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Career Conversations series highlights government career possibilities for students

May 07, 2019

This spring, the Leo Model Foundation Government Service and Public Affairs Initiative launched a Career Conversation Series, bringing current and former government officials and policy makers to Penn Law to discuss their various career paths with students. These lunch meetings offered students a unique opportunity to engage with visitors in a conversational setting, and to gain insight into career possibilities in a meaningful way.

Current Philadelphia City Solicitor Marcel S. Pratt started off the series in February with a discussion of his role as the City of Philadelphia’s chief legal officer. He discussed his career trajectory and the challenges and successes of managing the City’s Law Department, which comprises over 200 lawyers and 100 staff, and serves as counsel to the Mayor, City Council, and the City’s departments, agencies, and commissions. He also discussed his move from the private to the public sector, as he previously worked as a commercial litigator with Ballard Spahr LLP and was able to translate the skills he developed in private practice into his current role leading the Law Department.

Later on in February Richard Cordray, a Distinguished Policy Fellow and inaugural Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, discussed his career with students as part of his week-long visit to Penn Law. Cordray discussed his various roles in government, including his role as Ohio’s Attorney General, Solicitor General, and Treasurer. He also elaborated on the challenges and rewards of running a brand new government agency and his run for governor of Ohio in November 2018.

In March, Kara Stein, a Distinguished Policy Fellow and former Commissioner to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, shared with students the different opportunities and choices that led her to become a commissioner. Stein began her career as a Skadden Public Interest Fellow, and had diverse experiences in both the public and private sectors along the way to her longer tenure as a Senior Policy Advisor to U.S. Senator Jack Reed, before her nomination to the SEC. She highlighted the importance of knowing yourself and your motivations, recommending to students: “Figure out what makes you click. Think about yourself as a person and what environment you might thrive in[,] and consider what will keep you happy in your legal career.” Stein shared that in order to feel motivated and inspired at work, she really needed to believe in her client.

In April, Sozi Tulante, Policy Fellow, Lecturer-in-Law, and former Philadelphia City Solicitor, touched on similar themes to Stein. Highlighting personal motivations, Tulante shared his own story about growing up in North Philly during the height of the crack epidemic and how his experience inspired him to become a lawyer. His pro bono work for a Palestinian prisoner in Guantanamo Bay led him to his work as an AUSA in the Eastern District of Philadelphia. From there he went on to become the City Solicitor of Philadelphia, where he led Philadelphia’s Law Department for two years. He discussed his tenure there, during which he spearheaded the Department’s affirmative litigation practice, among other initiatives.

Josh Wright, Distinguished Policy Fellow and former Commissioner to the Federal Trade Commission, concluded the series in April with a discussion of antitrust law. As a leading scholar in antitrust law, economics, intellectual property, and consumer protection, he discussed the balance in his career between economics and law. Wright also discussed the nomination and vetting process he went through in order to be confirmed as a Commissioner, and what his day-to-day work as a commissioner entailed.

Overall, the series offered students diverse perspectives on careers in the public sector and a variety of possible career trajectories and options.

The Leo Model Foundation Government Service & Public Affairs Initiative brings Penn Law’s resources to bear to best prepare students to be leaders in the government and policymaking arena. Click here to learn more about the Initiative and here to learn more about our Policy Fellows Program.