Matt Runge uses his education from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law every day in his job as director of operations at Our House, a Little Rock-based nonprofit that provides services to individuals who are homeless or near-homeless.
His daily workday includes a wide variety of duties including facilities management, finances, human resources, and the operation of two resale stores in Little Rock and North Little Rock.
“Despite not being in the legal field, I still find myself using my skills from law school every day,” he said. “Contracts, risk management, labor laws, and other things come up, and I still use my training in law even though I’m not acting in any official capacity as counsel for Our House.”
Runge earned his Juris Doctor in 2011 after completing Bowen’s part-time law program, the only part-time law school option in Arkansas.
He initially didn’t set out to pursue law school, though. After graduating from Arkansas State University in 2000 with a philosophy degree, he headed to the East Coast to pursue a Ph.D. in philosophy.
“When I was younger, I thought the Ph.D. route was the way to go, so I moved to Baltimore and pursued that,” he said. “I always thought I would stay in academia, but I realized after a few years that it just wasn’t working for me, and I left the program.”
He stayed in Baltimore and enrolled in law school, though his time there was very brief.
“Financially, it just wasn’t working out, so I came home to Arkansas and enrolled in Bowen’s part-time program,” he said. “I was also fortunate enough to get a job at a local law firm and stayed there for the entire four years I was in the program.”
Runge gained professional experience while earning his degree and worked his way up from doing administrative work to paralegal duties and clerking.
To this day, Runge credits Bowen’s part-time program with providing him with an affordable and flexible education, and he considers the friendships and connections he made there to be just as important.
“As a part-time student, a lot of my colleagues were people like me who had been out of school for a bit and who were also working full-time,” Runge said. “It was a pretty diverse class, and I made friends with a group of good people.”
For anyone fence-sitting about pursuing a law degree, Runge offers the following advice:
“For me, law school taught a way of thinking, not just how to practice law,” he said. “I learned a lot about fact patterns and started seeing those every day in the world. When I find myself in situations that require risk management, I’m able to weigh the outcomes and be aware of how things might happen.”