New lawyer says contacts

By Tom Gantert

Legal News

It's not supposed to work this way for new attorneys in a down job market.

But on Nov. 2, Angela Wetherby was sworn in as a new attorney. And then the 25-year-old Jackson woman went back to her new job as an associate at Inosencio and Fisk.

The National Association for Law Placement announced in June that just 65.4 percent of 2011 law school graduates who reported their employment status were working in positions for which they had to pass the bar exam.

That proportion is the lowest ever measured by the association.

Executive Director James Leipold noted that the Class of 2011 faced "what was arguably the worst entry-level legal employment market in more than 30 years."

Wetherby doesn't claim to be an expert at finding a job.

"I only know what worked for me," she said. "The single, most important factor of where I am would be the mentorship and the relationships I've had with respected professionals in the field."

After graduating from Lumen Christi High School, Wetherby majored in English at the University of Michigan. She graduated in May from the Michigan State College of Law.

She says the work she put in before graduating from law school laid the groundwork to her securing her first fulltime job as an attorney.

When she started as an intern at Inosencio and Fisk four years ago, she asked her bosses, "What would you like to see on my resume?" They helped her get a job interning for Former Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Chad Schmucker.

When Schmucker left in March 2011 to become state court administrator, he helped her find her next job interning with Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wilson.

Wetherby said she then asked Judge Wilson what her next step should be. He recommended working for Legal Services of South Central Michigan, saying it would help her develop a variety of legal experience.

So Wetherby started working for legal aid and was a legal advocate for victims and survivors of domestic violence. She also worked with a managing attorney on housing issues.

"I'm a very emotional person," she said. "It took its emotional toll on me in a good way. When I got home from Legal Aid, I worried, 'Is my client safe? Is my client eating? Where are they staying?' It's kind of a different stress you go home with."

She did get a chance to go to court and finalize a divorce for her client.

"I was incredibly nervous," Wetherby said.

However, she was in front of a familiar face for her first case. It was Judge Wilson.

"He held my hand through it," Wetherby said.

Wetherby did her other legal jobs with the approval of Inosencio and Fisk. Wetherby had also spent the summers and school breaks for three years at law school working as an intern at Inosencio and Fisk.

And she was doing impressive work, Fisk said.

"She was pretty much a perfect fit from day one," Fisk said.

Partner Kristina Fisk said Wetherby completed project without needing much supervision.

"We knew that she did her homework," Fisk said.

The firm has had five interns, and Wetherby was the first hired as an associate.

"We've never really felt about an intern how we feel about Angela," Fisk said. "We had a real sense from her from day one that she wanted to be in Jackson."

Wetherby isn't sure what area of law will be her specialty.

"At this point, I'm an open book," she said.

Fisk said the firm may expand the practice to meet Wetherby's skills and go into areas of law the firm hasn't focused on previously.

Fisk said her law firm generally does business, real estate and construction law, and that she'll allow Wetherby to pursue cases in the areas of legal aid much like the work she did for Legal Services of South Central Michigan.

As her career starts, Wetherby says she didn't get to where she is on her own.

"It's building relationships with people you respect and admire," she said. "It's picking those people's brains and building relationships with them. I've been really well taken care of by a lot of people."

Thomas P. Riley was also sworn in along with Wetherby, who was a year behind him at Lumen Christi High School.

Though his father, Patrick Riley, is an attorney in Jackson with a single practice, Riley said there isn't enough work for two people. So he's looking for a job.

The Lansing resident said the job market is very tough, but he is hoping it improves now that he has a license.

"A lot of people have told me, 'We'll see what happens once you pass the bar,'" he said.

Published: Thu, Nov 15, 2012

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