Most people know that being a lawyer isn’t much like legal dramas on TV. For Pamela Steinle, B.A. ’03, M.Ed. ’04, practicing law comes down to a key element that is a thrill to her: helping people.
“I’ve always been drawn to the helping professions,” says Steinle. A Gates Millennium Scholar, she taught family and consumer science to middle and high school students before she changed career paths and went to law school.
Steinle felt more prepared to work with clients than many of her law school classmates who had majored in more traditional pre-law paths, such as political science or history. She says her undergraduate degree in family social science provided an invaluable foundation in interviewing and effective, active listening.
“A large part of litigation is communicating with clients,” she says.
An understanding of family social science—with focuses on positive relationships and how to build and maintain them—has been a important asset as she begins her legal career. Steinle is now an associate at the litigation firm Bassford Remele. Counseling and listening skills have helped her tremendously.
“It doesn’t matter whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant, lawsuits are very emotional,” she says. “Clients want to work with a lawyer who understands that.”
As a first-year associate, Steinle engages in a lot of client interaction as well as legal research and brief writing. She has argued motions in state court and defended many client depositions. Partners have noted her implementation of classroom techniques, such as role-playing, when preparing witnesses for their depositions.
“I am constantly using my teaching skills,” Steinle says. “From educating clients about the legal process, to getting a jury to remember my theory of the case, it basically comes down to how well I have taught my particular lesson plan!”
Steinle is also involved with diversity initiatives in the legal community. She serves on diversity committees for Bassford Remele as well as the Federal Bar Association. And to Steinle, diversity means more than race or gender.
“After one year of marriage, my husband’s 13-year-old brother and 11-year-old sister with Down syndrome came to live with us,” Steinle says. The reception they get says a lot. “When we go out to eat, servers see an Asian woman, a dark-haired Swedish man, a 6′ 7″ blond kid, and a petite diva with Down’s. We are often asked if we want separate checks.”
Steinle recommends family social science to any student interested in pursuing law school someday.
“The law is truly a helping profession,” she says. “No matter what area you specialize in, at the end of the day you are simply helping someone solve a problem.”
Story by Amanda Costello | July 2012