Success Stories

Thomas Sciacca ‘03

Never Stop Improving and Never Stop Giving Back

Taking a chance has proven a valuable asset for Haub Law alumnus Thomas Sciacca over the years. Only four years out of law school, he founded his own firm, and now, fifteen years later, Sciacca Law is a busy full-service law firm handling all types of Trusts and Estates matters. An openly gay attorney, representing the needs and interests of those in the LGBTQ community through his trusts and estates practice is also very important to Tom. He believes in two keys to success (1) never stop improving and (2) never stop giving back. Full of passion for what he does, Tom cannot imagine practicing in any other area of law and credits two Pace professors with shaping his career. Learn more about Tom, his Pace experience, and his practice in this alumni feature.

Your Pace Law story actually started before you were officially a student at the Law School – talk to us about that.  

Prior to attending law school, I was an employee at what was then known as Pace Law School, working as an assistant to Professors Black, Gershman, Sobie, Westerman, and Simon (before she was Dean). When I completed my undergraduate degree, I really had no intention of going to law school (or any other further education for that matter). However, working with these professors really opened my eyes to everything one could do with a law degree; they really impressed me with their dedication to scholarship, community involvement, and pro bono work.

Looking back, which of your professors at Pace really stand out in your memory?

There are two Pace professors that shaped my career – without them I would not be where I am today. First, Professor Bennett Gershman – he is the reason I decided to go to law school. Funny thing about it was that I never actually discussed going to law school with him until after I enrolled – just by working with him and observing his scholarship and passion for justice really inspired me. The best role models lead by example. Second was Professor Kathy Rosenthal, who was an adjunct professor teaching Wills, Trusts, and Estates. I took the Wills class thinking I would not have any real interest in the subject matter – it was just one of those classes students were supposed to take prior to the bar exam. By the end of the semester, I had changed my mind. Not only did I find the topic fascinating, Professor Rosenthal showed me how one could take an interesting practice area and develop it into a rewarding career where I could help people with important personal decisions and help them through tough times. She hired me part-time at her firm while I was still in law school and invested so much time into developing me as a professional. I am forever in her debt.

Four years out of law school, you founded your own firm, Sciacca Law, in 2007 – was that always your plan or what led you to that point?

I graduated in 2003, which was a touchy time for the job market shortly after 9/11. I was very fortunate to take a position as an associate in a small Trusts & Estates firm in Midtown Manhattan and was thrilled to have a job in the field I wanted (as opposed to just a job for the sake of having a job). I worked there almost four years and learned a lot. However, that firm did not do much litigation work and I really wanted to be a Surrogate’s Court litigator. So I started looking around for a new position. When I didn’t find anything I liked, I decided to open my own firm. While running one’s own firm at age thirty can be scary, it is one of the best decisions I have ever made (professionally or otherwise). I was busy and profitable almost immediately. After fifteen years, the firm is still going strong.

Your firm handles all types of Trusts and Estates matters – why those areas in particular?

Simply put, and with all due deference to readers in other fields, Trusts & Estates is the best thing that an attorney can do with their law degree. Lots of people dabble in the field, but doing it well requires such a high level of knowledge in many different Wills. Estates touch everything – substantive law of Wills, but also property, domestic relations, creditors’ rights, and tax (I went on to get an LL.M. in Taxation from New York University School of Law). The field is also incredibly personal. As Professor Rosenthal used to tell me, T&E attorneys bring order to chaos. I find that very rewarding. I couldn’t imagine practicing in another area. Every day I go to work is exciting and there is always something new to learn.

Your firm also has a focus on trusts and estates related to LGBTQ individuals and families in particular, how did that become?

As an openly gay attorney, I am very fortunate to work with so many clients from the LGBTQ community. While I have only been practicing just shy of twenty years, so much has changed in that time period. Prior to marriage equality, LGBTQ couples had little to no protection under the law and often faced Will contests brought by family members they haven’t spoken to in decades. Trusts & Estates attorneys would have to draft estate planning documents to protect against this, often depriving clients of having a simple and streamlined plan. The Will contests would often be incredibly distasteful, with family members coming out of the woodwork and saying incredibly offensive things to challenge the Will – alleging that people lacked testamentary capacity because no sane person could be gay, claiming that a couple who had lived together for over forty years were just roommates, etc. I’ve appeared in Court when blood relatives attempted to set aside someone’s cremation plans over the wishes of the deceased and her surviving domestic partner. This was only about 10-12 years ago. The law has come a long way in that time, and Courts have also. In 2005, I had a client who was HIV+ and a Judge told me that he didn’t feel comfortable having someone like that in the Courtroom. Nowadays, Courts have made a real commitment to inclusion and education of judges and non-judicial staff.

Even though gay marriage is now federally recognized, why is it important for LGBTQ individuals to consult an attorney with experience in LGBTQ estate planning specifically?

