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McKendree Alumni Praise New 3+3 Partnership with SLU School of Law

Scales of Justice with Studenht Working in BackgroundIt’s been called a “win-win,” a “fantastic option,” and an “incredible opportunity” for students interested in a law career. It’s also starting to make some recent McKendree graduates, who are now successful attorneys, a little jealous.

The University’s new 3+3 law degree program with Saint Louis University School of Law is designed to save McKendree students time and money as they pursue their dream of practicing law. Open to students of all majors, the program provides a smooth transition to law school and shaves off an entire year of schooling without cutting the quality of education.

“We’ve had a number of graduates who have been quite successful at SLU Law School,” said Dr. Kevin Zanelotti, associate professor of philosophy. “However, the cost of attending a four-year institution and then law school continues to rise. McKendree’s 3+3 program allows students to transition directly to law school after their junior year. When they complete their first year of law school at SLU, their SLU first-year coursework in effect will count as their last year of coursework at McKendree.”

As all McKendree students discover, personalized support and guidance from faculty and staff are at the very heart of what it means to be a Bearcat. For those planning to go to law school, however, this mentorship is a vital tool for success at the next stage of education and beyond.


Quotation Graphic"From day one, students entering the 3+3 program receive advising and mentoring from our pre-law advisor, which means each student’s preparation for law school is guided from the beginning in a way that optimizes their McKendree education in preparation for law school," said Zanelotti.

 
Not surprisingly, this unique program has caught the eye of several local attorneys who earned their degrees at McKendree and SLU School of Law. They’re accomplished law experts and citizen advocates, who remember how their McKendree experience prepared them for a fulfilling career in public service. Below are their stories and advice to the next class of McK pre-law students.

 

 

 

Photo of Katie Hubbard '07Katie Hubbard ’07

 

  • Attorney for Goldenberg Heller & Antognoli, P.C.

  • B.A. in psychology and minor in history from McKendree

  • J.D. with a concentration in civil litigation from Saint Louis University School of Law

What areas of law do you specialize in?

I am a trial lawyer representing people seriously injured by negligent corporations or individuals. My areas of law include general personal injury, pharmaceutical and medical device cases, and automobile accidents.

 

Why did you choose to attend McKendree for your undergrad degree?

McK was one of the few schools that was a good fit for me in the areas of both soccer and academics. I knew the school had a great academic reputation and a good soccer team that wouldn’t completely interfere with school. I knew I would likely attend law school, so the affordability of McK helped with that long-term goal.

 

What first interested you about practicing law?

I always enjoyed my history and government courses. I knew in high school that lawyers had an ability to impact justice and the community in big ways, so I went for it.

 

How do you feel that McKendree prepared you for law school?

One big way that McK prepared me was by teaching me to think for myself and believe in my own abilities. Learning how to be yourself and still relate to others is so valuable, and my time at McK enhanced that in me. I also had classes at McK that included a substantial amount of reading and writing, which are both necessary in law school. Another thing I learned was how to handle criticism.

 

What does an average day look like for you?

An average day at work involves responding to many emails and letters. Depending on the week, it can involve court appearances or taking depositions. I talk to clients and opposing counsel often. I also usually do research, either medical or legal, and writing most days. I work with my team quite a bit developing cases toward trial or settlement.

 

What gets you excited about your job?

I love my job because I know it makes a real difference in peoples’ lives. When my clients come to me, they are in a tough position they did not ask to be in. I learned that most people don’t want to deal with lawyers or ever file a lawsuit. But sometimes bad things happen and there are parties that need to be held accountable. I enjoy making sure my clients have a safe place in those difficult times. I also love fighting for justice and fighting for people who have no voice against powerful interests without a lawyer.

 

What’s one thing you learned at McKendree that’s helped you in your career?

