Alumni lawyers Phil Menke (’01), Dominic Vieira (’12), and Rebecca Deucher (’14) spoke at the latest Life on Tap alumni speaker series event sponsored by the college’s Career & Professional Development Office on November 9. The alumni, all successful in their varied careers, offered insightful advice to students on how to enter the field of law and the practical considerations of working and making an impact in the field.
The alumni began the evening by sharing how they knew they wanted to pursue a career in law. For Menke, who graduated from Ave Maria School of Law, the springboard of interest was a course at Christendom taught by political science and economics professor Rafael Madan on Constitutional Law. Learning about the impact of legal structures through the course of history led him to better appreciate the contributions of the legal system in this country and beyond.
“I thought it was very interesting how the course of constitutional law has progressed throughout our history. That was the first trigger for me — realizing that these are real stories from history that contributed to our legal system,” said Menke, who now is a partner at Purnell, McKennett & Menke PC and a Supreme Court certified ad litem guardian for incapacitated adults.
The same class on Constitutional Law also inspired Deucher to consider the legal field, who currently sits as the Vice Chair of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia Young Lawyer Association.
“I took that class and loved how it was building off the philosophy courses I was taking,” said Deucher. “What I’ve come to find is that law really is just practical philosophy, which you learn at Christendom.”
Deucher’s interest in law as an application of practical philosophy snowballed as she came to the end of her time in college. Following graduation, Deucher went on to graduate from Georgetown University Law Center in 2019, during which time she worked as a law clerk for the D.C Office of Disciplinary Counsel, and as an intern for Judge Jennifer Di Toro in the D.C. Superior Court.
For each of the alumni, the choice to continue their education into law school after graduating Christendom was a lengthy decision, due to the extensive factors to consider. Vieira chose to attend Regent University of Law because he was deeply impressed by the commitment of the professors toward aiding the student’s career path.
“I would highly encourage you to look out for what each school is going to offer you beyond the education in terms of the services, connections, and networking that they provide, because that will be primarily where you step off from law,” said Vieira, who is now an Associate Attorney at Mata & Hill PLC. “I will also say that, when you are evaluating a school, look to the career office because that is where the networking opportunities are really going to sprout up from people who are willing to work on your behalf to find you connections for mentors and to find you opportunities for internships.”
Deucher explained that Christendom helped prepare her to excel in law school with Christendom’s small class size and the opportunity for professor-student interactions outside the classroom becoming a key asset in graduate school for her.
“Christendom and smaller schools help prepare you [for graduate school] in that they make you more engaged students and you’re more open to learn and able to interact with the professor, both in and outside the classroom. It goes a long way,” related Deucher.
She emphasized the importance of the writing skills she developed at Christendom and how the liberal arts aided in forming a foundation for success.
“Really work hard on developing your writing skills, that’s going to be key,” she encouraged students. “Philosophy and logic teach you how to think. History prepares your mind to take in large amounts of detail. The liberal arts help immensely in law.”
Menke concluded by encouraging students to consider the law profession and emphasized the importance of young Catholics entering the law field.
“In this country’s near future, we will need more Catholic lawyers,” said Menke.
Christendom’s Life on Tap series provides students with the chance to learn from and speak to successful alumni about their careers. While discerning a career can be daunting, the Life on Tap series gives students opportunities to learn more about potential paths towards finding their vocation.
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This story was contributed by Elizabeth Ostrowski (’23).