To me, it’s cultural. For example, a gay attorney will better understand that not every LGBTQ couple wants to get married even though they may. A gay attorney will be sensitive to the needs of older gay adults who came out during a time when they had absolutely no family support, often moving to Manhattan from rural communities to escape their homophobic families. A gay attorney will understand that LGBTQ people often form “family of choice” rather than just the traditional heteronormative definition of “family.” A gay attorney understands the importance of language in legal documents and in verbal communications to ensure that a client hears the pronouns that best expresses their gender identity. A gay attorney always has a backup plan – sure, you are a married couple, but what if you are in a car accident in some exceedingly backward part of this country where a hospital refuses to recognize your marriage – sure you can go to Court, but the better plan is to have a Health Care Proxy that gives each spouse rights to make medical decisions independent of their status as a spouse. Like with anything else, there is a lot of nuance to learn and those of us who are a part of this community are, in my opinion, more aware of these issues.

You keep a very active law focused blog on your website focused on changes in the law, hot topics, practical advice, and more – how do you stay abridge of it all and why is it important for an attorney to do so?

I believe there are two keys to success: (1) never stop improving myself and (2) never stop giving back. My blog is a great way to do both. When I started my blog ( over five years ago, I wondered if I would quickly run out of things to discuss in twice-monthly blog posts. Oddly enough, that never happened even though we are quickly posting 200 articles (we recently had to add an index due to the sheer volume of content). The blog is a great way to ensure that I continue learning and, even more importantly, continue listening to what is important to people with legal issues in my field. I write the blog to be informative and free, and people contact me all the time to tell me that the information has helped them navigate their own estate planning or Surrogate’s Court experiences. It’s also a great marketing tool – it shows a perspective client that an attorney has the substantive knowledge in their field but also the ability to explain complicated legal concepts in a manner that a lay person can easily understand. For any attorney considering starting a blog, I would highly recommend it.

Circling back to your time at Pace, what were some of the most impactful experiences during your time as a student?

There were lots! I was president of the Student Bar Association, Executive Productions Editor for Pace Law Review, and a member of the Trial Advocacy Team. Pace Law Review published my law review note. I served as a Teaching Assistant to Professor McDonnell and a Research Assistant to the late Professor Gary Munneke. During my time at Pace, I also had part-time work at Rosenthal & Markowitz, LLP and the NYS Attorney General’s Office in White Plains. Pace offered lots of great opportunities and I decided to participate in everything I could – nobody could accuse me of missing out!

Do you have any advice for current or future law students?

Law as a profession offers many opportunities. For those not yet enrolled in law school, consider taking some courses before applying to make sure it is a career in which you will be happy. For law students, I would encourage them to keep an open mind when it comes to their field of interest. When I started law school, I wanted to be a union-side labor attorney. By the end of my first year, I knew I wanted to be a Trusts & Estates attorney. By the end of the second year, I knew I wanted to not only do estate planning, but also litigate inheritance disputes in the Surrogate’s Court. I never even took that Labor Law class!

What are some of your passions aside from the law?

Many. I love teaching and I have been on the adjunct faculty at NYU’s School of Professional Studies since 2006 – I get to work with students ranging from high school students to attorneys attending CLE programs. I also love learning new things; after law school, I took up American Sign Language classes and now I am learning German. Travel is also a big passion of mine. And of course, my husband Jeremy – by far my greatest passion.

A Father-Daughter Q&A with Steven Epstein ‘92 and Alexis Epstein ‘21

Q: Alexis, did your father’s career as a lawyer inspire you to attend law school?

A: Absolutely, I grew up watching him. I would go to court with him all the time when I was younger to watch him in action in the courtroom. I saw the impact he made in people’s lives and learned that I too wanted a career where I could make that difference in someone’s life. I believe that being able to see the reality of what it takes to be a lawyer before coming to law school helped me in deciding whether law was the career for me. My decision to come to Pace was impacted by my father’s experience because he was able to tell me about what opportunities there were before even visiting. Ultimately, coupled with my father’s experience, I also chose Pace because of the number of public interest opportunities and I knew that was something I wanted to go into.

Q: Steven, how did you feel about your daughter following in your footsteps and pursuing a career in law?

A: I was thrilled that Alexis chose the law and especially Pace as her pathway to make a difference in the lives of others and help improve the world we all live in. It is the size of her heart, her desire to succeed, and her intelligence that empowers her to help others. Becoming a lawyer and now a public defender was a perfect pathway to make a difference in the lives of others. How much more proud can a father be than of that.


Q: Alexis, how was your experience at Haub Law?

A: My experience at Pace was great! I was drawn to the criminal justice path and took a number of Professor Dorfman’s classes, such as Criminal Procedure and New York Criminal Procedure. Both classes were very helpful when it came to interviewing and I always enjoyed his classes. He also became a mentor for me outside the classroom, which I greatly appreciated. I also took Professor Mushlin’s Prisoners’ Rights class, which is something I’ve always been passionate about and really enjoyed his class. My last year I was fortunate enough to be in the Criminal Defense Clinic where we represented clients and were able to do so much as students under the practice order. To be able to apply what you’ve learned in a clinic setting was extremely valuable and helped me in securing my post graduate job. Lastly, I was heavily involved in the advocacy program, which solidified that I wanted to do litigation.  

