A 2006 William Woods University graduate, who is now a legislative lobbyist, will share her career path with WWU students and the public at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Model Courtroom on the lower level of the Burton Business Building.
Amber Kadera Watson’s original major in college was psychology, but politics and law captured her attention during a class.
“I had no interest in law or state affairs at the time,” Watson said. “When I took my first law class with Peggy (Nickerson), I loved it and it piqued my interest. It snowballed from there, with me taking every law class I could, due to enjoyment. I ended up graduating in December of 2006 with a double major in psych and political/legal studies.”
The political/legal studies program at William Woods offers students the opportunity to evaluate political and legal principles. The program focuses on the liberal arts study of law and political science and includes practical skills, such as legal research and writing, oral and written advocacy, and internships and field experience.
WWU’s on-campus courtroom prepares students for internships, mock trial competitions and presentations. Other activities include political events, legislative internships and pre-law advisement.
Watson intended to move back to St. Louis when she graduated, but Nickerson suggested she interview at a small, independent lobbying firm.
“I had no idea what I wanted to do when I graduated, so this was a huge deal for me. I interviewed for a job that I really knew nothing about.”
She began the job before she graduated and prepped for the upcoming 2007 legislative session by attending interim committee hearings.
“I sat in hearings on homeland security and terrorism and took notes. I listened to our state legislators talk of issues and any plans that needed to be put into place.”
That was not the only thing her job entailed.
“Session found me sitting in appropriations hearings covering the state budget, learning where all of our tax dollars went and how they were to be allocated,” Watson said. “It was boring at times, interesting at times and even heart wrenching to hear public testimony of where money needed to be spent.”
She worked long hours and learned a lot. She recalls the occasions to attend dinners and sometimes be part of something newsworthy.
“In 2008 I worked on two statewide races for attorney general and lieutenant governor,” Watson said. “That was my favorite job. Following a campaign trail allowed me to meet potential state leaders and to make great friends.”
According to Watson, one must keep an open mind and not pick a side when being a lobbyist. Lobbyists work for the client who hires them and they work to get the job done.
“After the races were won and tears were shed for those who lost, I was promoted to legislative liaison for the Missouri Department of Revenue, where I met with the director on a daily basis. I worked under the Blunt administration and when Nixon won, I was forced out of my job and left unemployed,” said Watson.
“I bounced back and went to work for another small firm and then picked up more work for other firms. My clients included Tenet Healthcare, Hunt Midwest Enterprises, the Kansas City Chiefs and a few others.”
Watson feels the best part of being a lobbyist is seeing what happens, how the process works and meeting different people.
She provided advice for potential lobbyists: “If you want to be a good lobbyist, you must always remain on guard, keep your work to yourself and be one step ahead of the game or else someone will come along and take what you are after.”
During her speech at William Woods, Watson will talk about the process of a bill becoming law and inform the audience that the lobbying process isn’t about paying someone off.
“That’s the stereotype that a lobbyist is cursed with,” Watson said, “and I’m there to dispel rumors and show that it’s a lot of fun and a very interesting career to have.”
“Several of our events have to do with debunking the myths of the legal field,” senior Jessica Gifford, a political/legal studies major, said. “I personally feel that the legal field is one of the most focused on fields by American cinema and therefore the most distorted. All of our different alums have shown me that there are many different paths to take and to keep an open mind.”
Cynthia Kramer, an attorney and WWU professor of legal studies, is sponsoring the event. For more information, contact her at Cynthia.Kramer@williamwoods.edu.