Success Stories

Derek Segars '23

An Inspired Public Servant

Derek Segars ’23 comes from a family of Detroit public servants and has always placed a strong value on it as a result. “My great-grandfather was a bus driver for the City of Detroit, my grandfather was a police officer, my father was a fire safety inspector and arson investigator, and my mother was a social worker for 25 years,” said Derek. “I grew up surrounded by public servants and understanding the importance of dedicating your career to helping others.” 

Derek spent much of his childhood in Detroit, only having moved to the suburbs once he reached 9th grade. “Detroit is over 70% African American and the suburb my family moved to was predominantly white. This was a culture shock for me and adapting to my new environment was challenging. Until 9th grade, I had spent my entire life being surrounded by black people. For the first time, I experienced outward racism and discrimination. That stark juxtaposition from Detroit to the suburbs motivated me and continues to motivate me as I pursue my law degree.”

Derek chose Pace because he is confident it is the right school to get him one step closer to his goal of helping others as an attorney one day. “Pace is a very special place. Both the professors and student body make the law school experience positive and unforgettable. Professor Betty Lawrence Lewis has been instrumental in developing my advocacy skills and continues to support me and mentor me as I apply to jobs and internships. Professor Josh Galperin and Professor Elyse Diamond have also been extremely supportive and continue to provide me with advice and mentorship as I finish my last year of law school. And, I have felt such a sense of camaraderie from my classmates – we are all here to uplift each other and celebrate each other.”

During his time at Haub Law, Derek has had many opportunities to be an active participant in his law school experience. “I was able to participate in the DC externship. It was an amazing experience and the professors were very supportive and continue to serve as mentors to the participants.” Derek also serves as President of the 2022-2023 Black Law Students Association (BLSA), as a board member and Director of Gender Diversity and LBGTQIA+ Services for the North East Chapter of BLSA, as a student member of the Faculty Hiring Committee, and he is also a member of the BLSA mock trial team at Haub Law.

As for the future, Derek’s biggest goal is to be a decision-maker one day and serve the public. He notes that this could mean “running for office, working in a government agency, starting my own advocacy organization, or becoming a professor.” As far as an immediate goal, Derek hopes to practice environmental law after graduation and pursue a fellowship or clerkship with the federal government.

Derek has an important piece of advice for future law students. “Relationship building is essential to your future career. Start now. And, advocate for yourself. Be confident in your intellect. Be confident in your capabilities. Be confident in your moral compass that led you to law school and always be vocal about your goals and what you need from others to get there.”

Outside of law school, Derek is an avid swimmer. He loves the outdoors and frequently spends days at local parks with a blanket and picnic basket in the summer. He is skilled in ceramics and wheel-throwing. Derek also enjoys spending time with his sister, Taylor, who is a quadriplegic and as he describes her, “the happiest person I know.” He also enjoys being with his big and close-knit family in Detroit, who he credits with motivating him on his law school journey and celebrating his accomplishments.

Faculty Focus

Professor Michael B. Mushlin

Professor Michael B. Mushlin has been a professor at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University (then known as “Pace Law School”) since 1984. He teaches Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure Adjudication, Evidence, Federal Courts, and Prisoners’ Rights. After growing up in the south, and witnessing firsthand racism in America, Professor Mushlin decided to go to law school. Today, Professor Mushlin is a preeminent authority on prisoners’ rights, the author of the treatise, Rights of Prisoners, and a beloved professor. Learn more about him in this candid Q&A. 

You are always involved in interesting and timely matters - what has some of your more recent work involved? 

I appeared as an expert witness in an extradition case in Scotland involving an American woman who is wanted for murder in the United States. I testified about the lack of  oversight of the penal institutions to which the defendant would be sent in the United States were she to be extradited.  I also testified about the risk of solitary confinement and the threat of COVID-19. I also serve of the New York State Advisory Committee on Criminal Law and Procedure where I chair the subcommittee on judicial visits to prisons.  I recently wrote an op-ed for the NY Daily News on the maltreatment of prisoners, and a letter to the Editor of the NY Times on Rikers Island  as well as op eds in the Westchester County Bar Association Magazine and the New York Law Journal. I plan to give a lecture soon to the Pace University community on originalism and prisoners’ rights and will be speaking at a national conference on prisoners’ rights at the University of Texas.

How did you become interested in Prisoners’ Rights? 

After growing up in the deep south and seeing firsthand, from the perspective of a white person, racism in America, I went to law school to become a civil rights attorney. After I graduated law school, I began my legal career as a staff attorney at a neighborhood legal services office in Harlem.  Afterwards, I went to work for the Legal Aid Society as staff attorney and then Project Director of the  Prisoners’ Rights Project where I served for seven years. My passion and interest in the area grew from there.  I used the lessons learned doing prisoners’ rights litigation in my work as Associate Director of the ACLU’s Children’s Rights Project.

