Faculty Spotlight: Christine Leavitt, Practicing Attorney, Mother & Bryan U Instructor
I did not always consider becoming a lawyer as my career path. In fact, when I first started college, I was a pre-med major. Along the way, I fell in love with my liberal arts classes, including a political science class. I’ve always enjoyed debating and am easily drawn into discussions of controversial issues. While in college, I had the unique opportunity to spend eight months in Spain – six months of school and two months of an internship at a law firm. This experience, along with my enjoyment of looking at both sides of issues and understanding different points of view, led me to switch to a double major in Political Science and Spanish. After graduating with my undergraduate degree, I decided to pursue a career in law, partly due to the ability to tailor a legal career to fit well within different stages of my life.
In law school, an area that I found particularly interesting was juvenile law. I completed some externships during law school where I was able to work with youth, primarily focusing on rehabilitation. I enjoyed working with youth and seeing the positive impact that the legal system can have in their lives in inspiring change and direction. In addition to juvenile law, I also enjoyed criminal law, in part due to the excitement of the courtroom environment. However, by the time I graduated from law school, I had two young kids, and flexibility became very important to me. I was able to find a job that provided me with my desired level of flexibility after law school. For the past six years, I have worked as Associate General Counsel for an insurance company. In this capacity, I deal with a wide variety of interesting issues, from employment and labor law, to trademark issues, to contractual disputes. I’m the only in-house counsel who is licensed in California and Arizona, so I handle many of the cases and issues arising in these jurisdictions. The variety of issues that I deal with in addition to the flexibility make my job both interesting, and fulfilling.
I’ve also had a longtime interest in teaching. My first exposure to teaching was in the fall of 2011 when I was invited as part of the U.S. BUILD Initiative to teach at several Ukrainian law schools. The purpose of the program was to teach Ukrainian youth about democratic ideals and principles and how these ideals can be put into practice in Ukraine. While Ukraine has very similar laws as the United States as far as civil and criminal procedure, such laws have not been implemented in the court policies and procedures. For example, when I would talk with students about specific issues such as jury trials and protections from unreasonable searches and seizures, they had never experienced any such policies and had difficulty in imagining such protections as a realistic possibility. Teaching in Ukraine was a really fun and fulfilling experience, further sparking my interest in teaching.
I began searching for faculty positions online in the greater Phoenix area. I discovered Bryan University and learned that it had a fantastic reputation in addition to unique e-Discovery courses for which it is ranked top notch. I really liked how Bryan University offered the flexibility of online education while providing students with live, interactive class sessions each week. This aspect was extremely important to me, as I really enjoy getting to know students. Live sessions also have the added advantage of allowing students to collaborate together and share their opinions, which is a very important component in gaining an education. Through sharing knowledge and collaborating together, students are most effectively able to learn.
Another feature I found impressive about Bryan University is that Bryan pays close attention to what the field needs so they can prepare their students accordingly. This emphasis results in good job placement of graduates, so students can be assured they are actually working towards a degree that is useful, relevant and provides real-world exposure. In particular, the e-Discovery component of this program is really valuable since the legal field doesn’t have enough paralegals equipped with e-Discovery expertise. Having these skills puts Bryan University E-Discovery paralegal graduates at an advantage.
As a faculty member at Bryan University, I have the opportunity to teach the introductory class with the brand new students – I love it! Right from the beginning, students are exposed to a real-world case study. Within the first few weeks, students are writing a sample client interview, preparing a case brief, and drafting a summons and complaint to initiate a law suit – which is high level material! This real-world approach makes Bryan’s programs very unique and engaging. Students learn more than legal topics and theories; the curriculum effectively bridges knowledge with practical, real-world application.
One of my favorite and most memorable teaching experiences was with a student who, like many, was very hesitant, reticent and nervous starting the program. She had worked in a restaurant for years and had put off her education until her children had grown up and left for college. In starting the program, she was following her dream that she had since high school! As the course progressed, this student went from being silent and scared to speak, to becoming one of the top participators and performers in the class. Due to her dedication, perseverance, and willingness to reach out for help, the level of her work got to the point where I would have likely hired her as a paralegal had she applied to work with me! This experience helped me to realize that it’s never too late to pursue your passion or follow your dreams.
For new students who are just starting at Bryan University, the following is some of my advice: 1 – don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions; 2 – keep track of deadlines, and make sure to get assignments in when they are due; and 3 – get involved. For instance, go out in your community and see how you can serve. In the legal field, for example, many communities allow citizens to sign up to be representatives of the court for children, serving as a citizen guardian ad litem. There are additional volunteer opportunities in law firms, in local city governments, and with local courts. Getting involved will provide you with learning experiences that will help you to figure out exactly what you want to do, and the contacts that you make will help you develop a professional network to advance your career.
More about Christine:
Christine Leavitt is an attorney who is licensed to practice in Arizona, California, and Utah. Christine works in the field of employment and labor law as Associate General Counsel to one of the largest private insurance brokerages, a job which she has held for the past six years. In 2011, Christine was invited to be a guest lecturer in Ukraine as part of the U.S. BUILD Initiative, and she taught at five law schools in western Ukraine. Christine also externed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, Utah Legal Services, and the Beaver County Public Defender’s office, for which work she received the J. Reuben Clark Public Service Award.
Christine graduated with a Juris Doctor Degree from Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School with honors. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Southern Utah University, where she double majored in Political Science and Spanish, graduating with high honors and as Valedictorian of her class. Christine is very energetic and passionate. She loves learning and enjoys meeting new people. She is also the mother of four (soon to be five), an accomplished pianist, and a long distance runner. Her hobbies include traveling and spending as much time as possible exploring the outdoors with her family.