November 2017 Alumni Highlight | Pace Law School

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November 2017 Alumni Highlight

Susan Payne MullikenSusan Payne Mulliken (Dec. ’10) is an expert multi-tasker – she is an attorney with three young daughters (Erin, 8; Clare, 5; and Kelly, 2) – and her expertise in juggling work and family was first honed at Pace Law.  “I had my first daughter, Erin, while I was still a student at Pace Law, during the summer between my 2L and 3L years. After her birth, I did switch to part-time, but did not take any time off and graduated just one semester after my class. I was very motivated to stay on track and the Pace Law faculty and staff were very supportive and encouraging. They helped make the challenges of balancing motherhood and law school manageable and possible.”

While some students head to law school directly from undergraduate school that was not the case for Susan. After graduating magna cum laude from The College of Saint Rose with a B.A. in Psychology, Susan moved to New York City. In the City she worked in television production, including with HBO and Nickelodeon –meeting her future husband during her work at Nickelodeon. From there, Susan moved to California to attend graduate school at San Diego State University. After graduating with her Masters in Communication, Susan worked as an adjunct professor at three different colleges in San Diego. Shortly thereafter, she moved back to New York City and began working at Long Island University-Brooklyn as an academic advisor and adjunct instructor. After working at LIU for about two years, Susan decided to apply to law school. “In the back of my mind, I had always thought about law school. Finally, I decided it was now or never.  I left my job in August of 2007 and started at Pace Law that fall.”

Pace offers a myriad of opportunities to gain practical experience and Susan took advantage of as many as possible. During the summer after her 1L year she interned for Family Court Judge Sandra B. Edlitz and also spent time as a research assistant for Professor Leslie Garfield. In the fall of 2008 she was an extern in the Pace Women’s Justice Center’s Family Court Legal Program and also a student worker in the Office of Student Services. In 2010, after having Erin and with the encouragement and assistance of the Pace Law Career Services staff, Susan applied for and was a recipient of the competitive Charles H. Revson Law Student Public Interest Fellowship summer grant. This funding allowed Susan to accept an unpaid summer internship with the New York State Division of Human Rights while also providing Erin with quality child care. “There were so many opportunities and I wanted to make sure I gained as much real life experience as possible before graduating. Each experience for me was one step closer to figuring out what I wanted to potentially do once I was an attorney and what I did not. Professionally at Pace, my favorite experience was the Pace Women’s Justice Center’s Family Court Legal Program externship. I learned so much by speaking with clients and filing petitions and going before the judge, lessons that can’t be learned in the classroom. I also learned so much through FCLP Director Tracey Alter and the staff attorneys, volunteers, and other student externs.”

Following graduation and while awaiting admission to the bar, Susan’s job hunt intensified and became more focused. “I realized that what I really wanted to do was to return to the field of higher education but in a legal capacity. I began to apply to any relevant position, hoping that it would eventually lead me to a job within a General Counsel’s office at a college. In June of 2012, Susan’s passion for multi-tasking continued when she started a position in contract management at Mercy College within the School of Health and Natural Sciences (SHNS) and gave birth to her second daughter, Clare, three weeks later. “I couldn’t believe that I ended up finding my opportunity right as I was about to give birth to my second daughter but I was motivated to make it work and was very excited by yet another set of challenges.” Exactly two weeks after Clare was born, Susan was admitted to the New York State Bar.

At Mercy, Susan performed contract review, negotiation, and administration for the SHNS. “I managed all phases of the contract approval process for clinical affiliation agreements. I was in the position for over three years and learned a great deal about contracts. I was also able to learn about other legal issues within an institution of higher education.”  In 2015, Susan gave birth to her third daughter, Kelly, and also began her current position as Assistant General Counsel at Mercy College. In this position, Susan reviews and negotiates a larger variety of contracts including clinical affiliation agreements, software and library licensing agreements, consulting services agreements, non-disclosure agreements, sponsored program research agreements, among others, and also works closely with the risk management team in dealing with insurance and liability-related issues. “I feel very fortunate to be in my current position and am learning all the time. I absolutely love the energy and vibrancy of a college campus and the multitude and complexity of issues that occur every day. I’ve also had the opportunity to attend the National Association of College and University Attorneys Annual Conference and have really enjoyed meeting and learning from peers from schools all over the country.”

As the mother of three young daughters, Susan’s top priority is attempting to maintain a healthy work/life balance. “I am fortunate to have an amazing support network comprised of my husband Nate, my parents, family and friends and an amazing day care facility and a very family-friendly employer. I am also lucky that an outstanding summer day camp program operates on Mercy’s campus that Erin has attended the past three summers and that both Erin and Clare will attend next summer.”

Susan looks fondly on her days at Pace Law and will always remember the support she received from the faculty and staff as she struggled to navigate law school, motherhood, and job searching “especially the late Professor Ralph Stein, who I miss every day, Professor Tracey Alter, and Professor Leslie Garfield, who always went above and beyond. I’m not sure I’d be where I am today without the three of them.” A few of Susan’s favorite memories at Pace Law are ones that many Pace alumni will be able to relate to, including: “having lunch with Professor Stein in the cafeteria, studying in the library with the same crew of regulars who always sat in the same area as me, and the annual Earth Day event on the lawn, which was one of the few times I actually relaxed and socialized with people outside of the library! I even brought Erin to Earth Day when she was eight months old and she was a big hit with both my classmates and the faculty and staff. Who knows? Maybe one day she’ll be back at Pace as a 1L!”