Rutgers Law School to host career panel for veterans

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Photo by Rutgers Camden |

Veterans face a number of issues, both during their service and upon their return. But fellow veterans can help them overcome these issues.

On Wednesday, Feb. 3, Rutgers Law School will host a law career panel discussion where veterans practicing law will give advice and guidance to their student counterparts at its Camden location.

The goal of the panel is to connect student veterans with veteran alumni, said Alison Nissen, director of the Academic Success Program at Rutgers Law School.

“We're trying to support our veteran law students by connecting them with veteran alums,” she said. “(We want to) make sure they're supported. Not only while they're in law school but also … as they're looking for jobs”

The panelists will include a judge, a partner at a law firm, a lawyer who worked with the Judge Advocate General’s Corp. and a veteran who missed his graduation because he was on active duty, Nissen said.

Advice from subject-matter experts can be invaluable to veterans looking to further their careers, said Tom Wollard, a Rutgers Law School second-year student in Camden. This advice is doubly valuable when provided by a veteran.

“It's always better to hear from someone who's already done it, as opposed to someone who says, ‘Hey, I think this is how it's going to work,’” he said. “These are people who can say ‘this is exactly how this works.’”

Wollard, a veteran with 20 years of military service, is pursuing a law degree and plans to become a cybersecurity lawyer, a specialization currently in high demand, he said.

In today’s world, marketability is increasingly important, Wollard said. It is important to continually make oneself more skilled and attractive to employers.

“As a white collar worker, at any time they could say, ‘Hey, we're going to offshore this job’ or ‘We're selling or we're going to get rid of this division,”’ he said. “You don't want to be left on the rocks.”

For some, a law degree is an opportunity to help others.

Joshua Piccoli, a Rutgers Law School second-year student, wants to use his law degree to help veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

As a result of their service, veterans can develop PTSD and turn to substance abuse to cope, Piccoli said.

With the help of the Military Assistance Project, a Philadelphia-based non-profit organization, Piccoli will assist veterans attempting to process their disability and compensation claims.

“A lot of people who have been diagnosed with PTSD were subject to substance abuse to fight these symptoms, and as such were disciplined or released from the military,” he said. “It’s an other-than-honorable discharge, which prevents them from obtaining benefits (that) they very much need.”

The changes in the veteran profile can also create issues, said Judge Bernard E. DeLury, a Rutgers graduate of the Class of 1986 and one of the event’s panelists.

“We have a much younger veteran profile… much bigger veteran profile now,” he said. “(Young veterans are) doing something that I never experienced in my early part of my career ... cyclical deployment”

Many young veterans, some of whom are reservists or members of the national guard, deploy for six to 12 months, and must reintegrate into their civilian lives only to deploy again later, DeLury said.

“That's a very real concern,” DeLury said. “You have to leave your family and your job, and then get plugged back into your family, your job and your civilian life … That's something that we definitely have to be aware of as veterans helping veterans.”

Despite these problems, veterans are well suited to law school and higher education in general, he said. Values taught by military service, such as application, dedication and discipline, are valuable when seeking a high-level degree.

To help these veterans along in their pursuit of higher education, DeLury helps provide opportunities for experienced and enlisted people, recommending them for commissioning programs and other opportunities.

There is also a mythical, inexplicable bond between veterans, all the veterans said.

“There's definitely a sense of camaraderie with anybody that has served in the military,” Piccoli said. “It’s a common understanding that we all posses, it's very hard to explain, but it's there, and you know that it's there.”

This feeling is a big part of the reason veterans feel so inclined to help one another, said David Dziengowski, one of the event’s panelists and a Rutgers Class of 2008 graduate.

Networking is important, especially for lawyers, Dziengowski said. The instant connection provided by the shared experience of military service allows for veterans to relate to each other in a powerful and meaningful way.

“All veterans have that sense of camaraderie with each other. We all speak the same language,” DeLury said. “There's a certain lingo that comes with the military. There's certain actions, certain disciplines that everyone is accustomed to ... Having that when you're around other veterans, it's almost like a brotherhood.”


Nikita Biryukov

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