Leo­cadia Zak, L’82, said her North­eastern Uni­ver­sity expe­ri­ence was a fun­da­mental part of what has guided her through a career in law. She recalls choosing Northeastern’s law school due to its strong rep­u­ta­tion for sup­porting female law stu­dents and her interest in pur­suing public service.

I found this was an envi­ron­ment where I could thrive, where I could believe in myself and in my core values,” said Zak, the keynote speaker at the Women in the Law 2011 Con­fer­ence on April 1. The day­long event at the School of Law drew alumni from pri­vate prac­tice and public ser­vice, along with stu­dents and staff for a day of pre­sen­ta­tions and networking.

In March 2010, Zak was con­firmed by the U.S. Senate as director of the U.S. Trade and Devel­op­ment Agency, which pro­motes eco­nomic growth in emerging for­eign mar­kets as well as U.S. job cre­ation by facil­i­tating the export of Amer­ican goods to those coun­tries. She had pre­vi­ously served as the agency’s gen­eral counsel and deputy director. Prior to her expe­ri­ence in gov­ern­ment, Zak was a partner in the Boston and Wash­ington, D.C., offices of the firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.

Zak said her co-​​op expe­ri­ences at North­eastern taught her the impor­tance of building pro­fes­sional rela­tion­ships and being open to a variety of career paths. Her co-​​op at Mintz Levin ulti­mately led to her full-​​time job at the firm, where she “hit the ground running.”

Because of North­eastern and my prac­tical edu­ca­tion, I started with a leg up when I got there,” she said.

The con­fer­ence theme was, “Trail­blazing in a Changing Ter­rain.” Later in the day, a panel dis­cus­sion exam­ined how the eco­nomic crisis has altered the legal land­scape for women prac­ticing law. Breakout ses­sions focused on career paths in pri­vate prac­tice, alter­na­tive careers and the non­profit sector.

To the women in atten­dance, Zak passed along the lessons she learned at North­eastern: “Believe in your­self, take risks, and do what you enjoy.”