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Andrea Catalina 2011
Andrea Catalina always knew she wanted to be a lawyer. From a very young age she observed her father in his legal career, and developed a healthy respect and admiration for the law. When the time came, she enrolled at Pace Law School for its programs and experiential learning opportunities – but it took a class with Professor Bennett Gershman to convert that respect and admiration into a vocation for criminal justice.
“I had Professor Gershman for Criminal Procedure and Evidence and he was so knowledgeable and sparked such an interest in me,” says Andrea, former president of the Criminal Justice Society. “He’s a phenomenal professor.”
As a 2L, Andrea participated in an externship with the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office in both the Trial Division and Yonkers Branch Office. She handled assignments, such as drafting motions, memoranda, and accusatory instruments and legal research. Andrea then signed up for the Criminal Justice Clinic to gain a practical perspective of the other side of criminal law, the defense.
“I thought that would be a great next step,” she says. “It turned out to be the best decision I ever made.”
A real criminal defense “boot camp,” the clinic provided Andrea and the other students with a crash course in taking on a client and mounting a defense. Couple that with mentors who encourage with minimal intervention, and the students are “given all the tools we need and then it’s up to us.”
Andrea says, “I feel a lot more prepared now. I could not have learned this in any other class – draft bail applications in the hallway, speak with judges, deal with personalities, learn what it means to practice criminal law. It’s given me a good foundation to start a job in criminal defense because the practical experience has pushed me ahead of most other third-year law students.”
“Anyone interested in criminal law at Pace should consider the clinic because there is no better way to spend your third year than getting this experience,” she says. “It’s almost like a full-time job and it’s fun and you learn so much that you would never learn in a classroom. It’s invaluable.”