What advice do you have for students interested in the law and in particular, Prisoners’ Rights? 

The first step is to make sure that you understand what being a lawyer is like and that this is what you enjoy and want to be good at. As far as prisoners’ rights, I would highly recommend taking the prisoners’ rights course. 

What do you think is today’s greatest issue facing prisoners’ rights? 

Americans are fundamentally humane and decent.  However, because of fear and the failure to confront the full implications of all aspects of our past we have a prison system that does not reflect these basic values. The biggest issue facing prisoners’ rights is finding a way to establish a connection between the prisons of this country and these American values.  When that happens, our prisons will be transformed. 

You have written about the damage that solitary confinement in prison causes, and last year, you gave testimony in support of a bill reforming solitary confinement in Connecticut - briefly, can you talk about that topic?  

Plain and simple, solitary confinement is torture.  It runs against human nature, is painful beyond measure to anyone who experiences it, and violates international law when it is used for 15 days or more.  Reforming solitary confinement  will not be easy, but it must be done.

How has COVID-19 affected prisoners’ rights? 

Here is what I said about Covid-19 when I added a chapter to my book Rights of Prisoners (5th ed) after the pandemic hit: 

“COVID-19 poses a greater threat to inmates than it does to people in the general civilian population. Prisons are closed, often crowded institutions. Social distancing in such places is difficult, if not impossible. Normal measures used to stem the spread of the virus, such as cleaning supplies and masks, are not readily available in prisons and jails. In fact, these items are often considered contraband, which inmates are punished for possessing. In addition, inmates are generally not a healthy group of people. Within prison walls, there are many people who have conditions, such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, asthma, and obesity, which makes them especially vulnerable to serious injury or death if they contract COVID-19. As is well-known, increasing age is also associated with mortality from COVID-19. In recent years, prisons have become places in which large numbers of older persons are held. For these reasons, it is clear that “[p]risons are powder kegs for infection and have allowed the COVID-19 virus to spread with uncommon and frightening speed (citing United States v. Salvagno)”

What is the most rewarding part of being a professor for you?  

I love teaching.  The classroom is a sacred space.  It is where ideas are engaged, skills that last a lifetime are developed and people grow. 

What are some of your non-academic interests? 

I love to spend time with my wife, my two sons, and my granddaughter.  I also have fun with Skip, my 17 year old cockapoo dog who is an adored member of our family.

Umair Saleem LLM '21

A Formative Experience

Umair Saleem is a practicing advocate of High Courts in Pakistan. He handles advisory and transactional work, arbitrations, and litigation pertaining to diverse areas of laws for commercial clients and government sector entities. After receiving degrees from prestigious universities in Pakistan and then Belgium, Umair decided to pursue a second LLM at Haub Law and follow his growing passion for environmental law. Despite completing his LLM during the COVID-19 pandemic, Umair left Pace having fulfilled his goal to acquire the tools and vision to actively work towards establishing a strong foundation of environmental law within Pakistan.

What was your path to law school?

I have always been a keen learner and an astute observer of the systemic injustices prevalent in the society I grew up within and that has fostered my desire to pursue many educational pathways. I always envisioned a future where human rights were not violated, and society offered its best to all individuals equally. Once I had avowed to set on this journey towards bringing a change in the oppressive structures of the society, law arrived as an easy conclusion. I completed my college education at Government College Lahore and had a stellar academic record, which eventually led me to receive a scholarship at one of the most prestigious universities in Pakistan—Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). After graduating with a degree in law, I was fortunate to find the right opportunities to work in corporate law firms and with prominent legal minds in Pakistan for five years. This helped me discover my passion for different fields of law. At this point, I decided to undertake an LLM from KU Leuven in Belgium in International and European Public Law. After that, I began my second LLM program in Energy and Climate Change Law from Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law because of my true passion for environmental justice. My time at Haub Law radically shaped my career pursuits and my vision for the future.

What inspired you to choose Pace to pursue an LLM?

After graduating from LUMS, I worked with two prominent environmentalists in Pakistan, Justice Jawad Hassan and Dr. Parvez Hassan, who fueled my passion for environmental law. Justice Jawad Hassan is also an alumnus of Pace and played a significant role in my decision to choose Pace for furthering my vision and goals. Pace is also the top environmental law institute in the United States. For all of these reasons and more, I enthusiastically decided to attend Pace to complete my LLM, which became a formative step in my vision to actively work towards establishing a strong foundation of environmental law within Pakistan.

What experiences stick with you from your time at Pace?

