After completing her undergraduate degree, second-year law student Adrianna Anderson spent two years working at Legal Assistance of Western New York. There, she says, she discovered her calling and decided to attend law school. A former boss recommended the College of Law. Anderson, a New York native, was immediately enamored with Utah’s stunning scenery. She was also drawn by the College of Law’s small classes, accessible faculty, and the many opportunities for volunteer service learning she found here. As the 2013-2014 Pro Bono Fellow, Anderson says she spends “quite a bit of time” working on issues related to underserved populations in the community.
You are originally from New York and came to the College of Law because a former boss recommended the hands-on learning opportunities here. What was your first impression of Utah? Of the College of Law?
My former supervisor, Keith McCafferty (’85), recommended the University of Utah to me because he knew I wanted to go to school out West. He told me great things about the College of Law as well as the State of Utah. I was so excited when I finally arrived. I immediately fell in love with the mountains. I was also pleasantly surprised at how small the College of Law was. I attended a very small Liberal Arts College in Upstate New York with less than 500 students, so I was extremely happy to learn that I would be continuing my education in such an intimate atmosphere.
You’re obviously interested in public interest law. How did that interest first manifest itself?
After graduating from Wells College, I started looking for a job in the legal field. I interned with a judge and District Attorney during my undergraduate career and knew I wanted to go to law school, but I wanted to spend some more time working with attorneys before I made that jump. I worked at a large firm in Rochester, New York for that first summer and really did not enjoy it. That experience made me think the law was not right for me. Fortunately, I found a posting for an AmeriCorps position at Legal Assistance of Western New York. I applied and was accepted. I spent two years at Legal Assistance working with families who were homeless or on the verge of homelessness. I was homeless as a child and found that giving back and helping others as I was helped was truly my calling. I had amazing mentors at Legal Assistance who challenged and encouraged me each day. They made me realize that a career in law was not only possible but absolutely the only way for me to go.
What has been your favorite part of your legal education? Favorite classes or professors?
I loved Professor Teter’s Constitutional Law course during my 1L year. He is a great teacher and made me understand the practicality of Constitutional principles in everyday situations. I am also really enjoying my Mediation and Negotiation class this semester with Professor Holbrook and Professor Krannich. Professor Holbrook’s method of teaching is unlike any other I have encountered in law school so far. He teaches us how to evaluate and better ourselves so we can become better advocates for our clients.
You work part-time at Utah Legal Services. Without asking you too disclose too much, can you describe some of the most memorable matters you have worked on to date? How has your education here at the COL helped to prepare you for that experience?
I work in the Senior Department at Utah Legal Services and love any opportunity I get to work on grandparents issues. I was raised by my grandparents and saw how tough it was for them to go through the court process to settle things for me and my two younger siblings. Any help I can give to other grandparents or families in these situations just affirms why I am in law school. Volunteering at the Family Law Clinic and studying Family Law at the College of Law has really helped prepare me to do this work.
You have obviously taken advantage of the pro bono learning opportunities here at the COL. In what ways do you believe that experience will help you to prepare for practice?
The Pro Bono Initiative is the College of Law’s shining achievement. Students can develop their interviewing and analysis skills while creating important relationships with legal professionals in the community. Not only does this program give students the chance to test their abilities, but it also serves hundreds of vulnerable individuals and families in crisis. The clients I meet at the clinics are truly grateful for the help they receive, as most of them have nowhere else to turn. The attorneys, often former alums of the Pro Bono Initiative and the College of Law, are also grateful to see such passion for service in the next generation. I know my experiences with the Pro Bono Initiative will certainly help me in my future practice, and I am proud of the College of Law’s dedication to instilling a life-long commitment to pro bono work in its students. I would not still be here but for this mission.
What are your plans after law school?
After graduation, I plan to return to New York and hope to get a position with a public interest firm. I want to show the East Coast what a University of Utah education can do in the community.