Q: Steven, can you talk about your continued involvement with Pace?

A: I am a founding partner of Barket, Epstein, Kearon, Aldea & LoTurco, LLP and head of the firm’s DWI and Vehicular Crimes group. I have also been an adjunct professor at Haub Law for over 22 years teaching trial advocacy. During that time, I have also been coaching trial teams that compete at various trial competitions representing the School. Most recently, I opened The Steven Epstein DWI Defense Institute, which is an educational program designed to teach lawyers how to defend DWI cases and it is housed at Haub Law. And, I should note, all Haub Law alumni receive a 15% discount on tuition!

Q: Alexis, you are now working in the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office – how has that experience been?

A: Yes, I was fortunate enough to have a position immediately after law school as an Assistant Public Defender with the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office. It has been a tremendous experience so far and I am learning a lot. The Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office is very busy and we have a large caseload. I am in the courtroom each day advocating for everyone to be treated equally and assuring justice for all. It has been a tremendous and eye opening experience seeing a judicial system in another state. 

Q: Steven, what would your advice be for future or current law students?

A: There is nothing in this life that is worthwhile that comes easily. The most rewarding things in life take the most amount of work. So find what it is you want, do not let anyone or anything get in your way of accomplishing it and most importantly work as hard as you can to accomplish that goal. In the words of Derek Jeter, “there may be people who have more talent than you, but there's no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do” - and I believe that.

Hannah Atkinson '24

Community Builder

Growing up in Colorado and spending much of her free time summiting mountains (“14ers” to be exact!), Hannah Atkinson did not know she wanted to attend law school until two months before the cutoff for applications for the year. “I was living in Perth, Australia right before I decided to apply to law school and started attending. I was never particularly interested in the field of law itself, but when I thought about it more, I saw it as a really powerful means to affect policy and have an actual, tangible impact on big issues.”

Now, a rising 2L at Haub Law, recently, Hannah was selected for a prestigious 2022 Rural Summer Legal Corps (RSLC) Student Fellowship. The Rural Summer Legal Corps is a partnership between the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and Equal Justice Works that supports dedicated law students, like Hannah, who want to spend their summer addressing pressing legal issues facing rural communities. Participants (called Student Fellows) have the unique opportunity to explore their passion for public interest while gaining valuable legal skills and experience at LSC-funded civil legal aid organizations. “I found out about this opportunity through the PILC career fair. I will spend the summer working with Legal Services of the Hudson Valley. During this time, I hope to strengthen my skills in research and writing, as well as grow in communicating directly with clients from various backgrounds,” said Hannah.

“At Equal Justice Works, we are committed to building a pipeline of passionate public interest leaders who can ensure equal justice is a reality for more people,” said Brooke Meckler, director of law school engagement and advocacy at Equal Justice Works. “We are excited to have Hannah join our Rural Summer Legal Corps and look forward to supporting her work to combat housing instability for tenants of mobile parks.” The selection process to participate in the program is very competitive and Hannah was one of 40 law students selected to serve in the program from 333 applicants. During her time at Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Hannah will help launch a project to identify with tenants of mobile parks who are at risk of homelessness, have been living with illegal and inhabitable conditions, or have been subjected to other illegal practices.

“When I was volunteering with a largely non-English speaking community in Colorado, the #1 challenge most of them faced was housing instability. It’s an issue that overshadows every other challenge, because you can’t start resolving issues like employment or illness if you’re consumed with worrying where you’ll sleep at night,” stated Hannah. “I came to law school with the desire to use whatever skills I learn to make a positive impact on the environment and also to provide assistance to indigent communities. After law school, I would love to return my home state of Colorado and start my legal career there, working at the intersection of environmental law and human rights.”

With her fellowship coming to a close, Hannah's experience as a Rural Summer Legal Corps Fellow has exceeded her expectations. "I’ve learned quite a bit this summer both about the state of housing law in general, and about the struggle of finding suitable housing and staying housed for indigent individuals and families. It was an honor to work with such high-quality attorneys who genuinely care about their clients. My most exciting summer project was spearheading a new project to create and present a 3-part Know Your Rights series on manufactured home park tenants' rights. The series will be saved and recirculated by Legal Services of the Hudson Valley well into the future. It felt amazing to have a real, tangible impact on the organization so early in my legal experience."

Jessica-Taylor Leaman ‘24

A Passionate Pursuit: From Competitive Dancer to International Law Student

The first in her family to go to law school and pursue a post-graduate degree, Jessica-Taylor Leaman ’24 grew up in Toronto, Canada with her parents and grandparents. Intrigued with the law from an early age, Jessica forged her path to law school by majoring in criminal justice in undergraduate school. “Before I began at Haub Law, I was sure that I wanted to be a criminal defense attorney. However, upon completing my first year, I decided that it wasn’t for me, and I found a new interest in tort and property law.”

