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Committee seeks to bridge Akron Law and Bar Assn. gap

Legal News Reporter

Published: August 12, 2016

One of the goals of the Akron Bar Association is to continue to attract new members; educators at The University of Akron School of Law want to provide students with mentors and other relevant information to help them secure legal positions.

The Akron Bar Association law school liaison committee is designed to fulfill both of those goals, said Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs associate Paul Filon, who chairs the committee.

“The general focus of the committee is to bridge the gap between the law school and its students, with the end goal of having them become full-fledged members of the bar association,” said Filon.

“We try to introduce law students to what the bar association has to offer so that if they stay in the area they will join.”

Vice Chair Casey Davis became a member of the committee while he was attending The University of Akron School of Law.

A native of Canton, Davis graduated from Ohio Northern University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration as a dual major in accounting and international business and economics.

“Joining the law school liaison committee was definitely beneficial to me,” said Davis, who graduated from Akron Law in 2014. Davis took the reins as vice chair of the law school liaison committee in 2015.

He became an associate in the business practice group at Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs in 2014 right after passing the bar exam. This year, Davis graduated from the inaugural class of the Akron Bar Association Leadership Academy.

 The committee currently boasts around 50 members, including several Akron Law students. Committee chairs and vice chairs serve two-year terms. There are usually three to five student members that actively participate in the meetings within the group.

The committee generally meets monthly on the second Wednesday of the month at noon.

About two years ago, Filon said the committee began holding some of its meetings at local law firms.

“In July we met at Buckingham,” said Filon. “The month before we met at Roetzel & Andress and we’ve also met at Brouse McDowell.

“The idea is to give our student members a chance to get to know the different firms.”

During law school orientation, members set up an informational booth, encouraging law students to consider coming to a meeting, other bar association event or joining the bar as a student member.

Every summer members hold a cookout at the law school that coincides with the period in which students are studying for the bar exam.

“It is meant to give the students about an hour of relaxation when they don’t have to think about the bar exam, while providing a chance for them to network with other lawyers,” said Davis.

This year’s event took place on June 17 and was moved to the Akron Bar Association due to the construction at the law school.

To provide continuity, the committee is set up such that someone from Akron Law’s office of career planning and placement is designated as the defacto vice chair.

For the past five years, Alisa Benedict O’Brien has served in that role. 

“My job is to make sure the committee is aware of what is happening at the law school and to identify ways that members can assist students,” said Benedict O’Brien, assistant dean for career services at Akron Law.

“We look to members to conduct mock interviews with our students and we have called upon members to help us with our speed networking events,” said Benedict O’Brien, who also serves as vice president of membership/secretary at the Akron Bar Association.

She said her positions at the law school and bar association allow her to build an even stronger “bridge” between the two institutions.

Benedict O’Brien said members of the committee have participated in a mentorship program with the law school for the past eight years. However in January a more formalized program was unveiled known as Pathfinder.

“The former mentorship program basically matched students with committee members who were practicing in areas that the students were interested in,” said Benedict O’Brien.

“The idea behind Pathfinder is that students need to have someone who can guide them into the profession and the bar association as opposed to simply giving them insight into a practice area.”

She said Pathfinder accepts 2Ls and 3Ls and 2Ls can participate the following year as well.

Pathfinder officially got underway in January of 2016, with a number of mentor/mentee pairs participating in the program, which concluded in June.

“It was very successful,” said Benedict O’Brien. “The mentors encouraged students to attend different bar events and essentially chart their own course.”

Davis participated in the former mentor program while he was a student and has since volunteered to be a mentor.

“It was invaluable to me as a student,” said Davis. “My mentor was Rob Malone who works at my firm. He introduced me to other members of the legal community and provided me with advice that I am able to implement now as a practicing attorney.

“Since I recently graduated, I’ve been able to advise my mentees on a broad range of topics, including about what classes and professors to take,” he said. “I’ve advised them about bar events and anything else they think might be beneficial. Sometimes the mentor/mentee relationship continues beyond the formal program.”

Filon has also taken on mentees over the years. He did not participate in the program as a student because he was attending Akron Law at night on a part-time basis. The Akron native spent his days as a firefighter for the Strongsville Fire Department.

He received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Case Western Reserve University. Filon primarily handles all types of intellectual property matters as a member of the business practice group at Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs. He’s a registered patent attorney and is admitted to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

“I would have loved to have taken part in the mentor program in law school,” said Filon, whose two-year term as committee chair began in July 2015. “Networking is by far the most important thing a young attorney can do.”

In addition to the Pathfinder program, committee members are tapped to take part in a workshop series known as “A Day in the Life of.”

Benedict O’Brien said students are surveyed about their areas of interest and based on their responses, she asks committee members from certain practice areas to come to the law school and discuss their work at a lunch or dinner program.

“We try to run two per semester and we alternate the practice areas.”

Filon said his main goal as chair would be to continue to build and foster the law school/bar association relationship so that “students are able to realize the many benefits the bar association has to offer.

“Buckingham encourages all its attorneys to participate in the bar association,” said Filon. “The idea is that when you complete a leadership position on one committee you should take on a new role somewhere else.”