I cannot talk about McK without talking about Dr. Tami Eggleston, my faculty advisor and professor of psychology. I was very stressed my senior year, trying to decide what to do with my life, overwhelmed with soccer pressures, and feeling the weight of tough classes along with a family illness. Dr. Eggleston listened and encouraged me to focus on what my controllables were in my life. In my career, if I focus on what I cannot control, I am wasting time. If I focus on what I can control, and take ownership of my circumstances, I can take action much more easily. It’s interesting how this thought process motivates us to take action on the fights in our lives that are truly necessary, instead of complaining and watching from the sidelines.

 

Community service is a big part of McKendree’s campus culture, and it’s also something many lawyers seem to pursue. How important is it for attorneys to give back to the community through volunteer work, and what are a couple of your favorite ways to do this?

Yes! While I was a student at McK, I went to Jamaica for a service project that was wonderful. Now, community service remains a big part of my life and is extremely important to me as an attorney and human being. As citizens in a country that has so much, it is our responsibility to help others. We have so much more power than we realize to really affect change.

I volunteer with United Way to help raise funds and allocate funds to many worthy non-profits across the St. Louis and Illinois regions. I have to say my favorite organization is currently Mission 1:11. I am the President of the Board of Directors for this organization that helps meet the basic needs of people living in poverty in many ways, but the one closest to my heart is our volunteer efforts in St. Marc, Haiti. We provide access to food, medical care, and education in areas that don’t have opportunities like we have in the United States.

 

What has been the greatest accomplishment thus far in your career? What has been the most challenging part?

My greatest accomplishment has been speaking to groups of lawyers about the value of having women on the team, especially for trial. My own practice has taught me that having women on the team is a huge asset in helping the many clients I’ve represented attain justice and compensation in horrible circumstances.

The most challenging part of my career is the stress that comes from explaining to clients and other people that laws are not always designed to help the least advantaged in our society.

 

What do you think about McKendree’s new 3+3 partnership with SLU?

The 3+3 partnership is a fantastic option for students who want to go to law school. This will be a great way for McK students to be introduced to the legal world and have an efficient track to becoming a lawyer.

 

What advice do you have for students considering the 3+3 program?

Take classes that you think you will enjoy and that will be useful to you, not necessarily what others expect of you. In any career, you have to be an entrepreneur and advocate for yourself. No one is going to do that for you. I felt that my psychology and history courses were good preparation for critical thinking and relating to others, but I also think that business courses are important for a basic knowledge of finance in any profession. I think considering the cost savings is a great angle to view this option as well.

 

 

 

Photo of Greg Mennerick ’06Greg Mennerick ’06

 

  • Associate at Thompson Coburn LLP

  • B.B.A. in economics and finance and double-major in political science at McKendree

  • J.D. from Saint Louis University School of Law

What areas of law do you specialize in?

My practice focuses mainly on mergers and acquisitions, as well as securities regulation and compliance.

 

What prompted you to choose McKendree for your undergrad degree?

I chose to attend McKendree because of its strong academic reputation and because I had gotten to know alumni who went on to begin successful careers. I entered McKendree with an open mind as to what I wanted to pursue. I gravitated towards economics and finance because I was strong in math in high school, but the legal framework that underpinned the discussions in my political science classes started to get me thinking about law school. It wasn't until Dr. Frank Spreng taught a class called “Economics & the Law”- which discussed how rational economic behavior has influenced and shaped common law and our regulatory environment - that my two interests melded together and law school became my ultimate goal.

 

What first interested you about practicing law?

What interested me first was the idealistic aspect of the law - ideally, the law is supposed to be a set of rules/truths that help society to work well together and prosper. As I have grown in my practice, I would say that what keeps me coming back every day is much more focused. Just trying to do the best job I can for my client that day.

 

How did McKendree prepare you for law school?

Law school is challenging in multiple ways. There is a high volume of information to absorb, evaluate, and apply, and you are doing so in a competitive environment where grades matter, and class ranks dictate job placement. I don't think many undergraduate classes can mimic that type of pressure. However, what they can do is prepare you to start thinking critically about complex fact patterns and problems, and I think McKendree greatly helped me develop critical thinking skills. I was able to draw upon those skills in law school.