Jessica describes her entire experience at Haub Law so far as “welcoming.” “Everyone has been so kind and helpful. The transition as an international student can be especially challenging and the upper year students have truly made my journey here smooth and positive. The professors have been amazing, Professors Mushlin and Czarnezki especially! They truly know how to get the most out of their students. Professor Czarnezki made us laugh each class, and Professor Mushlin reinforced the main concepts every chance he had.”

To further her decision to have a well-rounded law school experience, Jessica is also the representative for the Corporate and Commercial Law Society. “My dream is to work at a firm surrounded by excellent attorneys who will ensure that I never stop learning about the law. As I go through school, I will find my niche but as of now, I am keeping an open mind and embracing whatever opportunities present themselves with open arms.” Jessica is currently completing a summer internship with Bell Temple LLP in Toronto, Canada and is thoroughly enjoying the hands-on learning experience.

In her spare time, Jessica enjoys staying active and focusing on her other passion: dance. She was a competitive dancer until she was 18 and continued as a teacher and choreographer until the summer before her 1L year. “Dance has always been a passion of mine and I like to think that my training has shaped me into a hard working individual who will make a great lawyer.”

As far as advice for future law students, Jessica has two words: stay organized. “There are numerous meetings and networking opportunities that happen on and off campus and it is important to schedule everything in so that you can take advantage of all the opportunities that Haub Law has to offer.”

Faculty Focus: Professor Katrina Kuh

An avid long-distance runner, Professor Katrina Kuh has loved the outdoors since she was a child. This passion for the outdoors turned into a passion for the environment, which led Professor Kuh to pursue her JD, and ultimately, a career in environmental law. Professor Kuh joined Haub Law in 2017 and is currently the Haub Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law and serves as the Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Hack Competition. She teaches Administrative Law, Environmental Survey, Climate Change Law, International Environmental Law, and Torts. Learn about Professor Kuh’s background, her thoughts on traveling, climate anxiety, and more in this candid Q&A.

How did you become interested in environmental law and climate change law? 

My parents always loved the outdoors. We were often tight on money and camping felt like getting something for nothing. Coupled with the fact that I’m a long-distance runner, I spent a lot of time outside. I spent two summers living and working in Boulder, CO just so I could run there. The single biggest predictor of whether a person will care about environmental issues is whether the person spent time in nature as a child with a trusted adult and that was something we did together often as a family.

In terms of climate change, I wasn’t a visionary. In law school, we all had to satisfy a writing requirement to graduate. My good friend wrote a paper on possibly being able to sue large GHG emitters under nuisance. It was ultimately cited by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Connecticut v. EPA.  He was a visionary! I only really started to focus on climate change after I started teaching at Hofstra Law School in 2007. They let me develop a seminar and I created a course on climate change law. Every time I teach climate change law, I think that the next time that I teach it, there will surely be a new federal statute focused specifically at GHG reduction, but, alas, I’m still waiting. As a professor, I really love teaching the class. Every time you teach the class you have to rework it because it is constantly changing and evolving.

What are some of your other projects you are working on?

I just had an article published in the Marquette Law Review, Informational Regulation, the Environment, and the Public, contributed to a report, Legal Aspects of Climate Change Adaptation. I’m working on a couple of new writing projects as well. I’m working on a law review article with a professor from another school that explores eco-necro tourism, or “last chance” tourism, from a legal perspective.  I have previously touched on these issues in a blog  post “How to Travel Responsibly in an Era of Climate Change.”

I’m also writing a book chapter focused on environmental aspects of the constitution with James May, a Pace alumnus and visiting scholar, and editing a book based on a project by the Environmental Law Collaborative, Adapting to a 4 C World.

Earlier this year, a book of which I am a co-author came out - “Climate Change Law: An Introduction.” I wrote this with fellow Haub Law Professors Karl S. Coplan, Shelby D. Green, Katrina Fischer Kuh, Smita Narula, Karl R. Rábago (former professor), and Radina Valova. There are many policy makers who don’t have a JD who are finding themselves working on climate policy issues. Even those who do have a JD may not have taken a course specific to climate policy. This book is a punchy, straight to the point introduction to climate change. We wanted to come together to provide an onramp to climate policy in the US. The goal is to define terms, but also get the readers quickly to the legal questions and debates. I will be using it as one of the texts for the Climate Law class at Haub Law moving forward. I even did a Q&A on the book when it came out to go over the basics of it!

At Haub Law you are the Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Hack Competition - can you talk a bit about that?

Yes, we just announced the problem for the next competition, which invites students to propose a private environmental governance initiative. The goal in selecting and drafting the problem is to find an emerging environmental issue that could benefit from a new perspective and is manageable for students to address in a meaningful way in the competition timeframe. We like encouraging interdisciplinary teams and want to encourage students to think about intersections between law and policy.

How do you deal with Climate Anxiety? 

