From a young age, Meghan Billiel ’02 dreamed of a career in criminal justice, but it wasn’t until she studied at GCC that she understood what was really involved in such work. Following high school, Meghan attended Framingham State University for a year and a half and then UMASS for a semester. She imagined working as a forensic psychologist like Jodie Foster’s character in The Silence of the Lambs. She signed up for psychology classes and several classes later Meghan realized psychology wasn’t the right fit. Her time at Framingham State and UMASS didn’t help Meghan find the right path. Meghan returned home to Greenfield to sort out what she wanted to do and how to get there. She still dreamed of a career in criminal justice.
When Meghan started taking classes in Criminal Justice at GCC, she immediately knew she’d found the right place. She appreciated the small classes, supportive faculty, and feeling of community. A class in Police Process taught her that what you see on television isn’t reality, that DNA tests don’t come back in ten minutes and fingerprint results aren’t instantaneous.
Studying Juvenile Justice with Buz Eisenberg went far beyond classroom learning, it gave Meghan a clear understanding of trials and the behind-the-scenes work necessary to bring a case from its beginning to the trial. That semester, Buz took his class to meet with Attorney Alan Black to follow the progress of a juvenile homicide case. Buz and Alan had worked together on previous juvenile homicide case. Buz arranged for his students to review the witness statements gathered as part of the case and meet with Alan and his investigators. Meghan and her classmates saw the case from beginning to end and got a real-life taste of the work of criminal defense attorneys.
Later, when Meghan talked with Buz about what she wanted to do after graduation, she said what she’d really like to do is work with someone like Alan Black. Buz remembered that conversation when he got a call from Alan. Buz said, “When Alan mentioned he had an opening for a legal assistant, I recommended Meghan. Alan remembered Meghan. I told him I’d found Meghan to be focused, well-organized, and a great listener. I told him she was a voracious learner and when asked a question in class Meghan was always well-prepared, articulate, and eager to exchange ideas. Alan interviewed her, hired her, and on several occasions since then told me he is eternally grateful to me for connecting them. He considers them a team, and he can’t imagine how much more complicated his practice would be without her.”
Megan has worked as Alan’s assistant since graduating from GCC with an Associate in Science in Criminal Justice in 2002. Meghan loves her work – research, writing drafts of motions, scheduling, preparing information for personal injury cases, interacting with clients, filing motions online, and assisting Alan at trials. When asked whether she’d like to become a criminal defense attorney, Meghan said she’s not interested in the public speaking that is a large part of the job. Meghan has considered pursuing a bachelor’s degree and working in juvenile probation, but has no interest in changing jobs.
Alan’s practice includes a wide range of work in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and federal courts, including personal injury, criminal defense, civil lawsuits and tort claims. Commenting on Meghan’s role in his practice, Alan said “Meghan is great times 150 million. We work in a very stressful environment and Meghan is steady, reliable, smart, and never loses her cool. She gets the work done and everybody loves her – my clients, the court personnel, everybody. I am so lucky.”
Reflecting on her time at GCC, Meghan said, “I wish I’d started out at GCC. I encourage people to start there. I really appreciated the wide variety of students in classes, students of different ages, backgrounds, experience. We all got along, worked on projects together, and there was a strong sense of community and support. The professors are so passionate about their subjects. I knew I wanted to work in the criminal justice field, but didn’t know how. GCC helped me live that dream.”
For information about studying Criminal Justice at GCC, visit http://www.gcc.mass.edu/academics/programs/criminal-justice/.
For information about Alan’s law practice, visit www.alblack.com.