On Nov. 19, the Law Career Development Office invited students to hear a panel of three siblings who are UB Law School alumni: Michael O’Neill, J.D. ’82, general counsel and chief legal officer for Avnet, a global technology company; Peter O’Neill, J.D. ’84, a partner in Murnane and O’Neill, a general practice in Anne Arundel County, and their sister, Kathleen A. O’Neill, J.D. ’81, head of the Civilian Personnel Law and Special Projects Section in the Office of Counsel at the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA).
Although the three siblings grew up in the same household and attended the UB School of Law around the same time—Mike and Pete even had a class together— they found their own distinct paths in the legal profession after law school.
When asked what qualities most helped them on their path, or which qualities they most look for in new lawyers, the family had a lot of great advice for students. Peter O’Neill, whose firm focuses on criminal and civil matters, stressed the importance of compassion, a strong work ethic, and sacrifice when it comes to working with clients. He said he’s grateful for the work he does on behalf of his clients, realizing that often he’s making a difference in their lives, not just by working their cases, but by interacting with them and helping them turn their lives around when the opportunity is presented.
Kate O’Neill, who started working for the federal government shortly after earning her J.D., encouraged students to show up prepared and ready to work. Hand in only your best writing, she said — no first drafts! She reminded students that there’s no way a new lawyer is going to know everything on day one. In fact, all three siblings stressed that they still learn every single day.
The important thing for young lawyers to remember, they said, is to do their research when applying for a job, come into an interview enthusiastic and ready to work, and be prepared to learn from your colleagues.
Mike O’Neill, who held leadership roles at Canadian Helicopter Corp., Lenovo and Honeywell before joining Avnet, said that his success has come down to keeping his eyes open to new opportunities and the strengths of those around him. He credits much of his success to building a team of skilled and hard-working colleagues, with whom he has worked in various roles over the past two decades.
For all their different paths, there was a central takeaway from the three panelists: Always be willing to work hard and learn something new.
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