I’m a worrier by nature and I struggle with this. I was talking with my kids at dinner and said, jokingly, marry whomever you want, just make sure they’re Canadian, so you can get a Canadian passport. My daughter was sobbing the next morning because she felt it was too much pressure to marry someone Canadian. It’s important to think about worrying that’s productive versus unproductive. The best antidote, for me, is feeling like you’re trying to do something. Working on climate mitigation eases my climate anxiety. 

How do you approach travel?

When I travel with my family, I prioritize taking them to special places that will be significantly altered in their lifetimes. We’ve been to the Everglades, Venice, Glacier National Park, glacier skiing in Europe, and to the Galapagos. Over Christmas, I wanted to take my kids to Grande Isle in my birth state - Louisiana. However, due to Hurricane Ida, they’re were not allowing non-residents.

Learn more about Professor Kuh.

Maria Profeta '22

Daring to Dream: First Generation Student Gives Back

A first-generation American, and the first in her family to go to college and law school, Maria Profeta always had the goal to use her education to better her family and her community. Once she decided that law school was the means to that end goal and public interest work would be her focus, she knew that Haub Law was the place for her. Now a 3L, with her journey at Haub Law nearly complete, Maria shares with us her experience as a law student during the pandemic, the mentors she gained, the experiences she values, and what’s next for her.

What are your post-graduation career goals?

I have accepted a position as an Assistant District Attorney with the Manhattan DA’s office to begin post-graduation (after taking the bar of course!).

What brought you to law school?

I graduated from the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University with a BA in International Affairs concentrating in Security Policy. My goal has always been to use my education to better my family and community. I have always been interested in public service and using my degree to help a greater number of people. At times, I thought being a lawyer was a far-fetched dream, but I knew if I had the opportunity to enter into this field I would stop at nothing to make that dream a reality. Haub Law’s glowing public interest credentials, coupled with its strong roots in the local community, made coming to school here a no brainer.

What opportunities have you participated in as a student at Haub Law?

I have completed two internships with the US DOJ’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), as well as interned for the NYS Department of Education, and the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of NY (SDNY). These internships have all been valuable experiences in different ways. I have also had the opportunity to dip my toe into all Haub Law has to offer by participating in the advocacy program, serving as a Vice Chair of NELMCC as well as Chair of the Honor Board, and helping students as Articles Group Editor of Pace International Law Review and as a Dean’s Scholar. Being a Dean’s Scholar for Constitutional Law, Criminal Procedure, Torts, and Contracts was a very impactful experience for me. There is nothing I enjoyed more than meeting the incoming 1Ls each year and helping them navigate their law school journey. These experiences easily translated into my penchant to help others. I would be remiss to forget to mention one of the best rewards of attending Haub Law and being a Dean’s Scholar has been the lasting impact on fellow students I had the pleasure to help along the way, as well as strong friendship bonds that grew from serving the student body as a Dean’s Scholar. Many of my Dean’s Scholar “students” are now Dean’s Scholars themselves and some of my closest friends.

How has the pandemic changed your experience at Pace?

COVID struck during the second semester of my first year, so completing a large portion of my law school career virtually has created some challenges, ones that I know I share in common with the rest of my fellow students. However, I’m grateful to Haub Law for providing a tight-knit community where I could reach out to my peers and professors for help during the beginning stages of the pandemic and beyond. If anything, it made my roots at Haub Law, with my professors, and with my friends even stronger.

Which professors have made an impact on you during your time as a student?

I’ve been fortunate enough to build long-lasting relationships with professors and staff members who have become mentors. This long list of incredible people includes Dean Angie D’Agostino, Dean Jill Gross, and Professors Bennett Gershman and Perry Carbone. I owe a big thank you to Professor and Dean Emerita Michelle Simon, who really took me under her wing for the past three years as her TA, Dean’s Scholar, and research assistant– three experiences that have undoubtedly shaped my law school career and future as a lawyer.  I am grateful to have them all as role models and attribute much of my current and future success to their mentorship.

What are some of your hobbies outside of law school?

I love to garden and cook– especially for those I love. I’m a self-proclaimed tea aficionado. I love music and I play the piano and violin. Both hobbies I hope to get back into after studying for the bar! I also love to travel and spent time before the pandemic solo traveling through Europe, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates. I’m really looking forward to more adventures in the coming years!  I also speak Italian and have a rescue cat named Mildred.

What is your advice for future law students?

Write down your goals, keep them somewhere you can see them every day, and always keep those goals in mind when things get difficult. Also, being a law student is one part of your identity - don’t forget about your family, friends, and other aspects about yourself that make You, You. Lastly, never forget about where you come from and those who helped you get to where you are today.

The Campeche Brothers

Marlon '19 and Ulises '24: A Passion for Immigration Law

Once he decided that he was going to pursue a career in law, Marlon Campeche ’19 knew that the Immigration Justice Clinic at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University would best fulfill his desire to practice immigration law. Knowing that he too ultimately wanted to practice law, Marlon’s brother, Ulises (JD Candidate '24), studied political science in undergraduate school as a stepping-stone towards that goal, ultimately choosing Haub Law to pursue his studies in immigration law as well. In this Q&A, siblings Marlon and Ulises speak about their impactful experiences at Haub Law, the Immigration Justice Clinic, the collegial Haub Law atmosphere, their paths to law school, and more.