 

What does an average day look like for you?

Most of my days are comprised of reviewing and drafting contracts and other documents related to the buying and selling of businesses or investments that my clients are pursuing, and negotiating with parties to advance my client's terms and position. No transaction is exactly alike, and I get to work with a lot of different clients that operate in a lot of different industries, so it is fun dealing with a lot of really talented businesspeople in a variety of industries.

 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

As a transactional attorney, I'm not usually in the position where there is a winner and a loser. Rather, at the end of the transaction (if it closes), usually everyone is happy with the result. I like the fact that I’m contributing to that positive result and lending my expertise in furthering my client's interest in whatever transaction they are pursuing.

 

What’s one thing you learned at McKendree that’s helped you in your career?

It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice to people.

 

How important do you think it is for attorneys to give back to the community through volunteer work, and what are a couple of your favorite ways to do this?

Yes, I am fortunate to work in a culture where my firm expects and rewards support of civic and community endeavors. Through my firm, I work with the Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, and specifically its Community Economic Development Program. Through that program, I provide corporate legal services to low-income entrepreneurs and smaller nonprofits.

 

What has been the greatest accomplishment thus far in your career? What has been the most challenging part?

The most challenging part is trying to strike the right work/life balance, especially now that I have a one-year old daughter. Earlier in my career, I wouldn't think twice about working around the clock, staying late or working through the weekends to get things done. Now, family comes first, and I am learning to rely more on my colleagues to help me support our clients' transactions.

With respect to accomplishments, the closing of each transaction is a very rewarding experience. I particularly enjoy the “American Dream” type transaction where a family-owned business that was started from the ground up finds the right time to exit and secures a multi-generational amount of cash for the family when the transaction closes.

 

What was your reaction to McKendree’s new 3+3 partnership with SLU?

I think the partnership with SLU Law is great, especially being an alum of SLU Law as well. For McK students in particular who are anticipating practicing law in Missouri/Southern Illinois, SLU is a great fit with McKendree. They both share similar values and a commitment to excellence. And, the program puts students on a faster track to get where they want to go, which means less cost, less debt for the student. It seems like a win-win to me.

 

What advice do you have for students considering the 3+3 program?

Read everything that you can, and as much as you can. The Wall Street Journal, the Economist, anything that is considered strong and educated writing. It will make the workload of reading and writing easier in law school, and it'll position you well for success when you graduate.

 

 

 

Photo of Kevin Wilkins ’07Kevin Wilkins ’07

 

  • Founder and Managing Partner of Wilkins Schneller Law, LLC

  • B.B.A. in economics and finance from McKendree

  • J.D. with a concentration in civil litigation from Saint Louis University School of Law

What areas of law do you specialize in?

I’m a trial lawyer specializing in personal injury, so that includes auto accidents, work-related injuries, medical malpractice, wrongful death. My niche is with barge and railroad workers.

 

Why did you choose to attend McKendree for your undergrad degree?

I played baseball in high school and knew I wanted to play in college too. McKendree seemed like a good fit. I grew up about an hour away, and I had some older friends who were on the basketball team there.

 

Did you know you wanted to go into law when you started at McKendree?

I had an idea that I wanted to go into law early on, even before high school. I was always fascinated with law and liked the thought of being in a courtroom. Trying cases in court seemed like a cool career. I liked arguing too and found it intellectually stimulating. Also, my father was a railroader, and I always thought it would be cool to be someone who takes care of them.

 

How do you feel that McKendree prepared you for law school?

I remember it was tough to pick a major because you could major in anything and go into law. There was no set path. At McKendree, I was fortunate to develop a relationship with one of my professors. Dr. Frank Spreng was a great guy; he was smart, and he went to SLU law school as a part-time student while teaching at McKendree. It was nice to have someone who had been there. He was the one who steered me in the path of getting a business degree at McKendree, and it’s helped me in my career.