When I joined Pace, the COVID-19 pandemic was on the rise so there was no on-campus interaction at the time. However, the positive school ethos of the institute became evident to me in the way my distant learning experience was mediated and encouraged through facilitated interaction and understanding among not just peers but also professors. It proved equally fortifying to my growth not just as an academic but also as an individual and lawyer in Pakistan. The professors at Pace were always eager to help me work towards my goals and this became one of the most exciting parts of my journey and still proves invaluable to my growth in the field. In particular, Professors Nicholas Robinson and Katrina Kuh had the most defining impact on my growth and shaping my direction and passion for environmental laws.

How did your experience at Pace influence your outlook on environmental law?

Pace had a life changing impact on me—before completing my LLM, I only possessed a fleeting understanding of the environment, but it shaped my in-depth understanding of environmental and legal issues embedded within our everyday lives and practices. Furthermore, my understanding was further enriched when I engaged with legal aspects and approaches globally through my interaction with a diverse group of people from all over the world. My time at Pace instilled even more passion and optimism within me. Upon my return, I approached it with newfound vigour and environmental law took a precedence over other facets of my practice. I continue to draw and utilize insights from my experience at Pace during professionally challenging situations even today.

Can you speak a bit about your current career?

I am a practicing advocate of High Courts in Pakistan and handling advisory and transactional work, arbitrations, and litigation pertaining to diverse areas of laws for commercial clients and government sector entities. A typical day in my life starts early morning with court hearings, drafting for matters I am working upon, meetings with current and prospective clients and managing my associates.

What benefit does an LLM degree hold in today’s world?

The growing impetus of change demands that you broaden your horizons and are open to learning from people belonging to various social strata and cultural backgrounds as it would enhance your understanding of legal issues in the future. It also enhances your understanding as you get a comparative outlook of different legal systems and their handling of various issues.

What are some of your future goals?

I am thrilled to share that I aspire towards contributing to policymaking and eventually enforcement through judicial work and to become one of the future green judges in Pakistan. I want to give a multiplying effect to the environmental training that I have received at Pace by leading environmental litigation, teaching, writing books and articles and pave way for a greener future within Pakistan.

What are some of your passions aside from the law?

Since my initial motivation of studying the law was also to change the existing imbalances within society, I always strive towards changing that through other arenas of my life. I engage in volunteer and community work to try to give back to society largely and specifically my local community where people lack an awareness of career prospects to be able to change their futures. It gives me true joy to be able to make a difference within my community. When I am not working or researching, I also enjoy hiking, traveling and exploring new sites and places. I enjoy interacting with people from diverse cultures and communities and learning from their unique experiences.

Sara S. Price '08

From Behind the Bench

Haub Law alumna Sara Price grew up in Larchmont, fifteen minutes from the Elisabeth Haub School of Law Campus. Coupled with the fact that her mother, Elaine Price, attended Haub Law, she was familiar with the law school long before becoming a student there. “As an undergraduate student at the University of New Hampshire, I fell in love with environmental policy
and sustainable urban development. After taking an Environmental Law and Policy class in college, I decided I wanted to study environmental law and one day head the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s how I ended up at Pace. I knew about the environmental law program initially because of my mother, but the more I researched the breadth of it, the more I knew it was a perfect fit for me,” said Sara.

Once she was at Pace, Sara had a very positive experience. “I really liked all my professors, and I could talk a lot about them. Professor Cassuto was incredible; his Animal Law class really opened my eyes to issues I had never previously thought about. Professor Crawford deserves a medal for making tax law interesting, accessible, and fun. Thanks to Professor Gershman I
developed a love for criminal law, and I can’t think of prison reform without thinking of Professor Mushlin.”

After graduating from law school, Sara had spent over 20 years in Westchester and wanted a change. “I had spent some time visiting friends in Colorado and felt that it would be a good fit for me. I moved to Denver right after graduation, studied for the bar and struggled through the recession like the rest of us new lawyers at that time. I began an internship with a Judge which turned into a clerkship. As soon as I started my internship at the court, something clicked and I knew my place was in the courtroom. It was then I knew my path was to the bench.”

Today, Sara is a Magistrate Judge for the 17th Judicial District in Colorado. “One thing I love about my job is that the day to day is always changing. Primarily I have a probate docket so I’m conducting hearings related to estates, trusts, guardianships and conservatorships. I also conduct protection order hearings and non-contested divorces. I rule on all the motions filed in the probate cases, I also get to review, and sign arrest warrants. Finally, we have a really great team of Magistrates in the 17th Judicial District so we’re always training in other divisions so that we can cover for each other.”

While Sara learned early in her career that her place was in the courtroom, she did not necessarily know that it would be in her current capacity as a Magistrate Judge, but she felt very prepared for it based on the variety of experiences she opened herself up to prior to that point. “My advice for current students would be to not pigeonhole yourself to a certain area or practice and to learn with an open mind. If you start studying something that piques your interest, lean into it. Everyone has a different path and what you learn along the way is going to be helpful in ways that you could never anticipate. Pace helped shape my career path because it opened my eyes to all the possibilities that come with a law degree. The law is such a big field and as an attorney your opportunities are endless.”

