Success Stories

A Once in a Lifetime Experience

Rafael Wolff, LLM

Since 2006, Rafael Wolff has served as a Federal Judge in Brazil. He is connected to the Fourth Circuit, which is responsible for the southern states of Brazil. “As a Judge, I encounter a variety of legal issues. One that comes up with more frequency is environmental crimes. This is what brought me to Pace Law to pursue my Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) in Environmental Law.”

Prior to his studies at Pace, Judge Rafael Wolff received a master’s degree (LLM) from the Universidade Federal Fluminense. His dissertation was about undercover agents and, today, it is published as a book in Portuguese.

“The SJD program at Pace is well known throughout Brazil for its excellence in environmental law. Once I decided to further my education, I knew that Pace was the only place to do it.” Admission to the SJD program at Pace is highly competitive, however, with his educational and professional background; Judge Rafael Wolff met all of the criteria necessary for admission.

“Professor David Cassuto was my advisor during my studies at Pace and immediately upon beginning my studies he provided guidance and support.” Fluent in Portuguese, Professor Cassuto is also the director of the Brazil American Institute for Law and Environment (BAILE), a cooperative endeavor with the Getulio Vargas Foundation School of Law in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Judge Rafael Wolff notes that Professor Cassuto worked closely with him to supervise his research and to eventually write and defend a publishable dissertation.

While completing his SJD, Judge Wolff was able to take classes in a variety of areas, including prisoners’ rights, comparative criminal procedure, White Collar Crime, Ocean Law, and more. “The knowledge that was shared with me was beyond my expectations. Professors Cassuto, Mushlin, Griffin, Fentiman, and Powers, to name a few, made each class interesting and contributed significantly to my knowledge base.”

When it came time to choose and research a thesis, Judge Wolff decided to focus on two areas that interest him greatly and intersect:  imprisonment and environmental crimes. His research ultimately culminated in him writing and successfully defending his dissertation, titled “Environmental Crimes and Imprisonment: Does Prison Work to Prevent and Punish Environmental Criminals?” Judge Wolff notes that the completion of his thesis was one of the most challenging academic exercises he has accomplished. “It was hours and hours and months of research and writing. However, at the end, I had a product I knew was well-thought out, made sense, and was interesting. I learned more than I thought possible from the dissertation process and I enjoyed defending my dissertation to the faculty at Pace Law whom I respect so much.”

After receiving his SJD from Pace Law in 2016, Judge Wolff returned to Brazil. “It was a once in a lifetime experience, I gained new friends and colleagues during my studies and I was taught by internationally respected experts and scholars in the field.”


Path to Practice

Erika Kissh , '19

Pace Law inspires students to discover their career goals. Erika found her career path in the classroom with the help of professors. Professors at Pace deeply care about the student’s success during and after their law school experience.  

When Erika decided to take Wills, Trusts and Estates with Professor Crawford, she was unaware that it would shape her experience at Pace. During this class, Professor Crawford inspired Erika and she fell in love with this area of law. Erika sought Professor Crawford for academic and career advice. Professor Crawford spent time with Erika selecting classes that would strengthen her skills and increase her knowledge in this area of law. Erika values that students at Pace can find mentors for guidance.

Erika continues to prepare for a career in Estate Planning. She is taking Income Tax Law and Surrogates Practice this semester; she will take Elder Law next semester. With the education and advice provided by faculty, Erika feels confident to achieve her career goals.  


Nicole DiGiacomo, '19

Students at Pace Law can find their passion through the various opportunities available. Pace offers opportunities for students to apply their knowledge and skills in practical areas. Nicole found rewarding experiences through externships and extracurricular activities.

Nicole has been actively involved at Pace. Through a semester-long externship at the Legal Aid Society of Rockland County, she gained practical legal experience. The externship allowed her to apply the skills learned at Pace, and she became keenly interested in pursuing a career in family law. At Pace, she has been actively working with the American Constitution Society (ACS). She took the initiative to set new goals for the organization and increase its presence on campus. Through this work, she has connected with many students in deeper ways. Nicole states: "ACS has been a rewarding experience that has helped me reach out to other members of the student body.” Proud of being part of the Pace family, she serves as a student mentor to help current and future students.

