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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Jill Simeone ’93 on Mentorship: "It's the Gift that Keeps on Giving"

“I see UC Hastings as a national school with a national network.” --Jill Simeone '93, General Counsel, KCAP Financial, New York
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Students and alumni at a 6@6 dinner hosted by Jill Simeone '93.

Written and reported from New York City by Rising 2L Christine Doelling. Read more about her summer gig in the music industry here.

Jill Simeone ’93 came out of UC Hastings with all the grades and credentials a young attorney could want. A national finalist for the Scribes writing competition, a published student note, and the Senior Articles Editor for the Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, with an undergraduate degree, cum laude, from Harvard.

She was determined to break into the East Coast market. She landed a job at the New York County District Attorney’s office, and immediately set out to find a mentor.

“There was a trial attorney who I was intimidated by, but I knew she was really good. I got up the courage to ask her to be my mentor. She watched me in the grand jury, and gave me real feedback. She gave me opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Simeone said. “It was basically boot camp, but she fast-tracked me. I had training that other people were not getting.”

That mentoring paid off. Simeone transferred the skills she acquired at the DA’s office into an abundant transactional career. She now serves as the General Counsel and Chief Compliance officer for KCAP Financial, Inc., a publically traded middle-market investment firm.

As the incoming President of the Board of Governors Alumni Association, Simeone is determined to bring mentorship to the forefront of the UC Hastings experience. “Mentorship is the gift that keeps on giving,” she says.

"Vibrant Alumni Network"

“It is crucial for growing our vibrant alumni network, enhancing our endowment, and let’s face it…for our student placement, that our alumni are connected to the college. When an alumni has the opportunity to mentor, he or she feels genuinely re-connected to the school. When you meet and advise a young student excited about Hastings, you know your time and donations are being well used, and you are inspired to give more of both.”

Simeone adds that mentoring teaches students the importance of mentorship in their own careers. “Law school is professional training, and networking is a part of it. Students who have a mentor are more likely to succeed, want to stay connected to UC Hastings, and believe in the value of serving as mentors when they become alumni.”

Simeone is leading by example. This summer, Simeone hosted a “6@6 dinner” for UC Hastings students and recent graduates in New York City. “Students need to interact with practitioners who are not going to be their future employers. It gives them a change to ask working attorneys career questions that their friends in law school and probably even their professors cannot answer.” Simeone adds that in the 6@6 dinners she has hosted, students have asked her about work-life balance, having kids, the risks and rewards of international work, how to pursue an in-house career track, and how to get job skills so you can get hired… when you don’t have that first job yet. “These are not the types of questions you want to ask someone during an interview!”

When planning the 6@6 dinners, Simeone intentionally chooses a casual restaurant, and lets students know that they can ask her anything. And they do!

Simeone is already working with the UC Hastings Office of Career & Professional Development to expand the mentorship program and highlight alumni in diverse locals. She is excited to be the first New York-based Alumni Association President, a development that she considers symbolic. When Simeone graduated, only two of her classmates left California to work in New York.

Twenty years later, the east coast alumni network is extensive, and active. Simeone says UC Hastings is a national school, with a “national network. Student who come to NYC for summer jobs or recruiting will find a fun, diverse alumni community here.” And as for mentors? “There are many of us here who would love to mentor. All students need to do is ask.”

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