When Sara is not behind the bench, you can find her running, paddle boarding, playing tennis, traveling, and enjoying all that Colorado has to offer.

Jillian Houle '24

An Engaged Learner

Jillian Houle always had an interest in the law, but what really shifted her gears full-force towards a career in law was her undergraduate education where she studied structural racism, the feminist movement, indigenous rights, food insecurity, and most importantly to her, the climate crisis. “Learning the truths of these matters made me want to explore them further and deeper,” said Jillian. “The more I reflected, the more I came to realize that at the core of each of those subjects is this sense of (what I would consider to be) human rights: the right to not be discriminated against based on race, the right to have affordable access to healthy foods, and the right to live in a stable climate and environmentally just society. The law appeals to me in that it structures the society that plays home to these issues, so I want to spend my life in the realm of the laws, using them, changing them, arguing for and against them in the interests of people and the earth.”

Now a 2L, Jillian has enjoyed her time at Haub Law so far. “I find the Haub Law culture very communal; it is not just an ‘every person for themselves’ atmosphere.” Jillian also has found inspiration in her professors, in particular Professor Greenawalt and Professor Cassuto. “Professor Greenawalt inspired me to be more engaged with politics, SCOTUS, and news generally. I had Con Law with him, and he did a superb job of relating the cases back to present day by bringing in current iterations of issues and fostering thoughtful class discussion about all sorts of prevalent issues.” And, Professor Cassuto’s Environmental Law Survey course was her first “real taste” of environmental law. “The breadth of interesting subjects covered in the course combined with the passion Professor Cassuto imbues into each of his lectures reaffirmed my convictions towards being an environmental lawyer.”

This past summer Jillian interned for the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of General Counsel. With a strong interest in administrative law, Jillian felt this opportunity was a great experience. “I learned so much: big and little picture,” said Jillian. “I learned more in-depth about how federal agencies operate and how to perform legal research on administrative appeals decisions while becoming exceedingly familiar with the Code of Federal Regulations (Title VII, specifically). Additionally, because I was virtually stationed in the Central Region out of the Department’s Little Rock, Arkansas Field Office, I learned that a lot of what the field offices do is based in risk weighing and making critical decisions both based in legal precedent and the CFR, but also in considering less tangible, more subjective factors.” Jillian is grateful for the guidance she received from Professor Elyse Diamond, “I initially found this position on Symplicity, and after receiving an immense amount of help and guidance from Professor Diamond, I was able to secure it.”

While at Haub Law, Jillian is pursuing the Advanced Certificate in Environmental Law. This fall she has worked as an extern with the EPA, Region 2, Office of Regional Counsel in their Criminal Enforcement Division. “My ultimate goal in life is to do whatever I can to help mitigate and reverse the effects of climate change.” Working for the EPA was a dream of hers, so to be able to combine her interests in administrative, public interest, environmental protection, and criminal law all into one experience was very gratifying for Jillian.

In her spare time, Jillian enjoys sunning anywhere she can place her beach chair, going to the beaches on the New Hampshire coast, going on runs and walks daily, exploring NYC, and baking with her roommate. She is also an avid singer – from performing in competitions through college, to now jamming out in her car and in the shower!

Vito Arango '23

A Team Player

After graduating from Queens College with a Bachelor’s Degree in history, Vito Arango decided to pursue a paralegal certificate and explore a career in the law. Vito spent over three years working as a legal secretary/paralegal before deciding it was time to pursue law school. “I am very much happy with my decision to attend law school and specifically Haub Law. I have always very much been a team player, so finding those values at a law school as important to me. In my time here I have been very much blown away by the dedication and effort that my colleagues put forward and the sense of community surrounding the professors, staff, and classmates.”

During his time at Haub Law, Vito found a passion for employment and labor law. In his 2L year, he participated in the Legal Services Externship and this past summer he worked as an intern for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, General Counsel-Employment Unit. Vito noted, “This summer, my focus was employment law through the context of the government/administrative body. I found it very interesting and was able to learn a lot from a different perspective.”

Now, as a 3L, Vito is enrolled in the Equal Justice America-Disability Rights Clinic. He is also serving as the productions editor for the Pace International Law Review and as a 3L representative for the Public Interest Law Student Organization. After law school, Vito hopes to continue his passion for employment and labor law and gain employment in a non-profit or government agency. “There is an innate sense of fairness within the areas of employment and labor law and that goes along with the importance I put on being a team player and having a sense of community. I look forward to bringing this perspective into my future career as an attorney.”