After graduation, Nicole is looking forward to working in the area of family law. In the meantime, she will continue to connect with other members of the Pace family through her work and inspire other students to take on all the opportunities Pace has to offer.


Gabriella Mickel, ’23

Tell me about something you've participated in during your time here that has defined your Pace experience.

The Land Use Law Center has defined my Pace experience because it has given me valuable skills, mentors, and experiences. During my 1L year, I was a research volunteer there. I worked with students and professors, whom both became valuable mentors and teachers. My experience as a research volunteer introduced me to environmental law and led to a summer externship at the center as well.

What have you gotten out of that experience, and how do you expect that it will enable you to pursue your goals beyond Pace?

As a 1L volunteer, I learned essential research skills and even published a blog on the school's GreenLaw Blog for the Land Use, Human Health, and Equity Project. During my summer, I've written three more blogs, learned how the New York State Consolidated Funding Application works, and learned a lot about local law and land use.

Is there anything else you'd like to add about your time at Pace?

I am president of the Environmental Law Society and I help run The Jeffrey G. Miller National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition. Additionally, I am on the Pace Environmental Law Review and on an Environmental Policy Hack team with a fellow Haub Scholar. The school's commitment to helping students explore their interests and obtain a comprehensive education is unparalleled.

A One of a Kind Legal Education

Júlio Borges, LLM

Júlio Borges knew from a young age that he wanted to pursue a legal career. “Law was something that I was always interested in and I knew I wanted my career path to reflect that.” Realizing his goals, in 2003 Júlio became a law graduate from the Center of Superior Studies of Maceio (CESMAC), which is located in his hometown of Maceio, Brazil.

After completing his law degree, Júlio became a federal attorney in Brazil.  It was during this time that Júlio began to take his legal education even further. In 2009, he concluded a 2 years’ post-graduation program in public law at the University of Brasilia.  Desiring to further his studies, he pursued admittance to a LLM program. “Completing a LLM program in Environmental Law in a globally well-recognized law school, such as Pace, was a long-time dream of mine. Being admitted to Pace Law, with a generous scholarship, was one of the brightest moments of my life.” 

Júlio fondly remembers his experience in the LLM program at Pace. “At the beginning of my studies, as a native Portuguese speaker, with English and French being my second languages, I was nervous as to how I would keep up. However, I was so lucky to have such amazing professors who guided me along the way.”

While at Pace, Júlio took classes in International Environmental Law taught by Professor Nicholas Robinson. “This is a highly complex legal field that requires an outstanding scholar, such as Professor Robinson to teach it properly. It was an honor to be taught by an internationally leading icon in the field.” Júlio also took classes in administrative law and environmental law, both with Professor Margot Pollans. He describes these two courses as “fundamental” for his understanding about the legal reasoning and methodology of environmental law and policy in the United States. “Professor Pollans was such a dedicated professor and I am so grateful to her. I enjoyed every moment of her classes.”

Part of the LLM program at Pace Law is completing a significant thesis. “The thesis aspect of the degree is time-consuming and intellectually challenging, I do not feel as though I could have completed the program without the guidance of Professor David Cassuto. He was my guide, my reference, throughout the entire LLM program. And, he was my academic supervisor. I wrote my thesis, which was for 6 credits, on a particularly controversial and challenging subject:  the risks of cost-benefit analysis for environmental regulation in Brazil. Professor Cassuto’s ongoing support, during the thesis process and generally, was fundamental to my successful journey at Pace.”

Rounding out his experience at Pace Law were the relationships that Júlio built with his LLM classmates, both American and foreign.  “We shared ideas and learned from one another’s personal experiences. We also all had the wonderful opportunity to study law in the perfect atmosphere that is the Pace Law campus. The entire experience was unforgettable.”

After concluding his LLM at Pace in January 2018, Júlio returned to Brazil and a few short months later and became an associate attorney with the Brazilian EPA’s General Counsel Office. “In this position, I have been leading a division responsible for all national legal strategies and intelligence service on environmental litigation on behalf of the federal agency.”

