Meet This Month's LAWYER OF ATLANTIC COUNTY #LOAC
Modeled after the infamous HUMANS OF NEW YORK (#HONY) Site, the ACBA Young Lawyers Division started LAWYERS OF ATLANTIC COUNTY (#LOAC) to to get to know our members on a more personal level. Each month, the ACBA Young Lawyers Division Executive Board chooses a different attorney to be featured here as the Lawyer of Atlantic County. Attorneys are nominated by their peers; any attorney who is nominated but not chosen to be featured in a given month will automatically be put back into the running for each subsequent month until featured. Interview questions typically focus on the attorney's professional and life experiences.
Julie Nugent, Esq.
Weiss & Paarz, P.C., Northfield, NJ January 23, 2018
By: Camille L. McKnight, JD, Co-Director of Community Outreach and Co-Director of Public Relations
For this month's #LOAC feature, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie Nugent, Esquire. Julie is a former Chair of the ACBA Young Lawyers Division and current Atlantic County Bar Association Trustee. Prior to becoming an associate at Weiss & Paarz, Julie served as law clerk to the Honorable Nelson C. Johnson, J.S.C., in Atlantic County.
Thank you, Julie, for taking the time out to share your experiences and advice with young lawyers and readers of the #LOAC!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a lawyer?
I’ve always been interested in the law which I think stems a lot from my dad who was obviously a lawyer before he went on the bench. As far as formally making a decision, I entered undergrad doing a pre-med type course to get a doctorate in physical therapy in six years, but I very quickly realized that I hated being in a lab at night, so I switched to the business school and did finance and business law as my concentrations. I loved the business law courses, and the professors were great so a couple of friends and I decided to take the LSAT our junior year. I had a job offer at the end of my senior year doing financial advising but I decided to go to law school instead because I didn’t love financial advising and I always loved the law and I found it fun.
What was your favorite course in law school?
I think my favorite course was probably property, which I think had a lot to do with the professor. The cases are definitely interesting but I had a great professor, he was very smart, very dry humor, and I could tell he really cared about the students and the law. I also really enjoyed the environmental law clinic, which was run by my property professor. It was a great experience and it was really fun.
Did you already have a path planned out for after graduation?
Yes, I had a path planned out - part of it happened, part of it did not. I knew I wanted to return to NJ, and I knew I wanted to do a civil clerkship. I applied throughout NJ but I ended up coming back to Atlantic County, which was nice because this is where I am from. I clerked for Judge Johnson in the civil division, so that part of my plan worked out. My plan as of graduating law school was to eventually go into environmental law because I dedicated a great deal of my law school career to environmental law; I loved it and that is what I wanted to do. Unfortunately, the hiring in NJ for environmental first year associates was not the greatest. I knew I wanted to do civil litigation, so when Weiss & Paarz sent out a targeted email to the Atlantic County clerks I applied. I didn’t know anything about medical malpractice, but I knew it was a good firm and I figured it would be a good learning experience at the least. Here I am, 3 years later!
What advice would you give to clerks or recent law school grads as far as applying for jobs post-clerkship or post-graduation?
It’s good to have an open mind, which means applying to as many places as you feel you would be interested in or happy at; try not to limit yourself. I sent out hundreds of applications to firms all over the state. Networking is also important. It’s good to get out to events and meet all of the attorneys in the local bar; or if there is another Bar you where want to practice, maybe drive up to their events. You never know who will lead to what in your life, and you can only get there by putting yourself out there. Also, take initiative - be the one to volunteer for things, being helpful – and always be nice to court house staff and the attorneys who call or appear before your judge. These are all good things that you should do as a clerk. And, as a clerk you should also observe as much as you can. Just take the time to always put forth your best effort.
What tips do you have for networking?
As a new clerk or young attorney, I know it may be awkward and intimidating to approach attorneys. Even for me four years out of my clerkship, I can still get intimidated. But, try not to let that overcome your willingness to go up to an attorney and just introduce yourself and engage them. As a clerk there is no reason for anyone to be mean to you and as attorneys we love to see the new clerks at events, volunteering, and helping out. You never know who can give you advice or who may want to talk to you. In addition, going to events is the best way to build a professional and collegial relationship with peers, adversaries, and judges.
What advice would you give on rising through the ranks in a law firm?
That’s a hard question for me to answer, since I am still only a young associate, but, I think that will naturally happen if you are working hard and going above and beyond for your bosses. As a young associate, it’s really important to stay up to date on the current case law and rules, staying organized, staying on top of your tasks, act professional and ethical at all times, etc. In short, you want to make yourself essential to your firm. I think as a young attorney it’s important to keep in mind that if you put in the time up front in your career, which at times might seem tedious and may require you to work long hours, later on in your career you will be rewarded. Plus, all of these things are things that will help you to be a better attorney on a daily basis.
What do you like most about the practice of law?
That’s hard, there are a lot of things I like about the law. In my particular practice, I like the complexity of the issues that I face. I find that I work better when I am challenged intellectually, emotionally, and physically, so I like that it is a complex field that is always challenging me. Nothing is easy and I have to really work hard, but I thing that makes me a better attorney and a better person. In more general terms, I like our local bar in Atlantic County. I think Atlantic County is a very nice place to be an attorney in NJ – generally everyone is nice, professional, cooperative, and we help each other out and have a nice referral network. But, overall, I just find the practice of law to be fun. Even though it is certainly a stressful profession, it’s a little bit of an adrenaline rush! The stress is usually good stress, similar I guess to gearing up for a big game - that’s kind of how it feels every day, because you are advocating for your client and in order to do that you have to do a lot of work and overcome a lot of hurdles. It’s also fun to go up against a good adversary; even though you are advocating against each other, at the end of the day when you see good lawyering on both sides it’s just really fun to watch and be a part of.
What do you like to do for fun?
I grew up in Northfield and I live in Northfield now, and I’ve always enjoyed riding my bike down the bike path over into Ocean City and going to the boardwalk. Mostly, I just like to hang out with friends and family, and maybe binge watch a show on Netflix every once in a while. I also really like to travel even if that means just going to the city for a day. Just simple pleasures of life in Northfield, NJ.
Where do you see yourself in 10-20 years?
I don’t know, I love where I am now. I love my firm, my bosses, my coworkers and the staff. I think I am really fortunate to be in an office where we really are kind of like a work family. Ideally, I’d love to stay here, continue to improve my trial skills, get some trials under my belt, and make partner as soon as I can someday. Where all of that falls for me in the timeline of my future, I am not really sure. Personally, I hope to have traveled a lot more.
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Lawyers of Atlantic County
was created in 2015 by the Atlantic County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division