Berkeley Today Stories
Career Transitions of a Berkeley College Student: From Retail Chain to Law Firm Practice
Shamisa Anthony was working retail at the former Lord & Taylor Department Store on Fifth Avenue in New York City, until one day she overheard a manager and human resources director talking proudly about their Berkeley College experiences. After listening to their stories about the journey to graduation, she decided to take a closer look. During a lunch break, Shamisa followed the Berkeley flagship signs across the street from her building to visit the school and learn more about the Legal Studies degree programs. She was enrolled in classes within a week.
Changing professions, pursuing your dream
Originally from Guyana, Shamisa always wanted to become a lawyer because of her desire to help others and make a positive change in people’s lives. Retail was the first career industry that she got into after high school, and she was successful at it for a long time until she decided to follow her dreams and make the career transition.
“The legal field requires constant knowledge intake, and it forces you to keep up with new developments and laws that govern us,” Shamisa said. “Therefore, I’m constantly reading, and constantly researching – and as they say – knowledge is power. I can use my legal power to help.”
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It’s hard to land a career in the legal profession if you don’t have much experience. Shamisa is forever grateful to the late Carol Fine, J.D, Career Counselor at Berkeley College, who was her close mentor and friend that helped her break through the barriers to get a foot in the door. She began working at Weiss Wexler and Wornow in 2018. With a total of 80 attorneys currently on staff, the law firm, located in lower Manhattan, specializes in workers’ compensation law.
While Shamisa initially took on the administrative duties as Legal Importer, she was promoted to Senior Paralegal in no time. Her previous responsibilities included billing, editing the case reports, and importing every new case into the database system.
In her new role, she heads-up the entire Subpoena Department - managing the work of eight other paralegals. “It’s been a ride!” she said. “I gather the medical evidence that an attorney needs to build a case, in order to win it. I draft the subpoena, then go to court to make sure the judge signs off on it, and make sure we have the records, and whatever evidence is needed for trial. Some days I go to trial with the attorney to sit in as a second chair. That’s the fun part!”
Second chair is reserved for the senior paralegal, or a newly appointed attorney to the firm. They assist the senior attorney during the trial before a case is presented in front of the judge.
Working at the firm has allowed Shamisa to enjoy various aspects of the law, and further her knowledge beyond the classroom. “Even though my focus is on subpoenas,” she said, “I also get to learn about depositions, and how to prepare a witness before the hearing.”
Career advice for the industry
For intern students, or professionals already working in the field of law, Shamisa said, “Don’t box yourself in and settle on a specific type of law –that’s the worst thing you can do. You may think that you know what type of law you want to practice when you start out, and then try to focus on that, but open your mind to all of the other areas of law that are available.”
Graduating with Legal Studies degree from Berkeley
At Berkeley College, the Bachelor’s and Associate’s degree programs in Legal Studies are designed to prepare students who are interested in careers in legal support services with government, nonprofit organizations, regulatory/compliance offices, or other law-related careers, as well as those students considering law school and other advanced studies in law. Courses focus on developing skills in critical reasoning and analysis, communication, research, writing, and more.
“I love the classes because Berkeley College focuses on courses that pertain to your major - unlike some other schools,” Shamisa explained. “Berkeley has also given me great writing skills. When you learn how to write in legal jargon, and you send a professional document out, it puts a seal on everything.”
The key to time management
In addition to going to work during the day, and Berkeley College courses at night, Shamisa is a member of the Paralegal Association at the New York City campus location. This allows her to meet other industry professionals through networking events.
She values the time management skills that she has gained through the lessons in two of her psychology classes. “I learned how to prioritize my time, create a timetable, and stick to it,” she added. “If your school work is important to you, then you will make that the priority."
New York Law School
Through her mentor’s guidance, Shamisa has been accepted to attend New York Law School following Berkeley Graduation 2020. “Carol Fine was the driving force of that opportunity. She pointed me in that direction, and had been instrumental in my entire career – even after she left the New York City campus location for New Jersey,” Shamisa noted. “She would always tell me that ‘opportunities define who you are, so make those opportunities count.’ That stuck with me - she needed me to understand that and never take any opportunity for granted. She engraved that in me.”
It’s never too late
Shamisa, who is in the prime of her life, wants prospective students everywhere to know that it’s never too late to get a good education - whether it be during your twenties, forties, or fifties – especially at Berkeley College.
“Berkeley creates an atmosphere that makes you feel comfortable about going to back to school. There is a wide-range of age diversity here,” she said. “Evening classes, and Berkeley College Online® options for students make all the difference.”
Shamisa will continue working at Weiss Wexler and Wornow through law school, with high hopes of becoming a future partner at the firm.
For more information regarding a degree in Legal Studies, or another program of study, visit Berkeley College.
The views and/or opinions in this article are those of the individuals interviewed. The academic achievements and/or employment outcomes described in this article are specific to each individual, and are not a guarantee of similar results for past or current students. For up-to-date and detailed information, please visit berkeleycollege.edu, and view our catalogs at berkeleycollege.edu/publications.