What was each of your paths to law school?

Marlon: I decided I wanted to pursue a career in law when I was in high school. I used to volunteer as an ESL teacher to adults at nights. That experience motivated me to believe that I could do more for the immigrant community. Therefore, in college I majored in political science with a clear aim towards law school post-grad. 

Ulises: I’ve always been interested in law, particularly beginning throughout my years in high school. As a senior, I took AP Government & Politics and I feel that that learning experience solidified my interest in the field of law. Studying political science as an undergrad certainly exposed me to a variety of fields, but as I mentioned, I’ve always been drawn to learning and understanding the important role that law and courts have on society, particularly the immigrant community. 

What was it about Pace in particular that appealed to both of you?

Marlon: I chose Haub Law because I always admired, and wanted to be part of, the Immigration Justice Clinic ran by Professor Vanessa Merton. The Clinic serves our local immigrant community in Westchester, the community where my brother and I were raised. I knew choosing to attend Pace and to join the Clinic was the right decision for me.

Ulises: While I chose Haub Law for their network connections with prestigious firms and organizations, I mainly based my decision off what my brother had told me about his experience while at Pace. Law schools have a certain stigma that everyone is constantly competing against each other, but thus far I haven’t felt or experienced that here at Pace. Whether it’s professors or classmates, there seems to be a level of collegiality, companionship, and empathy and that is something I appreciate.

Marlon, what area of law are you practicing in?

Marlon: I currently practice immigration law at a non-profit organization in Brooklyn, New York. I work for the removal defense team, which means I primarily defend people in removal proceedings at immigration court. Many of my cases are asylum-seekers, immigrant children and victims of domestic violence. 

What area of law are you interested in, Ulises?

Ulises: I’ve always been interested in the field of immigration as it’s been a recurring theme in our family. We’re children of immigrants and empathy, humility and determination are values our parents inculcated in us from a young age and is something I adhere to each day. I hope to be able to advocate for immigrant rights, particularly for children facing a legal system alone. 

Which experiences stand out to both of you from your time at Pace?

Marlon: As I mentioned before, my favorite course was the Immigration Justice Clinic. The Clinic provided me with first-hand experience of lawyering real cases, which ultimately was an upper-hand when searching for employment. Professor Merton is so knowledgeable in the field, and her teaching style pushed me to become a better attorney. I will always be grateful for Professor Merton and the Clinic.

Ulises: Although I’m still a 1L, I would say I grew to enjoy civil procedure. It was overwhelming at first, but Professor Mushlin certainly engaged his students and broke down each concept to the most minute detail as possible for us. Also, Professors Mushlin, Kuh, and Humbach were very understanding in light of some personal issues during my first semester and their empathy and understanding was very much appreciated.

Marlon, was there any advice you gave Ulises upon entering law school?

Marlon: Before Ulises entered Pace, I told him it would not be easy. I told him it would be a very different experience than undergraduate and thus he should prepare as much as possible. I did not worry too much, because I know my brother is a hard-worker and very dedicated to his academics. However, I often stress the importance of taking some time off and hanging out with friends -mental breaks are also very important in law school.

Jennifer Kelly-Kennedy '22

An Impactful Experience

Jennifer Kelly-Kennedy knew that she wanted to be a lawyer from an early age. After graduating from Catholic University and majoring in politics, Jennifer spent a few years gaining work experience before studying for the LSAT and applying to law school. Set on focusing on environmental law, she knew that Haub Law was the best option for her. Haub Law did not disappoint, as she experienced a variety of positive internship placements throughout her three years. Now, a soon to be graduate, we asked Jennifer to discuss her Haub Law experience and post-graduation plans with us in this Q&A.

What brought you to law school and Pace in particular?

I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer, from an early age. Neither of my parents nor any of my grandparents were lawyers, but for some reason or another I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. My mom was a nurse and my dad an accountant, and they just wanted the best for me. Growing up, my mom always told me “If you have the ability to help other people, then you have the responsibility to help other people.” And this has always been the mantra I’ve tried to follow in my career, which is why I love environmental law.

My cousin is a successful Haub Law graduate, and she too specialized in environmental law, so it was an easy decision when I chose the #1 ranked Environmental Law program in the country.

You are now a 3L, what experiences from your time at Pace were most impactful?

I enjoyed all of my law school internships and clinic experiences. The spring of my 1L year, I was a research assistant in the Land Use Law Center for Professor John Nolon. There, I assisted Professor Nolon with research for a law review article that had been accepted for publication. During my 1L summer, I was the Environmental Law Clerk at PSEG, where I assisted attorneys in Superfund litigation work. I was also a judicial intern for a Magistrate Judge in the Southern District of New York in the spring of my 2L year, where I performed citation checks, case law research, and helped draft a Report and Recommendation regarding a federal habeas corpus petition. I was also the Vice-Chair of the Judges Committee for NELMCC as a 2L, where I learned the importance of patience when helping organize a large, virtual event.

