St. Mike’s and law success

Alumni panelists say St. Mike's set the stage for law success

October 17, 2019
Mark Tarnacki
Staff Writer


A panel of successful young Saint Michael’s college alumni in the legal profession told students from a wide variety of majors and all four class years Wednesday evening in the St. Edmund’s Hall Farrell Room that any of those majors can be good preparation for law school and a legal career.

This panel was one of a series on different career paths organized by the Career Education Alumni Engagement Center, represented at this event by Laura Neville and Angela Irvine, who cover the area of law careers for the center. Professor Traci Griffith of the Media Studies, Journalism and Digital arts faculty, who is the faculty pre-law adviser and is herself an attorney, introduced the four alumni panelists (one “present” via remote video) and facilitated the discussion. Political Science Professor Trish Siplon also was present in the audience taking part in the program.

Prevailing themes of all four talks included ways they took advantage of opportunities at Saint Michael’s that prepared them well for the law, and the value of such things as faculty mentors, internships and experiential opportunities; how essential to success in law was the liberal arts emphasis on developing essential writing and presentation skills; the diversity of legal areas that these alumni now are working in showing the range of opportunities for students coming from a liberal arts background; and, how each made his or her decision to go into the field of law.

A big point for all the panelists also was that for them, law was about helping people, an ethos they carried from their Saint Michael’s experiences. They encouraged students to explore different areas of the law, to not limit themselves, and to stay open to opportunities. All described how they fortuitously ended up in areas they didn’t’ expect.

The panelists in the order they spoke were:

JP Isabelle ’05

Isabelle graduated from Vermont Law School in 2011.  He works in the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office overseeing municipal elections, campaign finance, candidates/parties and party organizations. Vermont is Isabelle’s home so he stayed in Vermont to start a career. After graduating from Saint Michael’s, he worked for a few years in Sen. Bernie Sanders’ office before deciding to go to law school. Upon graduating from Vermont Law School he began working in the State of Vermont Treasurer’s Office and currently works in the Secretary of State’s Office. He actively engages in his local town governance and serves as a justice of the peace for Barre Town. He has continued to engage with Saint Michael’s College serving as a 2005 reunion committee member and, in 2007, traveled with a college service trip to New Orleans.

Richard (Richie) Bernache ’16

Bernache joined the panel remotely from Washington, DC, where he is currently a JD candidate at Georgetown Law School. While at Georgetown he works as a law clerk in the U.S. Senate and has served as a legal intern for the U.S. Peace Corps. Bernache’s connection to Saint Mike’s runs deep.  His father, sister and brother are all graduates of the College.  As a Saint Michael’s student, Bernache majored in theater with a minor in music.  He served as a RD and was an assistant to the artistic director for the Playhouse.  He continues to stay engaged with Saint Michael’s through the DC alumni club.

Trevor Brown ’15

Brown is an Associate at Sulloway & Hollis, LLC. He received his J.D. cum laude from the University of New Hampshire School of Law in 2018 and his B.A. magna cum laude from Saint Michael’s College in 2015.  During law school, Brown was a member of the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program, completed several externships, served as a teaching assistant, worked in the school’s Consumer and Commercial Law Clinic, and received a certificate in Health Law and Policy. While at Saint Mike’s, he was actively engaged as a class officer, MOVE volunteer and worked in the President’s Office.  He completed an internship with the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s office.  He continues to engage with Saint Michael’s College through events and the College’s alumni network to help students.  In his community he serves as Town Moderator for the town of West Brookfield, MA, and is a member of the Massachusetts Moderators Association.

Olivia Chandler ’18

Chandler majored in International Relations, Economics and French.  She is presently a legal assistant at Murphy, Sullivan and Kronk here in Burlington.  She was employed by the Applied Linguistics Department as an assistant to the office and the international students on campus. Chandler completed a study abroad experience in France and an internship for the US Congress. She was actively engaged in student activities serving as a mentor to refugee families, an advocate for Champlain Valley Health services and a student representative for the Global AIDS initiatives. She has also volunteered for the Humane Society.

Next Wednesday’s Career Education panel will feature the careers of alumni successes who majored in psychology.

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