Between Classes With...

Sheila Foglietta, Division of Business, Criminal Justice and Law

Sheila Foglietta, Professor in the Division of Business, Criminal Justice and Law and a property lawyer, would explain in detail to her clients the various steps she was taking as she prepared contracts and represented them in the legal arena. Through this, she discovered she had a true passion for teaching. She discusses her legal background and insight into current legal trends.

What are you specialties in terms of law?

I had my own practice for several years working in property law, representing banks as a lender's attorney for the most part at closings. My first position with a law firm on Long Island was as a lender's attorney and two of my earliest clients were Chase Bank and Chemical Bank. When I moved to upstate New York, I practiced Family Law. Here I dealt with child custody and child support, as well as divorce law. This was trying on me personally as a mother of five children and I soon discovered Property Law was definitely more my forte. As compared to Family Law, Property Law is definitely my niche.

You have such a passion for the law.

I'm personally just excited about the law. When I was practicing law full time, I had a tendency to teach my clients while I was handling their cases. I explained to them why I was doing what I was doing. Most of the time they just wanted me to handle it. I discovered that teaching was a strength of mine. I love being able to go into my class and teach my students about the law. I love the work. It's a labor of love. Also, the field is useful no matter what you do. If you open a business for example, if you have some background in law, you are ahead of the game. You know about the commercial code and what contracts should look like. You're well versed. You're able to handle situations easier than someone who has no clue about the field.

You refer to the "living law." Please explain that expression.

That's how it was always described to us in law school. It changes and grows with society. Look at the decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896) separate but equal. That was the ruling at the time, but as the law developed further, society came to realize that separate but equal cannot work; "separate" is inherently unequal. In Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), the doctrine was declared unconstitutional.

What are some current cases or topics you're watching closely?

I want to see whether Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) gets changed and to what extent. With respect to gay marriage, this is the legislature's province to enact a law either allowing it or disallowing it. The state enacted a law in support of gay marriage. If it is to be challenged on grounds of constitutionality, it would end up in the judiciary's province to make a decision.

Is our society excessively litigious?

I do think more lawyers want their clients to settle instead of going to court. A good attorney will encourage settlement. There's nothing wrong with that. There's nobody who knows the case better than the two clients. If you can negotiate or mediate a settlement, by all means do it. The public is under the mistaken belief that people want to go to court that lawyers want them to but we don't.

What can you tell us about the paralegal field?

The paralegal field is very popular. Because of the economy, it's less expensive to bring in a paralegal than it is to hire an associate attorney at the law firms. A paralegal does everything an attorney does under the supervision of that attorney. However, they are barred from representing a client in court, setting fees and giving advice. They can draft wills, contracts and litigation papers. Paralegal work is interesting and exciting. As the law is ever-changing, the paralegal profession grows and blossoms.

About Sheila Foglietta

Sheila Foglietta is a Professor in the Division of Business, Criminal Justice and Law. She is a recipient of the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Sheila teaches a variety of business and law courses including Business Law I and II, Survey of American Law, Legal Research, Courts and Litigation and Real Property Law. She earned her J.D. from St. John's University and B.S. in Elementary Education from SUNY Old Westbury. She is a member in good standing status with the New York State Bar Association, which requires a vigorous program of 24 Continuing Legal Education (CLE) hours every two years.

December 2012