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Lauren Audette ’15 Exploring Legal Opportunities in Two States

February 25, 2016

As she studied for the California Bar Exam, Lauren Audette, ’15, could hear the voices of her Thomas Jefferson School of Law professors in her head, emphasizing key concepts, questions, and ideas to remember.

There had been some extremely challenging courses and professors during Audette’s three years at Thomas Jefferson Law, but the knowledge she took with her from those classes, combined with the invaluable guidance received during internships, played a critical role in Audette’s ability to pass the bar and land a job nearly immediately.

In May 2015, Audette graduated from Thomas Jefferson. She took the California Bar Exam in July of the same year, and one week later started working as a law clerk. Although she had passed the Bar Exam in California, Audette decided to pursue a career opportunity in Tuscon, AZ with Harlow, Spanier & Heckele, PLLC.

“It doesn’t really matter what the name of your school is or if you chose to go to an Ivy League,” Audette says now. “What matters is what you take away from the greatest part of law school – what the professors are willing to give.”

In other words, work hard during school to absorb everything you can, particularly the wisdom passed down by professors and the advice from mentors. With several months of real world experience behind her now, Audette says she is more grateful than ever for the many professors and mentors who impacted her journey through law school and the rigors of the bar exam.

“They prepared me better than I ever anticipated. I honestly hadn’t realized it until I was studying for the bar,” says Audette, recalling Professor James Atkins teaching Evidence and always reminding students to ask whether something is a civil or criminal matter, and Business Associations teacher Professor Wenger emphasizing the business judgment rule.

Professor Marybeth Herald, who taught Constitutional Law, helped shape Audette’s study habits during law school, and most importantly, for the bar. Those are just a few of the many professors who made a difference in Audette’s education and subsequent success.

“And I greatly appreciate Professor Karen Harkins,” Audette continues. “Her door was always open. It was nice to feel so welcome and to know that someone was always rooting for you.”

Which brings Audette to the second key factor of her success – internships and connecting with mentors. There was one mentor in particular who provided invaluable guidance and ultimately helped Audette determine the field of law she would pursue.

Audette originally intended to become a prosecutor. But her perspective changed during a two-year internship with Cassandra Hearn, a criminal defense attorney and family law practitioner, and someone Audette describes as one of her most valuable advisors.

“I loved working under her mentorship; she was an amazing litigator, writer, and friend,” explains Audette. “She also practices family law, and at first I was hesitant to delve into this area because family law can be very consuming and frustrating. But I came to find out that it can be very rewarding. It provides you a chance to help someone or to help a family rebuild, which in most areas of the law, helping a client rebuild is exactly what a lawyer intends to do. So, really, Ms. Hearn helped narrow my focus on my areas of practice and I just kept running with it .”

Not only did Hearn teach Audette about family law, she also allowed her young protege to assist with building a new nonprofit organization focused on providing free legal services to victims of violent crime. Named Counter Balance: Foundation for Victims of Crime, Audette assisted in running the nonprofit during her last two years of law school. She was also nominated by Hearn to sit on its board of directors as executive secretary, a position Audette held until December 2015.

After finishing the California bar exam, Audette relocated to Arizona. She is now prepping to take the Uniform Bar Exam there, while also working full-time as a law clerk with Harlow, Spanier & Heckele, PLLC. Audette works for firm partner, Zachary H. Spanier, a position she is thoroughly enjoying.

She particularly appreciates that her current role is very hands-on, and often allows her to lead cases, delving into the conflicts clients face, writing motions on their behalf. Throughout it all, she is treated as an equal by others at the firm, her hard work is regularly recognized and Audette finishes each day feeling validated and welcomed.

Though taking the bar exam again may seem daunting to some, Audette is not intimidated. Rather, she is eagerly anticipating the distinctions and opportunities that lie ahead.

“I look forward to taking clients in both states, which will greatly impact my firm’s reach,” she says. “I will be the only active licensed California-Arizona associate attorney. In addition, I will be the only female attorney, once I pass the Arizona Bar. My firm has already openly offered me an associate position when that time comes.”