Júlio remains in touch with many of his fellow LLM classmates and the faculty at Pace Law. “Pace Law has an international reputation for their LLM program and many contacts in Brazil and all over.” When asked if he had advice for any current or future international LLM students, Júlio simply states, “Go to Pace Law! You will receive a one of a kind legal education and learn more than you imagined. The professors and your classmates are your support system and will help you accomplish the goals you set out for yourself.”

Dean's Scholar Program

Cassidy Allison, '19

Among the multitude of resources that Pace's Academic Success department provides is the Dean's Scholar program. Dean's Scholars are top-performing upper-level students who conduct weekly review sessions with first-year students as a supplement to regular class instruction. These review sessions include practice questions and study techniques that reinforce classroom learning and help students effectively prepare for final exams. Cassidy Allison '19 has served as a Dean's Scholar for four consecutive semesters—in the subjects of Torts, Property, and Constitutional Law—and she counts her time as a Dean's Scholar as a defining Pace experience.

"I chose to pursue this because I have always enjoyed teaching and helping other students succeed," Cassidy explains. She says that being a Dean's Scholar has also had a very practical added benefit: "It helped me learn the substantive law again, which is a huge help in preparing for the bar exam."

Finally, the Dean's Scholar program allowed Cassidy to forge strong connections across class years. "It helped me create meaningful relationships that will last throughout law school as well as in the future," Cassidy says, "as I am sure that these are some of the future attorneys I will be interacting with in the workforce."

Federal Judicial Honors Program

Christopher Emch, '20

With his 2L year underway, Christopher Emch '18 is already looking ahead to next semester, when he will participate in Pace's prestigious Federal Judicial Honors Program and spend the spring interning with a federal judge. "I chose this path because learning the mechanics of our judicial system from inside a judge's chambers is an invaluable experience," Christopher says. "What better way is there to be an effective advocate for your client than to understand the expectations on the other side of the bench?"

Reflecting on his initial decision to attend Pace, Christopher cites two motivating factors. "First, the school offers significant value for the amount of time and money that students invest in their JD," Christopher explains. "Pace's academic programs are built to prepare students for the bar, and its merit-based financial aid offering means that I will graduate without a mountain of debt." Christopher also points to the extensive career placement resources available to students. "The legal field is fiercely competitive," Christopher says, "but Pace's career advisers have connections to some of the profession's most sought-after law firms and public-sector employers."

Beyond affordability and outcomes, Christopher also identifies what he considers the most underrated factor in choosing a law school: camaraderie. "I found a great group of friends at Pace," Christopher says, "and I think many of the students in our class have had a similar experience. We motivate each other and provide a much-needed dose of humanity when the hours get long or the work gets particularly arduous. Each law school has its own culture that way, and I am fortunate to have chosen one where I feel quite at home among my classmates."

Theory in Practice

George Burns, '12
“It was, without a doubt, the best job I’ve ever had,” says George Burns, reflecting on his recent clerkship with Chief Judge Dora Irizarry of the Eastern District of New York.  George exemplifies a growing trend in clerkship hiring: rather than clerking immediately after graduation, he practiced for several years, first as an Agency Attorney at the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and then as an Assistant County Attorney in the Litigation Bureau of the Westchester County Attorney’s Office.   But he “never lost sight of the idea” of clerking, and the Westchester County Attorney’s office generously granted George a one-year unpaid leave to serve as Judge Irizarry’s law clerk from September 2016 to September 2017.
While in Judge Irizarry’s chambers, George served as one of four law clerks.  (Chief district judges are able to hire additional law clerks to help with their extra administrative responsibilities.)  The cases were randomly distributed by docket number to the four clerks, so George worked on a tremendous range of issues, from the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to RICO to employment discrimination.  In addition to his behind-the-scenes work drafting opinions and orders, George assisted in many of Judge Irizarry’s courtroom proceedings, from oral arguments to trials and sentencings.  And George, along with other Eastern District law clerks, had the chance to sit in on some of the highest-profile cases occurring in the EDNY during his time there, such as the Marvin Shkreli trial and the hearing on President Trump’s January 27, 2017 Executive Order on immigration.  
Now back at the Westchester County Attorney’s Office, George reports that he has “taken all the knowledge and experience I gained from my clerkship and brought it back to my practice at the County.”  His current responsibilities include taking and defending depositions, drafting and filing motions, negotiating settlements, and appearing at hearings and administrative proceedings on the County’s behalf.  And George draws a straight line from his FJHP experience to his clerkship and work experience.  “I think every internship helped make me a stronger candidate for future employment,” he observes.  “The biggest benefits of participating in the FJHP are learning how judges and their clerks make decisions, strengthening one’s writing, gaining exposure to vastly different areas of law, and making connections with judges and their staffs.  Over three years, we’re all taught in classrooms about law in the abstract; the FJHP gives students the opportunity to see theory in practice.”
George’s advice to FJHP students and alums applying for clerkships?  First, make sure to follow the instructions in each judge’s job posting: “the most efficient way to thin the applicant pool at the outset,” he recalls, is to reject any applicant who failed to follow directions.  Beyond that, “the most important thing to remember is that you have to show the judge that you are thoughtful and thorough—at the most fundamental level, a law clerk is the judge’s counsel.” 