 

What prompted you to start your own law firm?

It was a big leap. Everyone thought I was crazy, but I got to the point in my career where I had been with a firm for several years. I had handled some big cases, and I felt like I was ready.

 

What does an average day look like for you?

That’s the beauty of what I do: every day is different. I fluctuate from the standard of being in court at 9 a.m. to meeting with clients to being in the office reviewing medical records or researching. A lot of times I’m in the office all day, but then I might get a phone call from someone saying their loved one was injured or killed, and I’m driving to their home to meet them and help them with their issues.

 

What is your favorite part of your job?

Helping people is really what it all comes down to. The people I work with have been injured, are out of work, and don’t know how to support their family. Just helping to get their case resolved so that they can have that financial security knowing their wife and kids are taken care of is very rewarding. They are so thankful, and you really have a lifelong relationship with these people because you walked with them through some troubling times in their life.

 

How important is it for attorneys to give back to the community through volunteer work, and what are a couple of your favorite ways to do this?

Community service is huge for anybody, not just lawyers. We all have an obligation to give back and donate our time, talents, and resources. McKendree always had lots of volunteer opportunities and encouraged students to give back.

Right now, I’m president of a non-profit called South Broadway Athletic Club. It was founded all the way back in 1899, and it supports youth sports in the city of St. Louis, especially boxing. I also work with Join Hands ESL, which was founded 20 years ago by a pair of attorneys, Mike and Sheila Burton. It focuses on people from St. Louis reaching out to communities in East St. Louis, and I’ve been doing teen mentoring with them for seven or eight years.

 

What has been the greatest accomplishment thus far in your career? What has been the most challenging part?

In the largest case I worked on, the guy was severely injured in the river. He needed medical care for the rest of his life, and we were able to hold the responsible folks accountable. It was a $35 million judgment, one of the largest maritime judgments in the country. We were able to provide him with financial security for the rest of his life.

Every day can be challenging, but I think the hardest thing is dealing with people who are going through traumatic experiences. Law school teaches you a lot of things, but it doesn’t teach you how to sit in someone’s living room and listen to them tell you their father or husband was killed. You’re dealing with people at the worst moments of their life, and they’re counting on you to help them figure out what to do from here. It’s pretty motivating.

 

What do you think about McKendree’s new 3+3 partnership with SLU?

I think it’s a great idea! I went to McKendree for four years and then law school for three years. Knocking a whole year off is a great thing. The biggest benefit is finances. By cutting off a year of school, you’re knocking a lot of debt off. I wasn’t thinking about debt as a student, but it makes a big difference when start paying loans as an adult. You end up spending less money, and you’re out working a year earlier.

 

What advice do you have for students considering the 3+3 program?

Talk to as many lawyers as you can. Law school is a lot of work, and practicing law can be difficult. If you know for a fact you want to be there, go for it, and be prepared to work hard. I have friends that graduated from law school and went into other fields. Law school trains you how to think and gives you the resources to apply in other fields too.

 

 

 

Photo of Sheree Davis '10Sheree A. Davis ’10

 

  • Associate Attorney for Boggs, Avellino, Lach & Boggs, LLC

  • B.S. in sociology-criminal justice from McKendree in 2010

  • Master’s in sociology-criminology from Saint Louis University School of Law in 2012

  • J.D. from Saint Louis University School of Law in 2016

What areas of law do you specialize in?

I specialize in civil defense work. My areas of law include premises liability, toxic tort, and insurance defense.

 

What prompted you to pursue your undergraduate degree at McKendree?

I came to McKendree because it was close to home, and I had heard such great things about it. I knew in middle school that I wanted to be an attorney, so I knew I wanted to go to law school when I started at McK. I was interested in criminal law at the time, which is why I majored in Sociology - Criminal Justice.

 

How did you become interested in practicing law?

