From time to time we will be posting some great conversations with our students. This first session is with Julie Roberts, who is currently on her final co-op!
Name: Julie Roberts
Class year: 3L
A little about Julie…
· Where are you from?
I am originally from Wheeling, West Virginia. I attended undergrad at Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY where I studied film production and politics (I made political documentaries). After graduating in 2006, I moved to Santa Fe, NM.
· What did you do before NUSL?
For four years prior to attending Northeastern University School of Law, I worked for the national nonprofit organization, Drug Policy Alliance, in Santa Fe. At Drug Policy Alliance, I worked with advocates, community organizations, state government employees, and elected officials to pass over a dozen innovative legislative initiatives. I lobbied for the successful passage of legislation guaranteeing legal access to medical cannabis and establishing the first state-licensed production and distribution system to ensure patients receive a safe and secure supply of their medicine. I fought for our nation’s first 911 Good Samaritan law, a law guaranteeing immunity from drug possession charges when people call 911 to save the life of an overdose victim. I coordinated and worked with over a dozen community organizations to pass a statewide ban on bias-based policing, or racial profiling, in New Mexico. As I entered my fourth year at the organization, however, I felt a visceral need to continue to grow and learn as an advocate in order to improve the lives of the marginalized and underserved.
· What do you do for fun outside of school?
Outside of law school, I prioritize spending time with my fiancé, Michael. We had never been to New England before, so we enjoy exploring Boston and other parts of the region, especially the beaches north of the city. I also hang out with my new law school friends at our favorite dive bar, Punters, which is right down the street from the law school. Additionally, I volunteer on the Board of Directors for an international nonprofit organization, Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
Julie’s NUSL experience…
· Where have you co-oped?
Because I moved to Boston with my fiancé, I decided to complete all of my co-ops in the Boston area. My first coop was at Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR) where I worked on race and national origin discrimination cases with a particular focus on voting rights. The co-op was a perfect balance of public policy advocacy, legal research and writing, and client communication. Next, I worked with Judge MacLeod at the Massachusetts Superior Court. I absolutely loved working in the courthouse. Throughout the co-op, I gained exposure to a range of legal issues (everything from medical malpractice to personal injury to sexually dangerous persons classifications) and observed lawyers in motion sessions and trials. For my third co-op, I worked for the Committee for Public Council Services (CPCS), Youth Advocacy Division (the public defender for juveniles) in Roxbury, MA. I originally came to law school with a predisposition towards criminal justice reform and criminal defense. Working for CPCS provided me with direct in-court experience representing juveniles during bail and arraignment hearings, which was challenging and incredibly fulfilling. Working for the public defender confirmed my excitement, passion and dedication to criminal defense, particularly working with indigent clients. For my last coop, I decided to pursue my interest in criminal defense and also gain new work experience by co-oping in a small law firm, Zalkind, Duncan and Bernstein. The law firm specializes in criminal defense and civil litigation, including employment discrimination, personal injury, academic cases, and family law cases. The co-op has been amazing so far and a great balance between criminal defense and civil litigation.
· Are you involved in any student organizations? Did you participate in any clinics, moot court, law journal, etc.?
I enrolled in the Prisoners’ Rights Clinic during my Winter 2012 academic quarter. In the clinic, I represented a man serving a second-degree life sentence for murder during his parole release hearing. My client had been incarcerated for over twenty years. During the clinic, I visited my client in prison every week, collected and investigated records related to my client’s underlying offense and his life while incarcerated and prepared the overall legal strategy for his parole hearing. The clinic provided a great opportunity to work closely with a supervisor and get constant feedback on my work. This past winter quarter I was selected as a teaching assistant and supervised two clinic students in preparation for their clients’ hearings in the Spring of 2013.
Throughout law school, I maintained my interest in drug policy reform and advocacy through volunteer work. In November 2011, I was elected to serve on the Board of Directors for Students for Sensible Drug Policy, an international nonprofit organization based in Washington D.C. that mobilizes and empowers young people to get involved in the political process. As a grassroots organization, our work is mainly achieved through hundreds of chapters established at colleges and universities across the world. Our student members are concerned about the impact drug abuse has on our communities, but also know that the War on Drugs is failing our generation and our society.
Based on this involvement at the national level, I then decided to co-found the law school’s chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and currently serve as the co-President of the group. Through this student organization, I have helped to coordinate multiple meetings and events each quarter on topics ranging from medical marijuana in Massachusetts to harm reduction strategies to reduce the spread of HIV through injection drug use to the impact of drug war policies on communities of color. The group is also involved in policy change at the campus and state legislative level. In 2012 our group helped to pass a campus-wide ballot initiative that proposed equalizing the penalties between on-campus violations for underage drinking and marijuana use and possession. At the state level, our members promoted the passage of the Question 3 ballot initiative, which established a medical cannabis program in Massachusetts; our members have stayed involved in monitoring the regulatory process as the state Department of Public Health implements the new law. Our members also advocated for the passage of overdose prevention legislation, which was signed by Governor Deval Patrick last year. The new law includes a 911 Good Samaritan provision (providing immunity from drug possession charges when someone calls 911 during an overdose) and a provision authorizing the distribution and providing protection for the administration of the life-saving medication, naloxone, which immediately reverses an opioid (i.e., heroin, oxycodone) overdose. When lobbying state legislators for this bill, I had the opportunity to testify in front of the Massachusetts Joint Judiciary Committee. The leadership, educational and public policy opportunities I’ve gained through this student group have been an amazing aspect of my law school experience.
Life after NUSL…
· What are your post-grad plans?
After graduating in May, I will stay in Boston and study for the Massachusetts bar exam. After taking the bar, I will be moving to Martinsburg, West Virginia for a federal clerkship in the Northern District of West Virginia. I am so excited for the opportunity to work at the trial court level and gain additional legal experience working in a federal court. The majority of cases that come before the judge are criminal cases, which is perfect for my interest in criminal defense. The civil cases are mainly prisoners’ rights and civil rights discrimination, which are both areas I am thrilled to explore. Following the one-year clerkship, I plan on looking for employment both in Boston and the Washington, D.C. area.
· Did anything about your NUSL experience surprise you?
Attending NUSL has completely exceeded all of my expectations for a successful law school experience. I have made excellent friendships that will surely last for the rest of my life. I studied with amazing professors and was engaged and challenged by the range of curriculum offered at the school. I gained real world professional experience in four different legal jobs and a school-based clinic. I worked one-on-one with clients and got to make a difference in their lives. I pursued my passion for drug policy and continued to grow as an advocate for change.
Three years ago when I first started law school I knew I was embarking on a life-changing adventure, but I never could have guessed how amazing the experience would actually be. I am so thankful for the skills I gained at Northeastern and will forever be filled with gratitude for the amazing personal, academic and professional growth I experienced over the last three years.