Arizona Law students—diverse, smart and talented—approach their futures with different goals, but all seek to make a difference. Read their stories.
When 2L student Michelle Moore chose to attend Arizona Law, it was truly a family decision. Michelle, a single mother with five children, wanted to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a lawyer in 2011, but, she says, "I did not make this decision lightly. I understood this decision would be a huge commitment for my entire family. I knew it was something that I had to do not only for me, but for my children and their futures."
Michelle visited the campus and was impressed. "I attended the open house events at Arizona Law and saw the benefits of the smaller class sizes and the tight-knit community. I knew then that I wanted to be a part of Arizona Law."
A self-proclaimed adventure seeker, Michelle describes the experience of attending law school while single parenting as her biggest adventure to date. Michelle says her children share her law school experiences - the classes, the professors, and even the exam schedule. She describes her juggling routine as attending her classes during the day and rushing home each afternoon to begin the evening activities with her kids. It is a busy schedule, but one she enjoys.
Before starting law school, Michelle served in the Air Force for five years, and continues to find meaningful ways to serve. At Arizona Law, she has connected with several other Arizona Law veterans through her work with theVeterans Advocacy Clinic.
Cody Winchester first experienced Arizona Law at a law school fair in San Francisco where he met the former Assistant Dean of Admissions Alison Nash. “She gave me her pitch about the U of A, but then she gave me advice tailored to me and My interests and needs. It made me think highly of the U of A.”
Cody's classes at California State University in Fresno sparked his interest in criminal law. While there, he majored in political science and received a minor in criminology. Cody also interned and subsequently worked for the Fresno County District Attorney homicide unit, participating in some very high-profile cases. Cody found the pressure of homicide work intriguing, and the community experience fascinated him. After law school, Cody hopes to prosecute the same kind of serious violent crimes that he worked on in Fresno.
Currently, Cody is one of three fellows in the Program on Criminal Law and Policy (PCLP). He enjoys meeting local criminal law professionals during the weekly Wednesday lunch speaker series—a tradition of judges, defenders, prosecutors, and others in the criminal justice system who have made the seven-year program an outstanding success. His passion to work in criminal law only grows while listening to what practicing criminal lawyers do and how their work benefits the community.
Cody also loves playing and watching high-pressure sports, and he is a huge baseball fan. Cody has recently discovered two new hobbies: snowboarding (a little hard to practice here in Tucson) and stand-up comedy (with many opportunities here in Tucson).
“I am so happy to have chosen Arizona Law,” Cody says, "because the kind, laid-back environment is extremely conducive to studying the law and aligns with my personality.”
Sean Cahill spent last summer working at the judicial internship of her dreams. Sean, who earned her B.S. in Family Studies and Human Development from the U of A in 2011, interned with Judge Julie Tang of the San Francisco Family Court.
Like many students, Sean set her sights on summer employment outside Arizona, and, in particular, in the Bay Area. "I knew it would be tough, because there are quite a few good law schools in the area that I would be competing with, and I was applying as a first-semester law student without any grades to show yet. I don't even know how many places I applied to, and there were many that never called back." Persistent, she flew to the Bay Area right after finals and landed some interviews. A few days after returning to Phoenix, she got an email from Judge Tang that resulted in her dream job.
Sean hails from Phoenix and has always wanted to practice family law in Arizona, so Arizona Law was an easy choice. "I really liked U of A’s small class sizes, reasonable tuition, and its Child and Family Advocacy Clinic," she says. "The faculty also impressed me. It seemed like the logical choice."
"My advice to anyone applying out of state is to cast a wide net and to not to get discouraged, because you only need to catch one job," she says.
Matt Randle (BA '11) is a champion for military veterans, not just at the College of Law and University of Arizona, but across the nation. Matt served as a combat medic in the U.S. Army for five years. He received several military honors, and was honorably discharged in 2003. A Tucson native, he returned to his hometown in 2007, working with youth service organizations before becoming Outreach Director for Vets4Vets, and then enrolling in the U of A to pursue a B.S. in Family Studies and Human Development.