Pamela Guerrero ‘22

A Passion for Social Justice

A first-generation US Citizen, Pamela Guerrero entered law school with a passion for social justice and immigration law. Throughout law school, she followed that passion by participating in Haub Law’s Access to Justice Seminar, the Access to Justice Lab, and the Immigration Justice Clinic. As a 3L, Pamela was awarded a prestigious Immigrant Justice Corps Fellowship post-graduation. Today, she is following her dreams as she works with the Refugee & Immigrant Program of The Advocates for Human Rights.

“I am a first-gen US citizen from Dominican parents who originally moved to Washington Heights, Bronx, New York, but then settled in Westchester. I came to law school because I learned of many socioeconomic inequities in the US while attending undergraduate school and wanted to be in an advocacy position to be able to address these issues. I was especially concerned with the immigration system in this country and wanted to become an immigration lawyer to provide newly arrived children and adolescents with the protection they need to thrive in the US. Geographically, Haub Law was the perfect place for me and academically I was impressed with the variety of diverse learning opportunities. The Immigration Justice Clinic and both the Access to Justice Seminar and Access to Justice Lab at Haub Law were integral in fostering my passion for immigration law and social justice.”  

Pamela was an inaugural student participant in the curricular components of the Pace Access to Justice Project (Pace A2J), which is housed and coordinated within Haub Law’s Public Interest Law Center. Pace A2J serves as a hub for community collaborations, programs, scholarship, policy initiatives, and hands-on innovative academic and non-credit bearing experiential law student and alumni opportunities. The A2J Seminar provides students with an opportunity to hone in on their critical thinking, research, writing, and editing skills required for legal practice – all as related to an access to justice/social justice issue of the student’s choice. Whereas, the A2J Lab provides law and computer science and design students an opportunity to collaborate on a social justice/access to justice concerns and provide a real life solution to these issues. Pace A2J is designed to more actively engage students in learning about and contributing to real-world efforts to address the access to justice gap and Pamela feels that it does just that. “Participating in both the Access to Justice Seminar and Access to Justice Lab improved my educational experience, because it gave me a way to tangibly utilize the law for the general betterment of society,” said Pamela. “A lot of academic work in law school is very theoretical, which creates a disconnect between what is being taught and actual legal problems that exist outside of the academic setting. Both the A2J  Seminar and A2J Lab bridged that gap by having participants use the law to create an application that could potentially be used by actual people in the future, having a tangible benefit to them.”  

In addition to the hands-on educational experience that Pamela feels Pace A2J provided, she notes that the interdisciplinary Lab, where students designed a tool to address low-income tenant habitability rights, was a notable curricular innovation. The Lab was co-taught by Professor Elyse Diamond at Haub Law and Andreea Cotoranu, Clinical Professor and Director of the NYC Design Factory in Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. Pamela notes, “I learned from collaborating with computer science and design students from Seidenberg students that it's not enough to simply have an idea . . . it is also important to address possible limitations such as tech limitations. It was extremely valuable to have varying expertise and perspectives throughout the Lab and I feel we came up with a better end result because of this.”

Pamela remains committed to social justice issues today and credits Pace A2J with cementing that commitment. “My participation in the Access to Justice Seminar and Access to Justice Lab reconfirmed my commitment to interdisciplinary social justice work by reminding me that many social issues are interconnected. Housing problems are very relevant to my current position as an IJC Fellow, because a lot of court notification is reliant on if a client has a stable address and a lot of client's worry about housing first before anything related to immigration work. Addressing injustice in housing is a huge step in immigration work since it gives clients a chance to thrive in a stable environment as they prepare for their ongoing immigration case.”

Faculty Focus

Professor Lissa Griffin

Professor Lissa Griffin has been a faculty member at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University for 37 years and remains a fixture at the School. In 1985, Professor Griffin started working at what was then called “Pace Law” and today, she remains fully committed to the law school community. She teaches Professional Responsibility, Criminal Procedure – Adjudication, Comparative Criminal Procedure, and Evidence and is recognized for her scholarship in criminal procedure and comparative criminal procedure. She is also a visiting professor at Birmingham City University School of Law in Birmingham, UK.  Learn more about Professor Griffin’s background, travels, scholarly work and more in the Q&A below. 

Q: What is your recent work in and out of academia?   

A: Last year I was able to travel to Malaga, Spain as a Fulbright Scholar. I co-taught a course with two Spanish law professors called Fundamental Rights in the Criminal Process, which is much like our criminal procedure courses in the United States. I also participated in three conferences and presented weekly workshops to UMA’s PhD students. Teaching in a different country helped me reflect on my US classroom and was unbelievably rewarding. In addition, having been able to confer with Spanish criminal procedure scholars, practitioners, and prosecutors allowed me to see a completely new legal system unlike ours here in the United States.  

Q: Can you tell me more about your Fulbright Scholar experience?  

