GARY | A panel of legal experts — judges and attorneys from across Northwest Indiana and the Chicago south suburbs — shared their life, background and careers with aspiring attorneys Thursday.
The panel discussion, at the Savannah Center at Indiana University Northwest, was hosted by IUN assistant professor Dan Tsataros, who is also an attorney.
Panelist Judge Kent Jeffirs, who received his bachelor's degree from the University of Notre Dame and his Doctorate of Jurisprudence from Indiana University, Bloomington, said he was one of 12 children in his family. He said he really appreciated the questions from dozens of students who came out for the discussion.
"It can be really intimidating to think about law school," he said. "It was also interesting to hear how so many of the students have had to fight to do what they want to do."
Illinois Attorney Timijanel Boyd Odom, who has an office in Flossmoor, told students she grew up in a single-parent home and her family received food stamps. She told students not to be discouraged if they don't pass the bar the first time.
"There are several people who have taken the bar more than once and been very successful," she said.
Attorney Donna Summerville Smith, who is with Indiana Legal Services Inc. in Merrillville, told students to focus on their writing skills.
Attorney Karen Price Boswell told students that how they handle and present themselves will be critical.
"Be professional. Be nice. Be respectful," she said.
All of the attorneys told students that networking and socializing with other attorneys is important to their future. They encouraged students to volunteer.
They said the Law School Admissions Test is important but it is not the only determining factor in getting into a good law school.
Marla Gee, 60, of Gary said she will be 61 when she graduates from IU Northwest next year.
Gee, who is single and doesn't have children, said she is determined to be an attorney. She said she previously worked in other jobs, including as a legal secretary and as a medical transcriptionist.
"I originally started at Bloomington in 1971 after I graduated from Roosevelt," Gee said. "I went back to school in 2010 at IU Northwest. I'm interested in elder care. I love to work. I don't ever intend to retire. I have a passion for the law and I may be working when I'm 89."