CPD’s Brooke Hiltz Preps Students for Legal Career
Any law student who has attended a networking workshop with Brooke Hiltz, program coordinator and counselor at the law school’s Center for Professional Development, knows she refers to herself a “recovering attorney.” Formerly a prosecutor, Hiltz now assists students with their job search, career preparation, and many other aspects of their law school career.
Hailing from Lexington, Kentucky, Hiltz spent most of her life there. She attended the University of Kentucky for both undergraduate and law school, and she remains a dedicated UK Wildcat fan. When asked why she chose law school, Hiltz explained that she decided at five or six years old that she wanted to carry a briefcase and wear a suit to work! “I never really veered from that,” she laughed. “I was a political science major in undergrad, and then went right to law school.” Although she was not certain what she wanted to do after finishing law school, Hiltz said that she had two objectives: she wanted to help others and she wanted to work directly with people.
With this in mind, Hiltz originally thought she would do defense work. She worked with the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy during her second summer of law school, but found she leaned more toward the prosecutorial side. After graduation from law school, she spent a year clerking for The Honorable Sheila R. Isaac, Fayette County Circuit Court and as a law clerk in the Post-Conviction Branch of Kentucky's Department of Public Advocacy. She then “networked her way into a position as an Assistant Commonwealth Attorney for the 54th Judicial Circuit of Kentucky in Boone & Gallatin counties in Kentucky.” Hiltz explained that her experience was a very positive one. Her boss was a woman, and she served as a great role model and mentor. “She was great to learn from,” Hiltz said. “She helped shape my career.” Hiltz also enjoyed her position as a prosecutor because she was able to get into court right away, something she knew she wanted to do based on her experiences with trial competition teams at UK. “I was thrown right in with my own caseload,” she explained. “Everything about the job was hands-on. Within my first year I was even serving as second chair on a murder trial.”
Managing Life in the Prosecutors’ Office
Hiltz worked in that role for the Commonwealth for two years. Interestingly, during the second year she and her husband, Jason, actually worked in the same office. Explained Hiltz, while they enjoyed working together, both of them serving as prosecutors resulted in “too much crime for one household.” Because being a prosecutor was always Jason’s passion, Hiltz decided to look for a career opportunity in a different arena. The College of Law had an opening in its Center for Professional Development, and this coming August will mark her fifth year at UC.
In her role as program coordinator and counselor for CPD, Hiltz focuses on facilitating relationships between students and potential employers. She thrives in this role, particularly because she has always taken advantage of opportunities to get involved and expand her own network. This is something she continues to do even now. Hiltz targets opportunities and student-practitioner relationships in the private sector, but she says that her background in public interest helps her counsel effectively in that area as well. “I understand the struggles of students and the difficulties of the job search,” she says, “especially for those who are not in the top ten in their class or who do not have a pre-established network they can utilize for finding a job. In my role, I can empathize with students while being a positive advocate for them and influence on them.”
Managing Family Life and Career
Hiltz met her husband while in law school, and their relationship has played a role in Hiltz’ career choices. “He always knew he wanted to be a prosecutor,” she said, “and he was willing to take a job anywhere in the Commonwealth to do so. He ended up in rural Kentucky, and I followed.” Today, they have two children: Sidney, who is two and one-half years old, and Owen, who is almost four months old.
Outside of the law school, Hiltz continues to be involved in the community. She serves on the board of the Children’s Law Center in Covington, Kentucky, and she is also very involved with the Junior League of Cincinnati. She is active in the Northern Kentucky Bar Association as well, as it serves as another market for UC Law students to make connections. Hiltz is also a self-described “huge” UK basketball fan and holds season tickets to UK’s football games. A certified scuba diver, she and Jason have taken two—soon to be three—trips to exotic places for dives. Hiltz enjoys scrapbooking, because she’s “a crafter at heart,” and spending time with her family.