Fulfilling a Lifelong Dream for a Career in Law

Jeanne Kabulis RLAW’17

By Jeanne Leong

Jeanne Kabulis always had an interest in law, so after spending more than 20 years teaching French and Spanish, she decided to pursue a law degree.

Originally from Westerly, R.I., Kabulis and her family moved from Fairfax County, Va., to Wynnewood, Pa., for her husband’s career.

In early 2014, when Kabulis was still living and teaching in Virginia, she began preparing for and then took the law school admissions test (LSAT).

“Changing careers in midlife involves risk-taking and loss,” says Kabulis. “As soon as I started to consider that I could realize my dream of studying law, there was no turning back. It was a watershed moment.”

Although she had originally planned to find a teaching position in the Philadelphia area and save money to start law school in the fall of 2015, she decided to enter Rutgers Law School in 2014 because the school offered her a scholarship.

Jeanne Kabulis with Zoe and Anthony

“I’ve always known that my skill set would be better suited to a career in the law,” Kabulis says. “As much as I loved teaching language, I wanted to do something impactful, something meaningful—something that would serve vulnerable individuals who are unable to advocate for themselves.”

Through Kabulis’ courses and pro bono work, she has developed interests in employment, disability, and health law. After spending a summer as a Maida Public Interest Fellow and a semester in the Immigrant Justice Clinic at Rutgers Law, she’s also interested in immigration law.

“I love the complexity of immigration law,” says Kabulis. “It involves federal law, international law, and sometimes state law when juveniles are involved. It also dovetails nicely with my foreign-language background.”

Kabulis had the opportunity to use both French and Spanish while working in the Law School’s Immigrant Justice Clinic to communicate with clients from West Africa, Central America, and Mexico. She also translated documents such as vital records, police reports, and retainer agreements.

A French scholar with a Ph.D. in French literature and civilization, Kabulis draws from her background as a linguist, researcher, and author when addressing legal issues.

“I have an extensive background in two foreign languages, experience with the target cultures, and textual interpretation that I put to good use whenever I interact with a client, construe a statute, or develop an argument,” says Kabulis. “My identity as teacher and researcher remains inseverable from my identity as lawyer and constantly informs my thought processes.”

When Kabulis joins her classmates from the Rutgers Law School’s Camden location to receive their degrees on May 18 at the BB&T Pavilion in Camden, some of the loudest cheers may come from her children, 15-year-old Zoe and 10-year-old Anthony.

In the spring of Kabulis’ second year at Rutgers Law, her 20-year marriage broke down. It was two weeks before finals, and at the time, she was carrying a heavy course load, and was a staff editor for the Rutgers Journal of Law & Public Policy at the law school.

“I vividly remember how daunting the prospect of everything that lies ahead seemed at the time,” says Kabulis. “Yet, I was able to marshal all the wherewithal I needed to write something coherent that would honor the time and effort I’d invested all semester.”

With the support of her family and the Rutgers Law community, including Angela Baker, associate dean of students; Jill Friedman, associate dean for pro bono and public interest; and professors Katie Eyer and Joanne Gottesman, Kabulis says she was able to meet all of her obligations.

“My transition from teacher to lawyer and from chronic dissatisfaction to self-determination was a veritable team effort,” Kabulis says. “Rutgers–Camden became my sanctuary as well as my school.”

Kabulis’ first job after graduation is working at as a judicial clerk in the Civil Division at the Superior Court of Camden County.

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