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James Boyd
IU Maurer School of Law
(812) 856-1497

Caroline Dowd-Higgins
Director, Office of Career and Professional Development
(812) 856-2485

Last modified: Monday, March 2, 2009

Alumni put JDs to use in higher education

March 2, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Suzanne Phillips does not practice law, but she uses her law degree every day. As assistant dean of students for Indiana University's Bloomington campus, Phillips, JD'88, utilizes the skills she learned at the IU Maurer School of Law to help the student body.

On Feb. 25, Phillips joined a panel of speakers discussing career paths for lawyers in higher education. Panelists included IU Dean of Women's Affairs Yvette Alex-Assensoh, JD'06; IU Foundation Vice President and General Counsel Philippa Guthrie, JD'91; IU Maurer School of Law Director of Student Services Catherine Matthews, JD'06; and Kelley School of Business Professor Jane Mallor, JD'76. The event was the latest in IU Maurer Law's Alternative Legal Career series.

IU Dean of Women's Affairs Yvette Alex-Assensoh (left), JD'06, tells law students about using her law degree in higher education as Philippa Guthrie, JD'91, and Suzanne Phillips, JD'88, look on.

Phillips said law school gave her the tools she needed to do the job she has today. "I learned great writing skills, how to find issues, and get down to the meat of things. I practice that a lot," she said. Phillips works closely with students on the Bloomington campus, on issues ranging from scholarship awards to dealing with serious illnesses.

"The students keep me young," she said. "I love my job."

Guthrie said she spends about half her time working as an attorney, and half being a manager.

Guthrie enrolled in Indiana Law as part of a joint MPA program with IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Following graduation, she took a job practicing law with Ice Miller in Indianapolis, then eventually moved on to Arvin Industries. Guthrie's experience prepared her to take on other professional challenges. She applied for a general counsel position at the IU Foundation when it became available.

"Once you've learned what you need to learn in law school, you can learn in other areas," Guthrie said. "The areas are different, but once you have the foundation to analyze, you can handle pretty much anything."

Mallor, the Eveleigh Professor of Business at the Kelley School of Business, encouraged current students to consider options other than working for a law firm. "That's not the end-all, be-all," she said. "The mere fact that you're graduating from law school doesn't mean you have to work as a lawyer. There are other ways to use your legal skills and education." Mallor said she never thought she would become a professor. "If you had told me that I was going to be a professor someday, I would have fallen out of my chair," she said. "My mission now is to teach non-lawyers how to handle legal issues. I teach them about finding the big potholes to avoid stepping in."

The Alternative Legal Career series gives law students the opportunity to hear about legal careers outside of traditional legal practice. The final event, focusing on careers in government and politics, will take place at noon on March 11 in Room 213. Confirmed speakers include Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan, JD'85; former Mayor John Fernandez, JD'92; and Scott Tittle, JD'01, currently a senior attorney with Krieg DeVault in Indianapolis and formerly health care policy director and special counsel to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, .