Virginia “Ginger” Hansen ’17 fell in love with the arts as an undergrad at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, eventually majoring in Art History. As a student at Villanova Law, Hansen combined that love of the arts with her passion for the law in two exciting experiential learning opportunities—externships at the renowned Philadelphia Museum of Art and with Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.
A dream externship at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Hansen obtained traditional legal experience such as drafting contracts, doing research and writing memos. The externship also provided a real-world view of her dream job—general counsel for an art museum—and offered insight into whether the work and lifestyle was a good fit.
“I knew if I wanted to be a general counsel at a museum one day, I had to test out the waters before jumping in,” Hansen remarked. “I had no real general counsel-type experiences to prove to myself I would enjoy that lifestyle.”
Hansen found her experience with the Philadelphia Museum of Art to be reaffirming.
“I understand much more deeply how the world of museum legal work functions and I learned that I do in fact love the type of work I would be performing in a general counsel position.”
She also found that her Villanova Law education, which incorporated fundamental business concepts into the core curriculum, prepared her well for her chosen field of practice.
“As a general counsel, it is important to understand all aspects of the organization for which you work, including how your legal advice will affect the bottom line of the organization.”
Jeffrey Blair, Secretary and General Counsel of Philadelphia Museum of Art, served as Hansen’s on-site legal supervisor. In Hansen, he found a law student prepared for success.
Blair remarked, “It was such a pleasure to work with Ginger. She clearly has a passion for the kind of work we do, but it was her natural inquisitiveness and commitment to thorough and accurate work product that made her stand out. Her training and prior experience made her a great resource in support of the Museum’s in-house legal function.”
Providing vital legal support through the Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
During her time at Villanova, Hansen also externed as a Legal Service Coordinator for Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (PVLA), a nonprofit organization that connect clients with volunteer attorneys who provide pro-bono and low-cost legal assistance, educational programs and business counseling aimed at securing a thriving art culture in the Philadelphia region and statewide. Villanova Law students have been providing this type of service at PVLA for more than a dozen years.
Through her experience at the PVLA, Hansen honed her interviewing skills as she worked with real clients, with the goal of connecting them with attorneys who could represent them in a variety of legal matters.
She explained, “When I first began conducting intake interviews, I did not ask many questions and struggled to identify specific issues. I asked the Director of PVLA to conduct an interview so I could listen and see how a professional would handle the issues and ask questions to get all relevant information.”
Hansen’s proactive approach worked.
“By the end of the semester, I often had more information on the clients than was necessary, but my interviewing skills impressed the Director and I was way more confident talking to new clients.”
Today Hansen, who is currently a Corporate and Securities Associate at Dechert LLP, has encouraging words for Villanova students who share her love of the arts.
“My advice is to make connections in the art world. PVLA is a great place to start because you will come into contact with artists and organizations from more areas than you know exist, with such diverse issues that it will give you a realistic picture of what art-related legal work entails.