance of what was taught matters, but it's also important to try to reach out, make friends, and network. I learned that networking is a big part of what's needed in order to succeed."
She remembered getting good advice about more than just her studies. "I had a professor tell me I should pay more attention to how I dressed," she said.
"That professor was looking out for me. He told me to dress the part and I'm glad I listened, because I've learned that if people see you looking professional when you're out and about, you will be professional when you're working for them," she said. "I would definitely recommend UHCL's Legal Studies program to anyone who was considering a career in law."
For more information about UHCL's legal studies degree, go online.