A: When I originally applied to go to Spain, the coronavirus was at its peak and Spain was in particularly bad trouble. I knew Spain was one of the worst places to travel at the time, but I still took the risk and it paid off.  Having worked and studied in the US and UK, which are both common law systems, I wanted to be exposed to a civil law system. In addition to teaching, while I was in Malaga I spoke at conferences and participated in presentations to PhD students and graduate students of all disciplines. I did quite a bit of work with the four other US Fulbright Scholars there, who came from different parts of the US and were in different disciplines and we were good collaborators and became good friends. The Spanish culture was an excellent and welcome contrast to the current situation in the United States:  the sense of social cohesion and community in Spain is much different from the United States, whether that be professional, academic, or even personal. The experience of living within the Spanish culture was wonderful. 

Q: Did you take anything away from your experience abroad? 

A: Yes, I’ve taught several times in the United Kingdom and those experiences and the time spent in Spain are transformative. In my teaching, I feel being exposed to different learning communities with different populations, expectations and relationships makes you more sensitive to your students. Understanding different criminal processes, both common law and civil law deepens your understanding and broadens your perspective. I’ve learned so much about criminal procedure and US criminal procedure first from being in the United Kingdom and then in Spain. Spain was particularly interesting to me because it is a civil law country with a very different domestic process and is also subject to European Union law and the European Court of Human Rights. All three sources of law contribute to the choices they make in structuring and administering their criminal process.

Q: What was it like to participate in the International Criminal Judicial Cooperation Conferences?  

A: In both, I was the only speaker who spoke in English and discussed US law. It was an honor to work with the other academics on the panels.  In one of the conferences, I presented on the US jury and people were literally horrified at the power our juries enjoy. I am now writing a piece for a larger book comparing the US and Spanish jury systems. 

Q: What drew you into the world of criminal law?  

A: Well that goes far back but the answer to that is that I think I’ve always been curious about outsiders. As a young child, cowboys fascinated me; in college, I veered toward the sociology of deviance.  And like others who were children of the 1960s, the faceoff between the individual and the state has always been important to me and that happens directly in the criminal process.

Q: Can you talk more about what you did before coming to Pace?  

A: I started working for a private criminal defense lawyer and then moved to The Legal Aid Society’s criminal appeals office. Then I moved to a firm that worked specifically in civil litigation. At the time, the harm caused by asbestos had begun to lead to mass tort litigation, and my firm represented insurers who were litigating between and among the insurance companies to see who was responsible for paying the injured parties. I also handled appeals in medical malpractice cases on behalf of hospitals and doctors.

Q: How did teaching at Pace come across your radar? 

A: Someone I worked with had graduated in the first graduating class at Pace Law School and invited me to an alumni event to meet the then-dean, Janet Johnson. It turned out that Pace was looking for writing instructors and I started as a writing instructor in 1985. Shortly thereafter Pace started its clinical program and I supervised the Appellate Litigation. My students briefed and argued cases in the Appellate Division, First Department, in Manhattan, and in the New York Court of Appeals. As the School’s needs changed, I began teaching simulation and doctrinal classes. And with Professor David Dorfman, I created the Law School’s course on Interviewing, Counseling, and Negotiating. I guess one could say I’ve been a utility player. No matter what you are teaching, every course and every class is a new challenge.

Q: Tell me about the Pace Law London Program.  

A: I went abroad to London with Pace three times: once in 1999, again 2002, and finally in 2012 with Professor McDonnell. My presence in England coincided with the opening of the first innocence commission in the world, the Criminal Case Review Commission, and I wrote several law review articles about it.  I also began my comparative criminal procedure work, which has been my area of specialty for twenty-three years. When I was there in 2012, I developed a relationship with Birmingham City University School of Law, where I taught in 2019 and where I am currently a Visiting Professor. Teaching abroad really allowed me to absorb and reflect on so many levels, whether teaching, learning, and personally. And of course, having spent so much time in London when they were growing up, our children feel like it is a second home and know it as well as they know New York. Maybe better. 

Q: Would you recommend a study abroad experience to law students? 

A: Always! It truly is a rich experience and will give you a different perspective on your life, your society, your values, and your profession. It may not change any of those things, but it will help you understand who you are and how you got there and what you want to do in the future. 

Q: What advice do you have for students interested in criminal law? 

A: Read the news!  There is so much going on every day in criminal cases. Ask yourself why what happened happened and if it should have happened in a fair and effective criminal process.  Go abroad:  see how other societies administer their criminal law so you realize there are many legitimate systems that are very different from ours. Besides that, participate in internships to build up your resume and to find out what really the field is all about. I also recommend that you pursue becoming a research assistant for a professor. There are so many great opportunities being a research assistant can bring forward such as a big network, jobs, publishing opportunities, and closer connections with faculty.

Q: What are you looking forward to most this school year? 

