Skip to main content
University at Buffalo

UB Today

A publication of the University at Buffalo Alumni Association

Fall 2012





Join the Alumni Association

UBAA on Facebook

To stop receiving the print version and read UB Today online, > click here

To view a virtual version of the print magazine > click here. To view the PDF version of this issue > click here

Shannon Filbert, JD ’07 & BA ’04

Shannon Filbert image

A Life Fully Lived

Defying her disability, Legal Aid attorney excels as an advocate for vulnerable children

Grace Lazzara, BA 97; photo by Douglas Levere, BA ’89

Think about facing the unthinkable. What would your reaction be? Shock? Anger? Equanimity?

Shannon Filbert knows what her reaction would be. She has lived it. In fact, she has lived it and emerged intact in the ways that matter. When she was 16, a car accident left her paralyzed from the neck down. An accomplished dancer, Filbert found herself dependent on others to manage life’s daily activities. But this live wire of a girl took her mother’s loving advice: “She said to me, ‘You can feel sorry for yourself, or you can go out and do what you want,’” she recalls.

After enduring five months of rehabilitation and graduating with her senior class, Filbert took on the notion of attending college. She chose UB for a concrete reason: As a quadriplegic, it was important for her to stay in her hometown of West Seneca near Buffalo so family and friends could assist her.

Filbert feels she became more mature as a result of her accident. She says she “took college seriously,” adding, “I still had a social life, but I was dedicated to my future.” Her major, legal studies, led to a business law class that piqued her interest. The payoff? Graduation magna cum laude and admittance to UB Law School.

Law appealed to Filbert because she likes “to argue, to be right all the time.” Her time at law school was marked not only by intense studies but also by “a very tight group of classmates.” Taking the domestic violence clinic afforded her a chance to work with Erie County Family Court Judge Lisa Bloch Rodwin, JD ’85, who was then chief of the Erie County District Attorney’s Domestic Violence Bureau. “That’s when I found out what I wanted to do,” she says. Filbert also clerked with Erie County Court Judge Sheila DiTullio. Filbert describes both women as “great mentors who taught me a lot.”

Today, Filbert’s full-time position as staff attorney at the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo finds her representing children in abuse and neglect cases. From parents who keep a dangerously filthy home to corporal punishment, sexual abuse and even death, Filbert sees it all. “It’s very tough, but I remind myself that I’m the voice for these kids.” She also gets assigned counsel cases through Erie County, representing people who can’t afford a lawyer. And, lest anyone accuse her of slacking, she’s the town prosecutor in West Seneca, a “honeymoon” job taking on lower-stakes cases like traffic offenses.

Filbert admits her career is stressful and time-consuming. She dismisses any concern, however. “I live for that,” she says. “I don’t like being bored.”

Though Filbert barrels headlong through life, she doesn’t shrink from revealing the difficulties she faces each day. She owns her own home but needs assistance with everything, a cold fact of existence that frustrates a woman who clearly values freedom and independence.

“Everything is a challenge,” Filbert says. Maintaining her emotional health is a combination of her own attitudes and her support system of friends and family. “If it weren’t for them,” she says, “I don’t know if I could do this.”

Filbert’s next big goal—one her persistence and success to date seem to ensure—is running for a judgeship. She absolutely refuses to let her disability rule her life: “Your life doesn’t end. I’m the same person I was.”

Filbert Closeup image


What you don’t know about her

“I passed the bar on the first try.”


“I like to gamble and enjoy fine dining with friends.”

Favorite cuisine

“Dessert. At my [some day] wedding we are eating the cake first.”

Favorite pastime

“Taking my nephew out for ice cream.” Favorite choreographer Mia Michaels, best known from the TV series “So You Think You Can Dance,” from whom Filbert took a couple of classes as a teen while at a dance convention

UB in the News

90s nostalgia is a band-aid for our misery

7/3/2017 An article on Vice interviews David Gerber , who says modern nostalgia has become a way for people to ?deal with loss and make the transition to another place or another time of life."

You are the key to keeping your computer safe

7/1/2017 Arun Vishwanath writes in CNN the next ransomware attack will surely be bigger, bolder and more consequential.

'It?s a tense environment'

Media braced for further hostility fueled by Trump

6/29/2017 The Guardian interviews Samantha Barbas about growing criticism of the media fueled by President Trump.

More of UB in the News