As an elementary school student, Rachel Abbott discovered her eventual career path in the most unlikely of places: her mother’s “Family Circle” magazines. Leafing past articles on recipes and gardening, the sixth-grader took a special interest in stories that portrayed lawyers fighting for communities and injured individuals.
“I would rip out the articles and keep them in a folder that I would revisit from time to time,” said Rachel. “That was when I decided to become a lawyer.”
Make that “a successful lawyer.” The personal injury attorney was recently named managing partner of Coughlin & Gerhart LLP in Binghamton, N.Y. She has been with the firm since 2005.
Rachel, who graduated in 2002 with her bachelor’s degree in political science and history, credits Keuka College with helping her achieve her goal.
“Keuka College allowed me to grow my skills as a critical thinker, relationship builder, and persuasive writer."
“The learning experience at Keuka College prepared me well for the large lecture halls during law school,” said Rachel, who went on to Syracuse University College of Law. “Most of my Keuka College classes were relatively small and discussion-based. This helped me build confidence in my abilities and learn how to express ideas in effective and meaningful ways. That has been critical in both the courtroom and in business meetings.”
As the managing partner of Coughlin & Gerhart, Rachel leads more than 50 attorneys and 100 employees.
“There are many elements behind the scenes, like marketing, budgeting, finances, and relationship building, that are vastly different from practicing law,” said Rachel. “This has forced me to stretch outside of my comfort zone to learn new things.”
She’s not worried about expanding her sphere of knowledge. She said Keuka College and its faculty encouraged her to explore new topics and ideas.
“The professors all took an interest in the individual, pushed us to do our best, and wanted us to listen to other perspectives with an open mind,” said Rachel. “They wanted us to speak up, constructively challenge other perspectives and opinions, and had us push ourselves outside of our comfort zone. This led us to think independently about any kind of problem.”
Rachel said her Field Period® internships also helped her refine her pathway into private practice by enabling her to explore different areas of law. She spent time working at two different District Attorney offices, a real estate agency, and a special education department. Sampling different disciplines reaffirmed that private practice and personal injury were her passion.
Rachel says her role at Coughlin & Gerhart is much like her experience at Keuka College.
"My Keuka College degree gave me a strong foundation to grow in my legal career and find a business that matched my value system.”
“My partners share many of the same values as the Keuka College community,” she said. “Our culture is client-focused and supportive, and our attorneys are collaborative in their approach to practicing law. They believe in teamwork, share in the successes of each other, and are community leaders – all qualities that Keuka College promotes.”
The collaborative environment, combined with her Keuka College experience, prepared Rachel for life in the courtroom and, now, as the managing partner.
“Keuka College allowed me to grow my skills as a critical thinker, relationship builder, and persuasive writer,” she said. “My Keuka College degree gave me a strong foundation to grow in my legal career and find a business that matched my value system.”
Another Keuka College alum, Brady Begeal ’08, is a partner at Coughlin & Gerhart, practicing in the Business & Banking and Public, Municipal & Education Law departments. He’s also a member of the firm’s Executive Committee.