A: I always look forward to seeing the light bulbs go on in my students minds as we finish a course because in the end it DOES all come together. I am also looking forward to teaching a five-day course in Madrid at Comillas Law School, where four of our students are actually studying this semester, after our classes end in December. I am also teaching a Lawyering and Science skills workshop during January intersession that I haven’t taught since pre-COVID. The intersection between law and science is absolutely fascinating and helping students understand how to use science as lawyers is fun.

Q: What is your favorite part of Haub Law? 

A: Community. I have to say there has always been a supportive and close community not only for students, but for faculty as well. People care about each other and care about having a community that reflects those values, including devotion to the students and respect to one another. It truly does trickle down from the top.

Q: What are your non-academic Interests? 

A:  I love to travel. I love my dogs. I exercise almost every day, less because I like it than because it keeps me healthy.  I exercise for two episodes of whatever series I’m currently watching, and so I’ve watched a lot of series   Lastly, I would say I am utterly devoted to my friendships. I have had friends for longer than 50 years; I have friends from college, and friends I made as an adult. Over time, I have come to understand how really important these friendships are.  


Photograph by dave@verticalbird.com

Learn more about Professor Griffin.

Lisa Denig ’09

ADR Pioneer

Lisa Denig has dedicated much of her career to pioneering Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Initiatives within the New York State Court System. Recently, Lisa started a new position as Principal Settlement Coordinator for the 9th Judicial District within the New York State Unified Court System. “I am tasked with creating and expanding opportunities for ADR in all the courts in the 9th JD,” said Lisa. “Not long ago, settlement or mediation were thought of as secondary to years of discovery, enormous cost outlays, and time spent on trial preparation. That is no longer the case. Today, attorneys come prepared-at the preliminary conference - to discuss alternative ways to resolve their case. Alternative dispute resolution is not the wave of the future, it is the present.”

A dedicated alumna of Haub Law, Lisa is giving back to the law school in another way now: as an adjunct professor teaching Survey of Dispute Resolution Processes. Lisa is also an active member of Haub Law’s advisory board, the Board of Visitors. “Pace gave me the tools I needed to have a successful legal career after law school,” she said. “I am thrilled to remain involved with my alma mater and help set students on their path for ADR success. I loved my time as a law student and love that things have come full circle and I am now teaching at the school.”

In 2019, Lisa Denig was appointed Special Counsel for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Initiatives for the NYS Office of Court Administration, overseeing one of the most innovative programs to date in the New York Court system: the creation and implementation of Chief Judge Janet DiFiore’s initiative, the New York State Presumptive ADR Program. The Presumptive ADR Program was to be implemented in all five boroughs in addition to three specialty courts inside New York City. A certified mediator herself, Lisa is a strong advocate for requiring early ADR in civil court cases and strongly believed in and advocated for the initiative long before it came to fruition.

Lisa notes, “In order to implement this program properly, I had to meet with bar associations, ADR groups and other stakeholders to incorporate them into the new program as well as provide the necessary training opportunities for court staff and outside lawyers. I worked with numerous committees to create rules, templates, develop a data tracking system, along with evaluation forms so we could actually see how the newly instituted program was working and report this to the Chief Judge.”  

The program was a success, but it was an uphill battle at times. When asked about one of the biggest challenges she faced, Lisa answered: diversity. “I knew that there would be a diversity issue in the pool of mediators, but did not realize how serious it was. On the first day the mediation program was rolled out in New York City Civil Court, we had four cases that were amenable to mediation-all of whom spoke Spanish-and one Spanish interpreter. This brought home the issue of culture and diversity in mediation as well as all the concerns about access to justice that such challenges raise. From there, I made it a point to promote mediation trainings for diverse attorneys, connect with affinity bar associations, and more.”

Due in part to Lisa’s work, ADR plans were created that require litigants to attempt some form of ADR early in the stages of a civil case. The required ADR may include settlement conferences with judges or court staff, mediation, arbitration, or summary jury trials. Statistically speaking, the NYS Presumptive ADR Program is massive; Lisa notes that it deals with “over 1 million civil filings per year and more than 800,000 of those are in New York City alone.”  In recent years, in recognition of her work advancing the Presumptive ADR Initiative, Lisa was recognized as one of New York Law Journal’s Attorney Innovators of the Year.

After serving as Special Counsel for ADR Initiatives for two and a half years, in 2021, Lisa accepted a position as Counsel to New York State Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. In this role, Lisa remained the Chief Judge’s liaison to the Presumptive ADR Initiative, which gave her the opportunity to remain active in the programs she spent years building.  Previously, Lisa spent nearly eight years at the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office in a variety of roles. Today, Lisa is thrilled to be fully back in the ADR fold. “ADR is where my passion lies and I am excited to make an impact both in the classroom at Haub Law and also as Settlement Coordinator for the 9th Judicial District.”

