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Faces of Philanthropy: Laura Magnotta

Laura MagnottaWhen Laura Magnotta ’13 was in third grade, she went to career day as a lawyer — suit, briefcase, and “files” in tow. Although she acknowledges that at the age of 8 she didn’t know what it meant to be a lawyer, she says that as she got older and began to understand what lawyers actually do, her desire to pursue the profession grew.

The summer before Magnotta’s senior year as a marketing major at Penn State University, she interned with Abrahamsen, Conaboy & Abrahamsen (ACA), a Scranton, Pennsylvania, firm of Dickinson School of Law alumni. “My internship, and the attorneys at ACA, gave me the opportunity to meet a number of Lackawanna County lawyers and judges, many of whom also attended Penn State Law,” Magnotta said. “They became the attorneys I looked up to as I began my law school search and the attorneys whose lead I wanted to follow as I shaped my practice.” 

It was these interactions — and, as a Penn State undergraduate, her familiarity with the Law School’s reputation, quality education, and beautiful campus — that led Magnotta to attend Penn State University’s Dickinson School of Law at its University Park campus. “I knew that if I attended Penn State Law, I would acquire the skills that I had admired in the alumni I met — namely a passion for the law and the ability to balance zealous advocacy with compassion and courtesy.”

Prior to attending law school, Magnotta spent a year as a full-time volunteer with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, which she says solidified her desire to become a lawyer. “I was placed at the Northwest Center, a pregnancy resource center in Washington, D.C., where I served pregnant and mothering women to help them set goals for their families and create plans to achieve those goals. I soon found that even the most sincere desire on the part of the mothers was sometimes not enough to overcome the hurdles they faced in reaching their goals. It became clear to me that if I became the type of lawyer who served families like the ones I worked with at the Northwest Center, I would be better equipped to help women and families in need reach their goals.”

Magnotta’s interest in family law has been solidified through her experiences as a student. In addition to taking courses in family and juvenile law, she interned with Judge Jonathan D. Grine ’00, PSU ’96 Lib of the Centre County Court of Common Pleas, where she worked on family law and juvenile issues on behalf of the judge and observed attorneys who practice family and juvenile law.

Now in her third year at the Law School, Magnotta serves as president of the Student Bar Association; chair of the Speakers Trust; and as public relations editor of the Yearbook on Arbitration and Mediation. She is a member of the Phi Delta Phi legal honor society and is a lifetime member of the Penn State Alumni Association.

Magnotta continues to be impressed by the qualities of Penn State Law graduates; she recently became engaged to Kevin McGarry ’11, an assistant district attorney in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Following graduation, Magnotta hopes to clerk for a judge in Pennsylvania, preferably one that oversees juvenile and/or family law matters, before pursuing a career in those same fields.

Why giving back matters to students like Laura
Although choosing Penn State University’s Dickinson School of Law was an easy decision for Magnotta, she points out that the choice to attend law school is becoming more expensive and, in the current market, can be a risky investment for students, particularly those who already have substantial debt from their undergraduate education. “I am fortunate to receive scholarship support, which allows me to be less concerned with paying my bills and loans and more focused on my legal education. It also permits me to explore the areas of law that interest me — not just those fields that are more likely to bring me financial success,” said Magnotta.

She says that in addition to much-needed scholarship support, gifts from alumni and friends directly impact the opportunities available to current and future generations of students. With the financial support of alumni and friends, Magnotta says The Dickinson School of Law has afforded her opportunities to:

  • not only learn from world-class faculty in the classroom, but also get to know them and learn from them on a more personal level;
  • learn with and from her classmates, many of whom are from diverse educational, cultural, and geographic backgrounds and who will be her future colleagues, judges, and industry leaders;
  • attend classes and study in state-of-the-art facilities in both the Lewis Katz Building in University Park and Lewis Katz Hall in Carlisle, which she believes will give her a competitive advantage as she enters a legal market place that is becoming more technologically advanced and geographically diverse; 
  • develop her skills through cocurricular activities such as her participation on the Yearbook on Arbitration and Mediation and her externship with Judge Jonathan D. Grine ’00, PSU ’96 Lib of the Centre County Court of Common Pleas;
  • prepare for a career in the law and enter the practice with the confidence that she has been more than adequately prepared; and
  • explore ideas, perspectives, areas of study, and fields of practice that she had not considered before coming to law school.

“These and many additional opportunities exist because of the strong support of our alumni,” said Magnotta.

She added that in addition to financial contributions, the availability of alumni to be presenters and panelists at events sponsored by our student organizations, future employers, mock-interviewers, and mentors also greatly enriches the experience for students. “I have had the opportunity to meet with our alumni at networking events, Judges’ Night, during my internships, and at school or student-sponsored events,” said Magnotta. “I have benefited greatly from these opportunities because they have given me the chance to talk with practicing attorneys and begin to shape the type of law I want to practice and the type of lawyer that I want to be.”

To make a gift to support the Law School and students like Laura, visit, or mail your check, payable to Penn State University’s Dickinson School of Law to:

Office of Development & Alumni Affairs
The Dickinson School of Law
The Pennsylvania State University
Lewis Katz Hall
333 West South Street
Carlisle, PA 17013

For more information on ways to give, contact Kelly Rimmer, director of development & alumni affairs, at or (717) 240-5217.

To find out if your employer will match your contribution, visit