Raising the bar
This article has been read 260 times.
UNLV alumna Lisa Szyc tells The Rebel Yell about her past and her path to becoming an attorney
To many students fresh out of college, the real world can seem almost too much to handle. A stable career being the next major goal, this next stage of life is soon discovered to be full of obstacles.
Where do you go next and better yet, how do you get there? One alumna has used personal drive and the power of persuasion to advance in her profession.
Since the age of 14, Lisa Szyc knew that law was her calling. Born in Missouri and raised in Florida, Szyc spent her high school years on the yearbook staff, in National Honor Society and in student council.
Just after graduating, she decided to attend UNLV so she could be close to her father. With her experience and support from her parents, she majored in political science and minored in English.
Following her graduation from UNLV in 2006, Szyc went on to another significant chapter in her life: law school.
Although unaware of all that law school would entail, Szyc attended North Carolina Central University, which is known for having one of the top 20 clinical programs in the nation.
Naturally, Szyc found herself facing many challenges in law school.
“You learn a whole new vocabulary,” she said. “At times it was very discouraging.”
When asked what advice she would give aspiring law students, she labeled determination as the key to success.
“You have to really want it,” she said.
Although she struggled in her first year, after learning how to manage her legal studies and other academics Szyc charged full speed ahead into this new world of law and order. She participated in the criminal law program, where she practiced skills she would need and obtained 100 hours of actual court time.
After a great deal of hard work, Szyc graduated from North Carolina Central University in 2009.
Szyc is now a personal injury and criminal defense attorney at Spilotro & Kulla, a small downtown law firm here in Las Vegas.
Szyc says she is learning a lot, particularly from her boss, whom she sees as a mentor.
She has been successful, but working in the justice system isn’t always smooth-sailing.
Szyc was thrown for a loop during her first case, when she was covering for another attorney. It was a criminal case with “an interesting client” and although she felt ready and was told there would be no complications, she was brutally chastised by the judge.
Szyc described it as “the tongue-lashing of a lifetime” and considered it a very humbling experience — perhaps not the start one might expect.
Szyc believes one of the most challenging aspects of her job is remembering the importance of being “passionate not emotional” when it comes to a case.
One clinical case in the past, which she tried from beginning to end, had a particularly important effect on her and taught her perhaps the toughest fact a lawyer must face.
Her client was found guilty despite Szyc’s effort and expertise. Szyc was taken aback by the court’s decision, feeling she had let down her client and, despite knowing that she had prepared well, wondering if she could have done something more.
A supervising figure who she consulted following the case made her realize that “sometimes you win some, sometimes you lose some.”
Szyc added, “You’re really not going to win them all. You just can’t.”
Now that she has been admitted to the bar, Szyc hopes to eventually be involved in public interest work, focusing on indigent clients, and perhaps become a professor at a university or law school.
She looks forward to another milestone in her future and feels that soon enough it will be time to make more important decisions for her life.
“Now I think I’m right back to where I was when I was 18,” Szyc said.
Her future does look promising. Erica Thompson, who was a member of Alpha Delta Pi alongside Szyc, says her sorority sister has always been a good role model, leader, and mentor. “She’s a great listener. She puts things in perspective,” said Thompson.
It is clear that many people support Szyc and believe in her abilities. Danielle Thompson, another of Szyc’s sorority sister, finds her extremely reliable, honest, and hardworking, both inside and outside the courtroom.
“She stands up for her friends,” Danielle said of her. “She’ll always back you up.”
Szyc reflects on her time spent at UNLV as valuable and considers her experiences here truly life-changing.
“I miss the social aspect of college,” she said. “I got over being shy. I found my voice.”
Her education during those four years not only prepared her for her dream job and the real world but also provided lessons in self-discovery, helping shape her into the woman she is today.
From the classroom to the courtroom, Szyc has shown the results of following your dream, that college is a time of exploration and that it’s okay to not have a plan for everything.