Prioritize Law School

Kristyn Francese , '18

Kristyn Francese (J.D. 2018) always knew she wanted to go to law school.  “I am very problem-solving focused and I thoroughly enjoy learning.  Both my mother and my uncle are Pace Law alums, and with Pace being in my home county (Westchester), coming here was a no-brainer.  I did not even apply to any other law schools.”

Once Kristyn started at Pace Law she jumped right in.  She joined the Corporate and Commercial Law Society, Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity, and obtained a position as Professor Darren Rosenblum’s research assistant for the spring semester of her first year.  “I wanted to immerse myself and hit the ground running.  In particular, the opportunity to serve as Professor Rosenblum’s research assistant has been invaluable.  Not only did I dive deep into areas I had not previously explored, but the guidance that he gave me throughout my law school career has truly gotten me where I am today.”

When asked about one of the most valuable experiences of her law school career, Kristyn does not hesitate to answer with the Federal Judicial Honors Program.  “My experience participating in the Federal Judicial Honors Program was instrumental to say the least.  As a law school student, I was able to say that I have seen the inner workings of a federal judge’s chambers, which is fascinating.  It is also ultimately what led me to pursue a federal clerkship post-graduation.”

Prior to participating in the FJHP, Kristyn had the opportunity to intern for the Honorable Francesca E. Connolly, New York Appellate Division, Second Department.  In that experience, Kristyn conducted legal research on civil and criminal issues on appeal, drafted legal memoranda for ongoing Second Department appellate proceedings, and even had the opportunity to draft a judicial opinion and order.  Kristyn notes that “some of the most valuable time I spent as a judicial intern was in chambers, discussing complex questions of law on appeal with the Judge and her Law Clerk.”

After her Summer with Judge Connolly, Kristyn went on to complete an externship with the Honorable Cathy Seibel, United States District Court, Southern District of New York as part of the FJHP.  In this time, she assisted law clerks with research, prepared bench memoranda, and drafted decisions regarding pending motions before the Court.

In addition to the Federal Judicial Honors Program, Kristyn spent time while at Pace concentrating on financial compliance.  During her last summer while in law school, she was a Summer Associate for a boutique financial services law firm.  Eventually, Kristyn would like to work on the regulatory side of securities litigation – such as with the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, or one of the regulators like FINRA or the CFTC.  And, even further down the road, she would like to work for a financial firm, such as a broker-dealer, bank, or investment advisor, in the hopes of transferring her skills and experiences to these institutions to help them create and enforce strong compliance programs and hopefully help them avoid securities laws violations and the ensuing litigation.

Immediately next on Kristyn’s radar is the bar exam and then her clerkship.  In July, she will sit for the New York Bar Exam with plans to sit for the California Bar Exam in 2019.  Later this Summer, Kristyn will move to San Diego where she will be clerking in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of California.  “I am looking forward to the next chapter.  I will miss Pace, but am so thankful for the experiences I had and all that I learned and gained.  I would absolutely not have the opportunities I have had and continue to have without my Pace Law education and if not for the amazing relationships and guidance from Professors Darren Rosenblum, Bridget Crawford, and Jill Gross.”

