Voices and Ideas

ΦBK Member Uses Liberal Arts Training as an Immigration Lawyer

By Benjamin Purper

When students consider becoming a lawyer, they often look for schools with pre-law programs. But Kate Rahel, an associate at the law firm Dornan, Troia, Howard, Breitkreutz & Conway PC LLO, is living proof that an education in the liberal arts can be just as effective, if not more, in training future lawyers.

Rahel graduated from Kenyon College as a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2009. While working as a legal assistant after earning her bachelor's degree, she decided to go to law school. 

Rahel said her liberal arts education inspired her to become an attorney.

“I would say it was sort of my background, coming from the liberal arts with the emphasis on writing,” Rahel said. “I always enjoyed that in undergrad. I felt like there was at Kenyan such an emphasis on learning to be a good writer, regardless of what your major was. And so I graduated knowing that that was something that I liked. I knew that was a big part of law school, and it would be a big part of being a lawyer.”

According to Rahel, being trained in the liberal arts helped her succeed. She majored in international studies and Spanish literature, which gave her a broad base of knowledge going into law school.

“Law school is unique in that you don't really have to have a certain study in undergrad,” she said. “There are a lot of political science majors, or some schools have pre-law degrees.” 

“But I honestly think the best preparation for law school and being a lawyer was just a general liberal arts education, with a diverse array of classes and an emphasis on reading and writing. That really benefited me going into law school. I felt I was at an advantage because I already had some of those writing skills.”

Another aspect of her education that continues to help her be an effective attorney is her training in the Spanish language. Because she deals primarily with immigration, studying Spanish has helped her tremendously.

“I just fell into it with this job. They had an opening where they needed immigration, and so I started doing that,” she said. “And obviously speaking Spanish is a big advantage. I'd say, half to two thirds of my clients are Spanish-speaking, so it's been a really good experience to work with that community.”

Rahel said her membership in Phi Beta Kappa has given her a vast network of professional contacts that will help her in her career.

“I think it's just sort of a special connection, that you can find other people that are Phi Beta Kappa, no matter what profession you go into, or where in the country you go,” she said.

Being a Phi Beta Kappa alum has even helped her make connections at her current job.

“One of the other associates in my firm has her Phi Beta Kappa certificate on her wall, and so that was kind of an initial thing. We bonded over both being ΦBK.” Rahel said. “So, it’s a nice sense of community that you can find wherever you are, which I really like.” 

Benjamin Purper graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Redlands in 2017, having majored in international relations with minors in music and Latin American studies. University of Redlands is home to the Xi of California Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

(Posted on 6/11/2018 )