Student Spotlight

Hicks ’16, Honored by NYSBA, Follows Heart into Labor and Employment Law

Bethany Hicks '16

By Lauren Hammont
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Bethany Hicks '16 is ready to begin an exciting career in labor and employment law. The Montgomery County native has spent the past three years honing her skills in a specialization that she is very passionate about.

“I graduated high school right around the time that the country was feeling some of the worst effects of the housing bubble and economic recession, Hicks said. So when I first started thinking about law school, I was initially attracted to the area of financial regulation. I interned at the Montgomery County DA's office during college. Many of the attorneys there had also gone to law school with an idea of what area of law they wanted to practice in but ended up changing their minds and had very successful careers in criminal law. I decided to keep an open mind once I started my own legal studies.”

Hicks was first drawn to the idea of a career in law during her senior year of high school. “I decided that cheerleading just wasn't right for me anymore so I left the squad and then one of my teachers approached me and suggested that I try getting involved with the mock trial team. I ended up absolutely loving it and knew shortly thereafter that I wanted to pursue an education in law.”

Hicks chose the University at Albany to pursue her secondary education because of its 3+3 program with Albany Law School — which allows students to earn their bachelor's and law degrees in six academic years instead of the typical seven — as well as its large student body and the surrounding cityscape.

“Everyone here has been extremely supportive of one another and I think that this has been the best part of my experience here at Albany Law. ... The people here are extremely supportive of one another, and I'm not just talking about the students — I'm talking about faculty, staff, and the entire legal community in this area in general.”

“Coming from such a small farm town, I was really looking forward to going to a college that would provide me with the opportunity to meet tons of new people and get involved in activities and clubs that I had never had the chance to experience before — and UAlbany didn't disappoint,” she said.

As an undergrad, Hicks majored in Public Policy with a concentration in Public Administration and became involved with the campus Pre-Law Association. She also traveled frequently to tournaments with the UAlbany Taekwondo Club.

After graduating from UAlbany in 2012, Hicks took a gap year to recharge and focus on developing her plan for the future. “I really just didn't want to get burned out and I know that I made the right decision by doing that because I ended up working two part-time jobs simultaneously. It really showed me how ready I was to go back to school,” laughed Hicks. “That year helped me get ready for law school though; I would go straight from one job to the next and put in a 14 hour work day which I think really helped prepare me for those long days in class and then studying for hours on end during 1L.”

Once her 1L year started, Hicks became interested in labor and employment law and began doing pro-bono work with Jeremy Ginsburg ’14, the founder of the Labor and Workers' Rights Pro Bono Project.

“For me, labor and employment law was related to my interest in financial regulation in the sense that both are meant to regulate some of the opportunistic behavior that can threaten economic stability,” she said. I became more attracted to labor and employment law because I felt that it had a more meaningful impact on the lives of everyday people. For example, while volunteering with the Pro Bono Project I was able to work in conjunction with the Worker Justice Center of New York to help undocumented migrant workers receive legal services when they raised issues with their employers. Their concerns ranged from wage theft to fair labor standards violations to OSHA violations and receiving workers compensation benefits. It was a really great experience and I felt fulfilled by helping these individuals attain justice for the hard work that they had performed.”

Hicks interned at New York State United Teachers as a law clerk the summer after her first year.

“My experience as a law clerk at the New York State United Teachers union really solidified my passion for labor and employment law,” said Hicks, whose resume reflects her enthusiasm for this particular area of law. “My dad was very involved in his local union, so that also helped influence my perspective in the field. ... That's where my heart really is and that's where I would really like to stay.”

“However, I'm not opposed to working in other areas of law,” she added. “I always like to keep an open mind.”

Her 2L year posed quite the challenge for Hicks as she was required to dedicate more time to juggling her responsibilities. “You get used to the workload fairly quickly but it's juggling your extracurricular activities, your study time, your internships, work study, and personal life that becomes the greatest challenge. Much to my surprise, everyone here has been extremely supportive of one another and I think that this has been the best part of my experience here at Albany Law. You see Hollywood's depictions of the law school experience, take The Paper Chase for example, where everyone is highly competitive, cutthroat, and often super aggressive towards one another. You come into 1L expecting your experience to be similar, if not exactly like that, and Albany Law is the complete opposite. The people here are extremely supportive of one another, and I'm not just talking about the students — I'm talking about faculty, staff, and the entire legal community in this area in general. I've met so many very good, very passionate people here and it has been really comforting and such a welcome surprise. You have so much to worry about and so much pressure in law school — to do well and to grow your network and prepare yourself for a career in law — that it has been really nice to not have to worry about the added stressors of competition and aggressive classmates. There wasn't any of that at all. Instead there was a real sense of community where [upper-level students] would be like, 'Oh, you're in this class? I did really well in that class, here let me give you my outline.' It has just been a really great experience all around.”

Earlier this year, she won a Samuel M. Kaynard Memorial Student Service Award (second prize) from the New York State Bar Association for exemplary service and accomplishment in the field of labor and employment law.

Hicks, transitioning into her career, delivered some advice for the incoming class.

“One of the hardest things that they will have to learn, and to learn very quickly, is to tell their family and their friends ‘no,’  she said. It is very difficult for people who are not familiar with the law school environment to understand why you can't come out to the bar for an hour or two and just relax. I found this to be especially true during the first year when you are just adapting to it. It is very hard to say no, but you have to because every hour counts. That being said, everything has to be balanced out. You do have to have a stress reliever — you can't be in front of your laptop 24 hours a day. You need to go to the gym, to go see your friends and stuff like that. … My best advice would be to set your sights on the end goal and just take it one day at a time!”

Bethany Hicks