As for advice for current and future students:  “My biggest piece of advice to incoming law students is to prioritize law school in a way where it – attending class, doing the readings, participating, etc. – is not optional.  This can be tough at first, and it may take a while to get into the swing of things, but once your mindset is changed, the path for success has been paved.  I would also tell students to take advantage of the opportunities that Pace gives them.  I don’t necessarily mean over commit yourself by joining every club or to getting involved with every program.  Instead, students should really focus on what opportunities would fit best with their interests, goals, and resume.  For example, I am not necessarily litigation/advocacy focused, so I did not join trial teams or participate in the advocacy programs.  I am much more transactional and I enjoy research and writing.  That is why FJHP and a guided externship at FINRA worked for me.  There are plenty of opportunities – programs, teams, clinics – to fit each students’ particular circumstances.  You just need to take advantage of them.”

An Amazing Experience

Nicole Harkin, '05

Nicole Harkin (’05) attended college at Purdue University where she studied Political Science, German, and Geology. After graduating from Purdue, Nicole pursued opportunities working in government oversight. “I knew at Purdue I was interested in graduate school, but I didn't know what to study. After graduation, I interned for Senator Conrad Burns, R-MT, and then eventually landed as an investigator at the Project on Government Oversight (POGO). While working there, I wrote a report about a uranium mill tailings pile outside of Moab, Utah and as part of my work I read Riverkeepers by former Pace Law professor Robert F. Kennedy. That book set me on the track to Pace."

“My time at Pace was an amazing experience filled with so many different opportunities.” As a Fulbright Scholar during law school, Nicole lived in Berlin, Germany where she studied German environmentalism.    Nicole also had the opportunity to serve as a legal intern with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. “It was so hands on. I became familiar with case investigation, trial preparation, document review, and legal research.”

Despite having a myriad of positive experiences in law school, Nicole describes herself as “the rare law student who realized very soon after starting law school that I did not want to work as a lawyer. The training I received remained relevant to my plans: improved critical thinking skills and excellent writing practice. I continued with law school and am pleased that I did because of the opportunities the experience afforded me.”

At the top of Nicole’s list of experiences while at Pace include traveling with the environmental law program to Brazil and the support and encouragement she received from the Law School, in particular from Professor Linda Fentiman and late staff member Vielka Holness to apply for the Fulbright two years in a row. “The community feeling at Pace Law is not just a feeling, but a reality. I felt supported in all the choices I made as a student about the various paths I wanted to pursue.”

Nicole also fondly remembers her time spent organizing the Environmental Moot Court Competition with a committee of other students. “Today, I remain close friends with the same people who I was on the committee with! It was a wonderful experience that we all still talk about and have in common.”

After graduating from Pace, Nicole spent an additional year in Berlin as a Bosch Fellow researching German’s Freedom of Information Act. She found the work fascinating and loved the experience of living in Germany.

After returning from Germany, Nicole was selected to be a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF). She worked for the U.S. Treasury in Washington, D.C. as an Intelligence Analyst and then Sanctions Investigator. Then, in 2008, she obtained a position as an analyst with the U.S. Government Accountability Office in D.C. “These positions allowed me to focus on the aspects of government and the law that I enjoyed – research, investigating, analysis, and writing.”

It was in 2012, that Nicole made the jump to full-time small business owner. She photographs families on the weekend and during the week writes. “Writing a book was something that was always a long-term goal of mine. It is a full-time job and once I made the switch to treating it as such I was able to publish my first book in June of 2017 - Tilting, A Memoir. And, currently, I am writing a murder mystery set in Berlin, Death in Berlin.” You can read the first chapter of Nicole’s memoir, Tilting, at

Nicole is also a small business owner. She describes herself as a natural-light photographer. “I love capturing memories for people – families, couples, individuals. Each shoot I do is unique in its own way.” You can look at some of Nicole's photography at

In her spare time, Nicole enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, and coffee! As for advice to current and future law students, “Even if you feel like you may have made a mistake attending law school or a traditional attorney career is not for you – think it through carefully. The way you learn to think during law school is unique – you will learn analytical skills that you could not learn otherwise.”