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A trailblazer keynotes Women in the Law conference

Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

Leocadia Zak, L’82, said her Northeastern University experience was a fundamental part of what has guided her through a career in law. She recalls choosing Northeastern’s law school due to its strong reputation for supporting female law students and her interest in pursuing public service.

“I found this was an environment where I could thrive, where I could believe in myself and in my core values,” said Zak, the keynote speaker at the Women in the Law 2011 Conference on April 1. The daylong event at the School of Law drew alumni from private practice and public service, along with students and staff for a day of presentations and networking.

In March 2010, Zak was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, which promotes economic growth in emerging foreign markets as well as U.S. job creation by facilitating the export of American goods to those countries. She had previously served as the agency’s general counsel and deputy director. Prior to her experience in government, Zak was a partner in the Boston and Washington, D.C., offices of the firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.

Zak said her co-op experiences at Northeastern taught her the importance of building professional relationships and being open to a variety of career paths. Her co-op at Mintz Levin ultimately led to her full-time job at the firm, where she “hit the ground running.”

“Because of Northeastern and my practical education, I started with a leg up when I got there,” she said.

The conference theme was, “Trailblazing in a Changing Terrain.” Later in the day, a panel discussion examined how the economic crisis has altered the legal landscape for women practicing law. Breakout sessions focused on career paths in private practice, alternative careers and the nonprofit sector.

To the women in attendance, Zak passed along the lessons she learned at Northeastern: “Believe in yourself, take risks, and do what you enjoy.”