Shea began her education at Cazenovia College majoring in equine business management. She grew up riding competitively, attended an agricultural high school, and thought that a career path in something equine related was what she wanted to pursue. After her first semester, Shea found herself looking for a new career path. With some guidance from her advisor, she was introduced to Dr. John Robert Greene, Paul J. Schupf Professor of History and Humanities. Dr. Greene introduced her to the social science program and discussed the option of law school.
"Luckily, the individualized attention Cazenovia College provides helped put me on a new academic track," says Shea. "Through my time at Cazenovia, I built on my earlier interests in advocacy, women's rights, and community service. I began to see the law's ability to shape an individual's experience, for better or worse, and the impact public policy has on our communities."
As a member of the All-College Honors Program, Shea individualized her academic plan with courses about which she was interested. Shea adds, "I had a variety of influential, supportive professors who acted as mentors, guided my interests and provided space for academic growth."
It was not until after she completed her internship with the Norfolk County District Attorney's Office as a rising senior that Shea knew she wanted to go to law school. During this experience, she worked with victims' advocates in the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit. She credits this internship experience with fueling her drive to become a lawyer.
"I think I have gotten to where I am now in my career because of a variety of factors, most important are good mentors who believed in me, as well as a lot of long hours and hard work," comments Shea.
Shea continued her education with the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific. The small, welcoming community with faculty members who were approachable and supportive at McGeorge reminded her of Cazenovia. Through the Capital Lawyering Program at McGeorge, Shea was able to focus on her legal education in public policy and experience hands-on learning in the Legislative Drafting Clinic.
"I was incredibly fortunate to end up being offered my first paid work opportunity with Congresswoman Doris Matsui, who represents California's 6th Congressional District," says Shea. "I was the Congresswoman's Health Care Policy Field Representative, and had the opportunity to staff her on health care, women and children's issues, education, and mental health policy."
Shea moved on to work with the California Court Appointed Special Advocates Association (otherwise known as California CASA) to help launch a statewide policy effort. Following the last presidential election, the California Senate Committee on the Judiciary had an opening. Shea jumped at the opportunity to aid state legislators as they made decisions in response to the new federal administration and how to best utilize the states' rights argument.
Currently, Shea is counsel to the California Senate Judiciary Committee, which means she works as counsel, analyzing legislation that comes under the committee’s jurisdiction, both informing the committee’s chair Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson on her own legislation and bills coming before the committee. She also has the opportunity to work with policymakers more broadly to address concerns and write legislation that solves targeted problems.
Shea shares, "My current issue area is family law, focusing on domestic violence and child welfare. Other areas I focus in include probate law, wills, trusts, and estate law, corporation issues, insurance issues, and policies that may affect California’s court systems more generally. The Judiciary Committee has an extremely broad jurisdiction, meaning we see the highest number of bills of any policy committee. In California, every bill introduced is entitled to a policy committee hearing, which is one of the ways we differ from the federal process. As counsel, I write a publicly available analysis on the bills in my issue area, staff the Judiciary Committee Chair as to what the bill does, and work with her to ensure the bill that leaves the committee is good public policy. This may include drafting amendments or trying to keep certain problematic bills from passing out of the committee."
Through all of Shea's experience, she was able to learn a lot about women in power. Without giving too much away about her discussion planned for the Paul J. Schupf Lecture, she shares, "I hope to look at some of the policy concerns surrounding sexual harassment and speak to the difficulties of crafting policy that addresses the concerns of this movement. I hope to start an engaging conversation about why some efforts may be stalling, what we can hope for in terms of change, and how Cazenovia students can navigate their own path to working in this field."
Shea’s lecture, Speaking to Power is available to watch online at: https://livestream.com/cazenoviacollege/Schupf2018/videos/171210425