On campus, Matt was Student Director of the Veterans Education and Transition Services (VETS) Office and implemented many social programs for student vets. He also served on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ Veterans Advisory Council and advised the State of Arizona Governor’s Council on Veterans Affairs.
In 2011 he was named a Pat Tillman Foundation—Tillman Military Scholar. Matt's role as an advocate for veterans has continued through law school (with additional advocacy skills ready at hand). He is President of Rogers Law Vets, a law student organization; serves on the Board of Directors of Student Veterans of America; and is Co-Chair of the Veterans Advisory Councils for Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva and Sen. Jeffrey Flake. Through our Veterans’ Advocacy Law Clinic Matt is also involved with the Tucson Veteran's Court, whose presiding judge is alum Michael Pollard ('72), a Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam. “Judge Pollard has been a mentor and support to me throughout my time in law school,” he says.
He adds, “I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to pursue my dream of continued service to the veterans’ community through a legal education.”
Yan Wang, or Shirley as she is known at the law school, is part of a strong group of international students at Arizona Law who are pursuing the innovative Advanced JD for Non-U.S. Lawyers. Her hometown is Qingdao, China, where she earned a master's degree with a major in international public law from Ocean University of China, one of our global partners.
Our Advanced JD program gives lawyers from outside the U.S. with a non-U.S. law degree the opportunity to finish their JD in two years, or as little as 18 months if those lawyers also have an LLM. “Before I knew about the Advanced JD program at Arizona Law, I was planning to get another Master’s degree in the Netherlands,” Shirley said. “But the advantages here, including the opportunity to learn American law and the ability to improve my English—especially my legal English—have been wonderful.”
Shirley has found the people at Arizona Law extremely welcoming. “I think the professors here are very nice to the students—they really care about us,” she said. “When I arrived in Tucson at midnight in August, Ms. Mandy Shoemaker picked me up at the airport. Professor White, Professor Rabe, and Ms. Barb Carlson also helped us a lot in our daily life and study. They take us to the supermarket, or invite us for dinner. They treat international students like family members.” Shirley adds that she really enjoys the Tucson climate (especially in winter!), as well as shopping with friends.
After graduation, Shirley plans to practice law in China. In fact, she’s already passed the Chinese bar exam. “I lived in Beijing for four years, so I will probably work for a law firm there and focus on international trade.” Still, she hasn’t ruled out the possibility of practicing in the U.S., she said, since experience working here would be valuable back home.
Law students learn of job opportunities in many ways: from career services, from classmates and professors, at career fairs, from alumni, and through networking. Bret Shaw, who spent the past summer as a clerk at Southern Arizona Legal Aid (SALA)’s Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP), learned of his job on the golf course.
Bret, originally from Richmond, Virginia, earned his BA in government from the University of Virginia in 2004. When he turned his attention to law schools, he says, “My main goal was to move off the East Coast. I wanted a change of scenery and to get a feel for the pace and people of another part of the country. I also looked for good schools with a good sports program because I'm a sucker for live college basketball. I want a deep tourney run while I'm here, Coach Miller!” (Bret's referring, of course, to Wildcat head basketball Coach Sean Miller.)
After his second year at Arizona Law, Bret returned to Richmond. “I was on the golf course with my dad when I received an email about with a job posting for a clerk at SALA,” he says. “The job was too good of a fit to pass up. I had interned with Judge Kyle Bryson on the probate bench at Pima County Superior Court the previous summer, and I was familiar with the area of law my position deals with.”
Bret was selected for the position and spent the summer working on VLP’s Minor Guardianship Court Project at Pima County Superior Court. The project allows volunteer law students and attorneys to aid petitioners seeking minor guardianships before and during their hearing as friends of the court. Every semester, between 10 and 15 Arizona Law students gain invaluable experience working as volunteers in this clinical training program. Bret also worked on the expansion of VLP’s Minor Guardianship Clinics in Pinal and Cochise counties, marketing the clinics and recruiting new attorneys.
