Lawyer Doug Hill '77 Shares Career Advice with Students

Studying law can lead to a wide range of careers, he tells Pre-Law Club

October 30, 2013

Doug Hill '77 with Pre-Law Club

by Laura Pochodylo '14

As Knox College alumni descended on campus for the 2013 Homecoming, some, like Doug Hill '77, came to share their wisdom and career advice.

Hill, who has been working as a county prosecutor in Tacoma, Washington, for more than 30 years, met with Pre-Law Club students in the Gizmo for a discussion about his experiences since Knox.

"I have lots of war stories," Hill joked.

Hill was introduced by Lane Sunderland, Chancie Ferris Booth Professor of Political Science and pre-law advisor, whose Constitutional Law class Hill took in 1976.

Hill says he wouldn't have expected Sunderland to remember him, as he was a self-proclaimed "mediocre" student who hadn't planned on entering law school.

Doug Hill '77 with Pre-Law ClubPerseverance, Hill told students, made the difference. (Photo at left: Members of the Pre-Law Club listen to Doug Hill.)

"Your first hurdle is getting in [law school], and then it is about surviving that first year," Hill said.

He discussed the high stakes of his job as a prosecutor, and how it differs from the private practice law a lot of pre-law students envision.

"It's a tremendous amount of power and responsibility, but I love it," Hill said.

Much of the discussion was about the different types of law or career options a law school graduate has, and how to decide what type of law career is best.

"If you want to be a courtroom lawyer, be a prosecutor or a public defender," Hill advised.

Anya White, a senior and president of the Pre-Law Club, found this advice helpful.

"I think it was interesting to learn about Doug's career as a prosecutor. It's a very unique angle of the law profession," White said. "I think his comments about surviving law school were particularly helpful as well."

One notable trend that Hill recognized was that fewer law school graduates are joining the bar and instead are getting involved in entrepreneurship or startups.

The range of careers available to law students is larger than most imagine, he explained, and for those worried about debt, "a law school education is well worth it."

Hill said Knox prepared him with a good "moral baseline" that is necessary for law.

"If people trust you, you get things done quickly and easily," he said. "I've always tried to be one of those people."