Sunday May 6, 2012

Graduates Learn More than the Law

Several graduates recently reflected on their time in law school. Barbara Stahl, who hopes to find a job in estate planning, said law school taught her that she is stronger than she thought she was.

The School of Law’s Class of 2012 celebrated graduation during a commencement ceremony Saturday, May 5, at University of Dayton Arena. The Class of 2012 includes 182 graduates: 176 J.D. recipients, four LL.M. recipients and two M.S.L. recipients.

Several members of the graduating class recently reflected on their time in law school.

Barbara Stahl, who hopes to find a job in estate planning, said that law school taught her that she is stronger than she thought she was. “No challenge is too difficult to overcome if you keep an open mind, think positive, and if you’re willing to devote the necessary time and effort to conquering it,” she said. “Also, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel even though you can’t always see it at first glance.”

Chris Hempfling, who plans to practice civil litigation in Georgia, said he learned that community makes your stronger. “There was an exceptional atmosphere of community within the Class of 2012,” he said. “Fostering and energizing yourself from that community atmosphere helped drive me to be a better community member.”

As she approached the start of her legal career, Michelle Owens said she was looking forward to being able to “actually practice law and become part of the legal community. I have always had a passion for law and I am looking forward to now being able to work every day in that environment. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”  

After graduation, Owens plans to return to Las Vegas to prepare for the Washington State bar exam in July, after which she plans to return to Seattle to practice insurance law focusing on medical malpractice claims.

She said law school taught her that lawyers need to be flexible. “The most important lesson that I have learned at UDSL is that every case will not fit neatly into a specific scenario,” she said. “Lawyering is the ability to think outside the box in order to make the best argument for your client.”

Since graduating in January after two and a half years of law school, Jyllian Guerriero has been working full-time at the Dayton Public Schools as a law clerk to the district’s in-house attorney.

She said she wants to impact the public education system through the practice of law. “As a former high school teacher,” she said, “I came to law school knowing that I wanted to be involved in the education system in a larger capacity, and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.”

Several graduates said that Dayton Law met or exceeded their expectations.

“Coming into UDSL as a nontraditional student was very overwhelming and somewhat intimidating,” Owens said. “However, the faculty and staff went the extra mile in order to make me feel like part of the family. I have never doubted my decision to come to UDSL.”

Hempfling praised the faculty and encouraged students to get to know them as more than just professors. “Their scholarly work is very interesting, but more importantly they are there to support you as a person,” he said. “When it is all said and done, all faculty, staff and administration are there to help you improve as a member of UDSL and as a future colleague.”

Guerriero said she came to law school expecting to be “challenged, disheartened (at times), strengthened, and to eventually come out on the other side a better person, community member and lawyer. UDSL provided the foundation on which all of those lessons were learned.”

Several graduates encouraged new students to get involved in activities around Keller Hall.

“Law school is what you make of it,” Hempfling said. “Get involved. You will see how much UDSL works to make each students’ experience enjoyable and it will in turn help make your experience at UDSL very worthwhile.”

Owens advised new law students never to feel discouraged. “You made it through the hard process of getting into law school, therefore you can handle anything,” she said. “Surround yourself with a supportive network and everything will come together.”

Guerriero had many suggestions for entering law students, including making friends; talking to professors; doing your best not to stress too much; and getting to know and love the Dayton area.

Her last piece of advice: “Recognize that nothing about law school will be easy, but it will be worth it.”

For more information, contact Bob Mihalek at 937-229-4683.