Bret currently serves as Digital Editor of the Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law. He also continues to work part-time at Southern Arizona Legal Aid. Bret’s career goal is to work as a staff attorney at an appellate court. “Working with SALA has been really rewarding,” Bret says, “and I look forward to doing what I can to help more people.”
For 1L student Lacee Collins the decision to attend Arizona Law meant coming home.
According to Lacee, “I always knew I would be a Wildcat, I just didn’t realize it would be as a student here at Arizona Law. I grew up in Tucson and went to Flowing Wells High School, but I left Arizona to attend college and play basketball at Chapman University in Orange, California. With a major in broadcast journalism and minors in coaching and English, my first job out of college was coaching softball at McNeese State in Lake Charles, Louisiana. I worked my way back into television and a ticket closer to home when I was hired at KYMA, the NBC-affiliate in Yuma, Arizona. That station just happens to be owned by our namesake, James E. Rogers, so I suppose I was destined then to end up at Arizona Law—I just didn’t know it!”
Lacee’s career eventually took her from Arizona to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she covered the Pirates and the Penguins. After 12 years as a television sports reporter, Lacee was ready for a change of career, and was drawn to law school. “While I took tours at other schools, I knew right away Arizona Law was where I belonged. I liked the smaller class concept, and I felt like everyone truly cared about me and I wasn't just a number. I knew this would be the best place for me to get my legal education and also take advantage of living close to my family. Not to mention, I still get to dabble in the media industry, covering Arizona football and basketball games for the flagship radio station, 1290 The Source.” Lacee made the decision to become a Wildcat last spring after visiting Arizona Law for a prospective student reception. She shared her decision on the air, prompting a bevy of responses from alumni and friends who heard the announcement.
Initially, Lacee assumed she would pursue a career in sports law. However, after just one semester, she has realized that there are lots of career options available to her. “Our Career Development staff has taught me to keep my options open, and that’s what I am doing, although as Virginia Clarke, Director of Professional Development, once said to me, ‘You don’t mind swimming with the sharks.’ That’s true, indeed, but I’m a 1L, so I still have time to figure out just where that might be.”
Like many of our students, Rebekah Wallace Elliott is an alumnus of Teach for America.
Originally from the small town of Madisonville, Kentucky, she received her BBA in Finance from the University of Kentucky before moving to Phoenix, where she taught elementary special education with Teach for America for two years. She earned her M.Ed. from Arizona State University.
“Toward the end of my second year of teaching, I realized I wanted to pursue a career in law,” she says. “I applied to law schools all over the country. Ultimately, I felt that Arizona Law was the right choice for me. I liked the smaller class sizes, the academic environment, and the collegial atmosphere."
Rebekah spent her first-year summer as an intern at Snell & Wilmer in Phoenix. She learned about the firm through Arizona Law’s Office of Career Services, and participated in spring On-Campus Interviewing. “My summer experience was great,” she says. “I worked on projects in a variety of practice areas, including health care, corporate law, labor and employment, and commercial litigation. I was able to attend oral arguments and meetings with clients.” Rebekah’s not sure what she wants to do with her JD, which is why she has cherished the exposure to so many practice areas at Snell & Wilmer.
“Law school is the first time in my education that I’ve been excited about attending every class,” she says. “One of the things I enjoyed most about my first year was my small section. I came into class on the first day nervous, alone, and unsure of what to expect. I found out right away that almost everyone else felt the same way. My small section became my support group, study group, and some of my best friends.”
While Rebekah found Legal Writing especially daunting, she says, “I ended up receiving awards for “outstanding memo” and “outstanding oral argument.” My most challenging course also ended up being the most rewarding.”