Lexie Kuznick is just 8 years removed from HLS, and she has already had a varied career path. From an Equal Justice Works Fellowship at the Urban Justice Center’s Domestic Violence Project to a position on Capitol Hill, to her current role as a policy director with Colorado’s Human Service Directors Association, she’s been exposed to different work settings, both legal and non-legal, that have allowed her to pursue her passions and interests, while also providing new challenges at different turns. Kuznick’s experience shed’s light on how one’s legal skills can apply broadly, not just to the legal field. It may all depend on how you pitch it.
Lexie Kuznick ’08 is the Policy Director of the Colorado Human Services Directors Association, a non-profit association that represents the county human services directors in the state. The Association promotes a human services system that encourages self-sufficiency of families and communities, and protects vulnerable children and adults from abuse and neglect. The position allows her the unique opportunity to work on policy issues at both the state and the local level. While she firmly believes that human services are critically important, in law school Kuznick would not have imagined herself in this job. Instead, she came to HLS planning to work specifically on policy related to gender and civil rights issues. “I think that focus really helped me in law school, because it shaped my law school experience,” she explained. “Every opportunity I had to do a clinical, or to do a January term, and my summer jobs, were all focused on getting a different type of experience in public interest.” As an HLS student, Kuznick worked at Greater Boston Legal Services, Texas Civil Rights Project, and the National Women’s Law Center, among others. This extensive law school background has proved useful for Kuznick, who has made multiple career transitions.
Though she was determined to do policy work eventually, Kuznick felt it was important to pursue direct services work beforehand. Accordingly, after graduating from HLS in 2008, she worked as an Equal Justice Works fellow at the Urban Justice Center’s Domestic Violence Project. While there, she was frequently in court, working as a litigator for the first time. Though she had not anticipated practicing litigation, she enjoyed the opportunity to develop that skill while working on an issue about which she is passionate. She also implemented her own project focused on housing issues for victims of domestic violence, another experience she greatly enjoyed. At the conclusion of the two-year fellowship, however, Kuznick felt ready to begin her transition into policy work. Though she had worked at the office of then-Senator Biden during a January term during law school, she knew she needed to know more about politics before she could fully enter the policy world.
At that time, her now-husband was returning to law school for an LLM degree, and the two decided to relocate to Boston, where Kuznick landed a job on the Revenue Committee of the Massachusetts State Legislature. This move represented a whole new area of law for her, but she was able to demonstrate her commitment in the rigorous interview process. In general, she noted, “employers are looking for the way you think about things, the skills you bring to the table, and generally understand that you can learn a new subject matter if you have the right skillset.” Ultimately, Kuznick learned the details of tax law and policy on the job, all while gaining valuable insight into the functioning of a legislative body. After about a year in Massachusetts, Kuznick set her sights on the next transition and began looking for jobs on Capitol Hill.
Through a series of informal lunches and coffee meetings with HLS alum working on the Hill, Kuznick learned of an opening for a Legislative Assistant in Senator Lautenberg’s office. Again she found herself in the position of proving herself in the interview process, because she did not have the typical background for a Capitol Hill staffer. Her law school work proved helpful in this hiring process, as she was able to draw upon a wide range of previous experiences to demonstrate her readiness to take on the position’s expansive portfolio. It was in this job that Kuznick’s law school plan to work on policy issues related to gender and civil rights materialized. In addition to a wide range of issues including immigration and gun safety, she worked on the Violence Against Women Act, equal pay issues, and racial violence issues after Trayvon Martin’s death. She found the position both exciting and fulfilling, particularly because she knew the office was making a difference. When Senator Lautenberg sadly passed away, Kuznick began looking for a new job in the West, where her now-husband had been offered a tenure-track professorship. It was then that she landed her current job at the Colorado Human Services Directors Association.
The responsibilities of the position shift frequently, but generally include both monitoring all state-wide bills that have an impact on human services, and working to advance beneficial bills. At the same time, Kuznick works to ensure that the state’s human services department is maintaining effective relationships with the county administered human services departments. In part, she values this position because it allows her to work on issues she cares deeply about, from economic security to family safety. In addition, “seeing how policies, both at the national and state level translate to the actual implementation at the local level has been really eye-opening,” she said.
Kuznick recommends taking advantage of the many opportunities that law school provides. Getting as much practical experience as possible is important in developing skills and relationships – both of which are critical to preparing for a career in public interest. In addition, she emphasized the importance of understanding the transferability of different legal skills when thinking about career transitions.