My 2L summer I interned at the EPA Region 2 in their NJ Superfund Division, where I did a lot of legal research on a variety of issues, including CERCLA’s petroleum exclusion, as well as corporate liability under the Office of Alien Property Custodian. The fall semester of my 3L year, I was a student attorney in the Food and Beverage Law Clinic, where I provided transactional legal services for a beginning farmer project in upstate New York, as well as performed legal research and analysis on U.S. Trademarks, preparing applications for trademark filings, all under the guidance of Professor Jonathan Brown.

Additionally, I’ve been a member of Pace Environmental Law Review for the past two years, as a Junior Associate as a 2L, and Managing Editor as a 3L. This year, PELR hosted a symposium, in which we invited eight panelists to speak on the topic of Labor and Environment: Envisioning a Green New Deal.

I say all this to drive the point home that, I am proud of all of these experiences and grateful to have had so many opportunities at Haub Law, as I’ve learned something different from each one, and made great connections along the way.

I have also been very fortunate to have had many professors at Pace that have made an impact on me, but two specifically stick out: Professor Katrina Kuh, who I had as a 1L for Torts, as well as being just a great mentor to me in the environmental program and as I wrote my law review note; and Professor Alissa Bauer, my 1L Legal Skills and AAA professor, who taught me to be the best legal writer I can and have more confidence in my skills. I am truly very thankful for their kindness and guidance.

What are your plans post-graduation?

I have accepted a post-grad position as an Honors Attorney at the Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C. I am beyond thrilled to be working for the federal government again, this time as an attorney. It is a two-year position, where the Honors Attorneys rotate between the different Administrations (FAA, FTA, Office of General Counsel, etc.) every few months, in order to get a better sense of what each division does. I am excited to incorporate all of my environmental law experience and knowledge in with my future work at the DOT. Environmental issues and DOT projects go hand-in-hand, and after the recently passed Infrastructure Bill, the DOT is going to be busier than ever! For me, this is a dream job, and I cannot be more thankful to the many people that have helped me along the way. I’m not sure if I would have been as competitive of a candidate if I weren’t a Pace environmental law student.

What is your advice for future law students?

Be kind, we’re all in this together, and the law community, especially the environmental law community is smaller than you think, so maintaining positive relationships with colleagues is crucial. Stay humble, everyone has good days as well as bad. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a Haub Law alum and learn from their experiences. Take advantage of opportunities presented to you, even if you don’t think it’s what you’re interested in, and don’t be discouraged if setbacks happen. Trust the process!

Faculty Focus

Visiting Professor Debra Moss Vollweiler

Debra Moss Vollweiler is a Visiting Professor at Haub Law for the spring semester of 2022, and the 2022-2023 Academic Year. While at Haub Law, Professor Vollweiler is teaching Secured Transactions, Corporations and Partnerships, and Contracts. She is a tenured Professor of Law at Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad College of Law, in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and is the former Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Interim Dean of the College of Law. A frequently published scholar, her research and works have focused on professionalism, teaching, learning, and attorney discipline. An expert on the law school curriculum and teaching, learn more about Professor Vollweiler, her background, career, and advice for law students in this student-led Q&A.

You are teaching Secure Transactions and also Corporations and Partnerships at Haub Law this semester, what brought you to Pace?

I am currently a Visiting Professor here at Haub Law - from Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law in sunny, warm Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I recently finished five years of intense administrative work at NSU. I was the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and I was the interim dean for a period of that time as well. I was Interim Dean during 2020, which meant I was in the seat when the pandemic hit. I was actually serving in both roles simultaneously at that time. We did get a new dean, and I assisted with that transition, but I ultimately decided that I was not spending as much time on teaching, which I truly love, because of that intense administrative role I had. So, I was looking for a way to return to teaching and that can be hard to fully immerse yourself in when you've been an administrator on a faculty. Nobody ever kind of really wants to let you go. And so my thought was if I could visit at another institution, it would give me the space and time to really dedicate myself fully into what I love to do and teaching and sort of be a hard break from what I was doing I loved my time as an administrator, but I am just so thrilled to be back in teaching.

I am from New York and I actually have a ton of family up here, my children are in New York, Boston, and Maryland, and we already had an apartment in New York.  Being in this area was a big draw and when I thought about making the change, and when I saw that Pace was looking for someone whose teaching aligned exactly with what I wanted to do, I was immediately interested.  I met some of the faculty and talking to them, I thought it was a great place to relaunch my full-time teaching journey so I'm thrilled to be here.

Now that you have been here, what do you think about Haub Law?

Actually, I have loved everything about it. I'm so impressed with everybody at Pace, everybody has really been very welcoming and helpful. Everyone is so dedicated to what they do-- students, faculty, staff alike. I'm really impressed with that. 