Kevin Sylvester '14

Love What You Do

Chief of Police with the Ossining Police Department, Kevin Sylvester’s path to law school was not on the straight and narrow. After being kicked out of college, Kevin took time to reflect on what path he wanted both his life and career to take. From the Marine Corps to becoming a police officer to having his first child during his second year of law school, Kevin’s journey to where he is today has been nothing short of interesting and a true display of determination.

Did you go straight to law school from undergrad?

I got kicked out of college the first time I attended. It wasn’t that I was having too much fun. I was just an immature kid who was probably depressed and unprepared for living independently and studying full time. I stopped going to class and I left there with lots of credits, but no direction. It was the best thing that ever happened to me because it allowed me to reset and find my fire. I thank god I didn’t scrape by and finish because I’d probably be stuck in a job I hate, doing something that bores me. After leaving school, I joined the Marine Corps and then the police department.

With a police and military background, what made you decide to go to law school?

I always wanted to go to law school. Though most people finish high school, go to college, and directly to law school, I wasn’t ready for that. I didn’t finish my undergraduate program until I was 30. By that time I was working overnight shifts in a police department. Police officers in New York can retire after twenty years so I figured a law degree would give me the opportunity to retire and work a more “normal” schedule.

Do you remember your first day at Haub Law?

Absolutely. Most of the students were nervous but I’d been through so much. Many people feel an obligation to perform when they get to law school, but I already had a good job. I knew I didn’t HAVE to be here. I could have walked out at any time. I was here because I wanted to be here. I chose to be here. It’s a completely different perspective and really allowed me to enjoy my time here. I met some of my best friends that day. Hi Kaitlyn!

What were some of your biggest struggles during law school?

My son was born the first week of my 2L year. If you ever thought law school was tough, imagine reading cases in the delivery room! That’s not even an exaggeration. Nothing in law school came natural to me. I had to work hard and grind. When my son was born, I was terrified I would fall behind and never catch up so his first book was Contracts: Cases and Doctrine.

Looking back, what do you miss most about law school?

I live for the challenges. I truly miss the long days and nights of studying in the library. Even though we were stressed out and felt a ton of pressure, we did it together. It may have been difficult but I have really fond memories of the nights we locked in to prepare for exams, loaded with snacks, together with friends. I really appreciated the opportunity to work with so many incredibly smart students who went on to be wildly successful attorneys. I keep in touch with many of my former classmates. Networking is everything in this business. My alumni network is where I go for professional advice, for friendship, and for motivation.

Moving on to present day, you are the police chief for Ossining—what is your day-to-day like?

During orientation at Haub Law we visited Cuddy + Feder LLP and the managing partner, Chris Fisher, was asked, “as a partner, what is your day like.” His response changed my life. He said, “I’m a business owner—my day is from when I open my eyes to when I close my eyes.” That moment changed my life. I want to spend my time working on projects I believe in. When I know my energy is benefiting others, I never want to stop. My work day now really is when I open my eyes (around 5:00am) until I close my eyes (around 10:00pm). People rely on me to keep them safe, to help raise their children, and to keep them informed. If done right, it’s a heavy burden and the work never really ends.

What is most rewarding about your job?

I love making people smile. Sometimes it’s speaking with their kids and sometimes it’s offering comfort in a difficult situation or with clients I might help them solve a complex problem. I really appreciate having the opportunity to help people better understand their world. I want to give people something to believe in.

Do you also maintain a law practice?

I started slow, but my practice is growing. I have a solo firm, supported by quite a few alumni who have taught me everything. Most of my work is transactional real estate work but I’m branching out and learning new things every day.

What are some of your passions aside from law enforcement?

This is the hardest question because I love to love things. I coach my kids in little league and I’m a huge fan of youth baseball. I love winter sports and recently switched from skiing to snowboarding. I love endurance sports—distance running, triathlon, anything except the obstacle course races. Those aren’t for me. I love spending time with my kids and my dog, but when I go to bed at night, I can’t wait to get to work in the morning because I forever have something exciting I want to work on.

They say if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s a lie. I work… a lot. But I love what I do so I don’t mind long hours. The thing I learned through the military, policing, and a legal career, is to spend your time doing things you can believe in because it makes it all worthwhile.

Had you not followed the path of law enforcement what do you think you would be doing?

I think policing saved me. It taught me so much about life and community. I’m afraid to think of what I’d have become without all the people I met throughout my career.

What is some of the best advice you personally have received?

One of my mentors told me that my debt for all her guidance was to pass it on. For all the good experiences I’ve had and all the support I’ve received, it’s my turn to pay it forward. My story might not resonate with everyone but I bet there are a couple of students still trying to find their “why.” If that’s you, let me know. A cold call may feel weird but I can’t count the number of friends I’ve made by reaching out to people who inspired me and making a connection.

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