Ramapo alum helps law students find their niche

The World of Law, Law and Society speaker series invited 2015 graduate Jonathan Mangel to present “A Legal Roadrunner Comes Home: Perspectives from an alumnus in the legal field.” Mangel discussed his experiences in and out of school that led to him getting a job with the New Jersey Office of Attorney General in the Special Litigation Section as deputy attorney general.

Mangel jumped into the topic on the minds of most undergraduate law students, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). If and how students should take it has become a complicated issue as the LSAT is now offered both in-person and online, and a growing number of law schools are accepting the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) instead.

As a general rule, professors advise students to take the LSAT anyway. To prepare, Mangel took his first practice test about eight months before the date of the actual LSAT. It gave him a “starting point” and helped him create a study plan. “If you treat it like homework, it’s doable,” he said.

Mangel dismissed the idea that an expensive preparatory class is required for success. Many free resources are available online. “Khan Academy is fantastic.” Students should take more practice tests as the date approaches, but during the two days before the actual LSAT, rest takes priority.

Mangel advised those who know they want to go to law school to “start thinking intentionally early on” in regards to where they want to go and what kind of tuition they can afford. “Unfortunately, prestige matters,” but so does debt.

“White collar work is a lot more fact intensive. It’s almost as if you’re a legal detective.”

– Jonathan Mangel

After graduating from Boston College, Mangel gained experience in several types of law. He presented a realistic summary of each and shared personal stories.

Commercial litigation generally deals with “private lawsuits between companies or individuals.” Common issues are contract violations and employment disputes. The work includes legal research and writing, fact development and analysis, and client contact and advising.

“Fact development and analysis is a fancy way of saying you’re going to read a lot of emails,” Mangel said. For him, it was “really important, but also really dull.”

Generally, client contact and advising is not a responsibility lightly given to new interns, so those who are interested require patience.

There are two main types of white collar and regulatory investigations. One involves a private entity engaging a law firm “to conduct an internal factual investigation and legal analysis based on specific allegations of wrongful conduct.” The other involves investigating and responding to regulatory inquiries, subpoenas and criminal allegations.

“White collar work is a lot more fact intensive. It’s almost as if you’re a legal detective.”

Mangel’s favorite work done so far has been in pro bono representations, which involve “representing individuals or organizations… for little-to-no cost for the client.” Case types can range from immigration to impact litigation. “Those have made me feel like it’s been worth it.”

“The most anxiety-inducing was a wrongful removal case.” Mangel described a case he worked on in 2017 that prevented a man from Bangladesh from being deported. Now, the man is on his way to obtaining citizenship.

The case Mangel is most proud of involved a wrongful conviction. The client was convicted of murder in 2012. “We wanted to just appeal… what we found was not only was it not above board, the prosecutor straight up changed witness testimonies.” Because witnesses testified differently at different trials, the objective changed to pushing for a full conviction integrity review. 

After his presentation, attendees were invited to ask questions. A hot topic was how artificial intelligence such as ChatGPT will eliminate jobs in the future. Mangel believes that eventually technology will advance to a point that it is useful in his field and warned that some people will likely be replaced. “The people who are going to lose out the most are the paralegals.”

However, Mangel does not expect the transition to happen anytime soon. There are grave ethical and legal liabilities that need to be addressed first due to the nature of the work. “Whoever does it first? Good luck.”



Featured photo by Danielle Bongiovanni