I used to love watching shows that emphasized the practice of law such as Law & Order. I thought it was cool how they could always catch people in their lies and solve crimes. There was something intriguing about what those trial lawyers did that drew me in and kept me curious to learn more.  

 

Do you feel that McKendree prepared you for law school?

Absolutely! The critical thinking, the mind-bending discussions, and the quality of the writing assignments all prepared me for law school.


What gets you excited about your job?

Practicing law has always been my dream, so to actually wake up every day and carry out my professional dream always has me excited about my job. I also love being able to provide the service of interpreting the law for others. The practice of law is so challenging, but I love how I am never in a comfort zone. There is always so much to learn. 

 

What does an average day at work look like for you?

An average day at work for me consists of drafting pleadings for various cases, contacting clients and opposing counsel in regards to case updates, sometimes appearing in court on behalf of clients, and researching legal issues pertinent to our cases. 

 

What's one thing you learned at McKendree that's helped you in your career?

The power and importance of building healthy relationships and using your resources. McKendree allowed me to meet so many people and have access to many resources that helped me prep for my law school experience and ultimately my legal career. Two of my professors in my program at McKendree STILL support all of my endeavors, and I love them very dearly. They check in on me and are always eager to speak on my behalf. They taught me the importance of having a strong support system and having people in your life that really want to see you thrive. They helped me gain access to experiences and resources that have forever altered my life. 

 

What has been your greatest accomplishment thus far in your career?

My greatest accomplishment thus far in my career is passing both the Missouri and Illinois Bar Exams on my first try. Both experiences were different. I took the Missouri Bar Exam right out of law school and did not work at all while studying. I just sat for the Illinois Bar Exam in July 2017 and worked full-time at my current law firm while studying. I say this is my greatest accomplishment because prepping for the bar exam is one of the most strenuous things I have done and sometimes it takes several tries to pass, but I was able to endure two different studying processes and obtain law licenses in two states. 

 

What has been the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my career is that the practice of law is very complex, and the process of navigating through your practice can be extremely daunting. I have been practicing a year now and I haven’t even scratched the surface of understanding the ends and outs of the areas in which I practice. Every day I learn and experience something different. Every day I have new challenges. While it is challenging and often frustrating, I absolutely love it! Every expert was once a beginner! So, I am excited to see how my experiences now mold my career later. 

 

How important is it for attorneys to give back to the community through volunteer work and what is your favorite organization or volunteer activity?

It is very important for any profession to give back to the community. Pro bono work is a way in which attorneys volunteer our services free of charge. My firm encourages allows us to do so as long as there are no conflicts of interests. My favorite organization would be my non-profit organization, The Pratcher-Davis Foundation. The Pratcher-Davis Foundation is an educational based non-profit that provides the educational needs of indigent students. Our current primary focus is on the students in East St. Louis, IL. We have provided two scholarships to graduating seniors at East St. Louis Senior High School and are currently prepping to give more out at our 2018 Pratcher-Davis Scholarship Gala.

 

What was your reaction when you heard about McKendree's new 3+3 partnership with SLU?

I am thinking “Heeeeyyyyy, no fair!” Although I am super jealous, I think this is an incredible opportunity for individuals that are wanting to pursue a legal career. There is nothing better than saving time AND money! The intentionality of the program to focus on a particular career tract will be a healthy, more wholesome way of approaching both the undergraduate experience and the law school experience.

 

What advice do you have for students considering joining the 3+3 law program?

Choose an undergraduate degree that you are truly interested in that will likely have an impact on your legal career and be prepared to be challenged. Law school is a tough journey, so make sure that you focus on what is being taught to you in your undergraduate years. Be sure to truly engage with the law school prep that is provided for you at McKendree so that you can have a buffer of information that will help your transition into law school at SLU Law a little better. The 3+3 program sounds like an amazing opportunity, so if you are planning to pursue law, you absolutely should take advantage of this opportunity.


 


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