Students in Fordham’s Pre-Law Symposium got a visit from two high-profile alumni who told them to look beyond “traditional” legal careers.

In their Feb. 21 talk, Anne Williams-Isom, FCLC ’86, deputy NYC mayor for Health and Human Services, and Catherine Blaney, FCLC ’86, development lead at Bloomberg Philanthropies, encouraged students to consider opportunities in government, nonprofits, and more.

The pair, both of whom are members of Fordham’s President’s Council, spoke in Keating Hall at Rose Hill to more than 150 students in the symposium, part of Fordham’s pre-law offerings, which also include advising, programming, and clubs. The symposium brings in speakers to help students learn about careers, prep for the LSAT, and analyze mock cases.

Anne Williams-Isom and Catherine Blaney shared their “alternative legal careers” with students.

Though Williams-Isom has spent much of her career in government and nonprofits, she said the training she got in law school was “very important” to her work.

“I wanted to be a good writer, I wanted to increase my analytical skills [and] be able to synthesize information quickly,” she said.

Williams-Isom, previously the CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, said that she often pairs those skills with values she learned at Fordham.

“Through all of this, the decision to go to Fordham and to want to focus on justice, and to want to focus on service—I do think I have come full circle in what I’m doing … and how I’m able to lead at this moment,” she said.

Blaney said that “law school is a place that allows you, when you graduate, in whatever job you take, to think five steps ahead.”

That way of thinking helped her develop a close connection with her boss, Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor.

“He is a very precise, analytical, driven human being, and he wants to put action and results together, and he wants you to quickly analyze the problem and come up with a decision,” she said.

Thinking about Public Service and Law

For students, learning about the different paths and skills that law school can provide made an impact.

Catherine Blaney chats with students after giving a talk at the Pre-Law Symposium.

“I want to become a lawyer, but more the public service route—I want to be helping communities do better,” said Vincent Brandy, a first-year Fordham College at Rose Hill student, who plans to major in international studies.

Sinclair McKinney, a first-year Fordham College at Rose Hill student studying environmental studies, said that she appreciated learning about the role Fordham played in the speakers’ careers.

“The most interesting for me was … how Fordham’s focus on social service and helping others has followed them throughout their lives and led them to where they are,” she said.

Jade Belliard, a junior at Fordham College at Rose Hill majoring in history, said that she appreciated their message that students can “do anything with a law degree,” and that they spoke about balancing their careers and family.

“Especially for women, I feel like you have to choose between a career or starting a family—especially being in law,” she said. ”It was kind of a relief that they were like, ‘just go for it.’”

Additional reporting by Franco Giacomarra.

Students filled Keating 3rd auditorium to hear from two Fordham alumni.