Lisa-Michelle P. Houck ’23 is a lover of language, legal jargon, and lifting others up.
Coming to a career crossroads was the turning point to her circuitous route to Albany Law School.
Originally, she wanted to be an English teacher but upon graduation from SUNY Geneseo in 2008, teaching jobs were hard to find. She worked a few database entry roles and later, sales. But ended up being out of a job for not meeting quotas.
So, she went to a temporary staffing agency to see what she could find, hoping it might open the door to something new.
“It turned out that they needed a legal transcriptionist on an emergency basis. They needed somebody who could start the next day. While I didn't have experience with that, I had very good scores on their typing tests. So, they threw me into a law firm. That is how I ended up in law, completely by accident,” she said.
Houck found that she loved the legal work. She spent the next six years earning various qualifications and certifications as a paralegal, a case coordinator, head paralegal, and as a hearing representative for Social Security disability hearings.
“Then I hit a ceiling. I couldn't go further in my career without getting a J.D.,” she said.
But with a young family at home, it was a decision that was going to need strategic planning to make it fit in her life. Balancing it all takes support, determination, and a very important office supply.
“It's very hectic. I have a planner that I affectionately refer to as my brain because if it's not written down, it's not happening. I also have a really good support system. For instance, one of the classes that I'm taking a few times this semester will be going until 8:00 p.m. That's after my kids' bedtime,” she said. “My mom will come over and do bedtime with the kids. So that's also something special for them, which helps. My wife is also incredibly supportive.”
She also lives with autoimmune disease, which she was diagnosed with in 2009. The autoimmune disease has impacted her mobility. As she has learned to adapt to the ways the disease takes shape, she’s also found a particular interest in helping others with disabilities through the law.
“It's definitely been an adjustment. My condition got a lot worse during COVID. So, I didn't necessarily learn everything about what my limitations were and how to best handle them, because we were at home so much,” she said. “So there has been a little bit of being thrown into the fire this year. But overall, it has worked. It helps that the law school—despite being an incredibly old building—is very accessible. The school has also been really good about making changes as I’ve brought them up.”
Houck has also become involved with OUTLaw, the law school’s LGBTQ+ affinity group, and the Government Law Center.
“We definitely have a very robust affinity group selection. I’ve made some really good friends through them,” she said. “And the Government Law Center is similar. It’s a way to connect with fellow students where we can nerd out about similar things. I had a conversation with a fellow student the other day that really highlighted how many students have something that they're passionate about. He shared how he wanted to become a lawyer because he saw a bond pass in his town and how it made things better and that the law is what was behind it. I think it's really true. Whatever your area of interest is, there are ways through the law to help people and make things better.”