Mary Ellen Thompson, CJ’84, L’89

While her law school peers were busy filing briefs and looking up statutes, Mary Ellen Thompson, CJ’84, L’89, was touring maximum security prisons in the Deep South, interviewing death row inmates whose futures were uncertain.

Thompson, who is now an attorney with the Massachusetts Division of Insurance, was then on her seventh co-op assignment, a commendable tally enabled by the fact that she earned both undergraduate and law degrees at Northeastern.

The position was like many law co-ops — writing transcript summaries and doing legal research — save for the meetings with inmates and the lengthy trips. “One day, one of the guys gave me the keys to his car and told me that I had to drive to Gadsden, Alabama, and interview somebody who was in jail there. I drove some unbearable eight or nine hours in this un-air conditioned Honda Civic,” recalled Thompson. “It was fun.”

Backtracking to her first law school co-op, Thompson traveled to Wichita, Kansas, to work with a personal injury and product liability firm. During her time there, the firm was litigating a product liability case against a pharmaceutical company for alleged negligence regarding a polio vaccine. Thompson also worked as a co-op student at Greater Boston Legal Services.

Her first job after law school was with Southeastern Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation in Brockton. From there, she moved to the Child Support Enforcement Division of the state Department of Revenue, and then to her current job as an insurance regulator with the state Division of Insurance.