You have mentioned a few times that your true passion is teaching – can you tell me about that?

When you look at some people's scholarship, they really connect their scholarship to the substantive law of what they do. People who teach environmental law often write about environmental law. My scholarship from the very beginning, and I'm going back 20 something years, has been about teaching, so I have spent the bulk of my career, not just being a teacher, but reading about good teaching, trying to think about teaching, and writing about teaching.

Since people who teach in law school don't necessarily come through the same path as other teachers-- if you wanted to be a K through 12 teacher you need certain degrees and student teaching and training, I've spent a lot of time reading about the formal training and reading into those resources that other kinds of teachers get and trying to import them and translate that to law school teaching.

Most faculty talk about their scholarship and their teaching dovetailing, but mine is a little different, as it is about the idea of teaching, not about contracts or corporations or secure lending. So I have literally spent my entire career thinking and learning how to be a teacher. I will say also when I was waiting for my bar results when I took the bar exam (I'm licensed in Florida) and it was a long wait for the bar results, I actually paid the bills by being a substitute middle school math teacher. So, that was actually where I got the idea that you know there's a lot more to teaching than we think about, and I went into practice after that. I didn't go right into teaching, but that was the first seeds of my personal understanding that teaching was a discipline to itself. In addition to the law, you could pair it with whatever subject you want, but it's a discipline that was sort of the root of that idea.

So, if anybody needs help with their algebra homework, you can let me know!

Cupcake NY
Professor Vollweiler is pictured here in front of a cupcake ATM in New York City, which she uses as a case study in her Secured Transactions class.

What are you currently working on right now?

I am currently working on an article that takes a concept that I saw once in passing, that's being used in other parts of education. I'm trying to think about how to use this in law education, which is something called a “skill”abus--replacing a traditional syllabus with a “skill”abus . I am reading and investigating everything I can find about how to do this and how this idea hasn't really formally reached law schools. Traditional syllabi are focused so much on doctrine--you know, 'in this class we're going to cover this case' and in this case gross negligence and corporate formation and whatever the doctrine is of the course.

However, there are skills that you're teaching underlying that doctrine in every course, not just how we think in law school of skills courses like interviewing and counseling or trial advocacy, but that in every single course your teaching skills are built in. These could be anything from oral advocacy to critical thinking to whatever it is, so a “skill”abus signals the building of the skills into the benchmark of the syllabus so that this becomes more transparent and apparent to students. The whole goal of the course, and my idea, is to explain the concept of skills in every course, why they should be up front for students, not hidden underneath the doctrine of the syllabus, and to model some ways that we can reimagine syllabi to be “skill”abus.

What advice do you have for students who one day would like to go into contracts or secured lending?

I think for students who want to go into contracts or secure lending. I think there's two things I want to get across. Number one – I think it's important to not dismiss the importance of foundational courses.

I think sometimes students get frustrated in a course like contracts or corporations because you're not drafting contracts, and you're not actually learning exactly the steps to take in whatever state you're in to form a corporation and to incorporate something--you're learning the underlying foundational theories and principles. So I would say my first advice to students is don't diminish the importance of those foundational courses. Understanding all of those underlying concepts and how they relate to one another is a really important step. 

My next advice would be, then if you're still interested in the subject after the foundational courses, or if you become interested after the foundational courses, take as many levels in the subject as you can. If you can, take what the ABA would call a simulation course workshop, such as in a contract drafting that gives you the opportunity to apply your foundational knowledge to fictional clients. But then, close the loop and take that learning into a live client experience, whether it's through some type of a clinical experience or an externship or any type of position to appreciate each step of that path and what you learn at each point. Don't try to jump to the end right away. Don't try to say, well, I'm just going to get a job and learn there, I don't need all of this training.

I think that you will be a better lawyer by having taken your time and really practicing the skills at every step. I also want to say that even if you think you don't want to do contracts, or secured lending or deal with sales of goods, it's so ubiquitous in the world, that it's kind of hard to find an area of law where you're never going to touch any of those subjects. So I would encourage all students to take these kinds of foundational courses.

I can tell you I once had a student a long time ago, sat in the very back of my contracts class, who very clearly did not like the contracts class and one day before class I was just chatting with people get to know them. And I said, so what are you thinking of contracts and he says, I hate this class, I don’t want to learn it. I just want to be a sports lawyer. Of course, sports lawyers do contracts constantly. But in first year contracts, there are no sports law cases --you're talking about an opera house that burned down and you're talking about somebody not showing up for work on a sailing ship in the 1800s. But you still need to learn these foundations.

So that would be my other piece of advice, keep your mind open to all of the things that you want to do.

Thank you for doing this, I have friends in your classes and they absolutely love the class and have mentioned how great of a teacher you are.

I'm glad to hear they're enjoying the class. I really love these classes, so it's always nice when someone else shares my enthusiasm. It is always nice to hear that feedback regarding my teaching since I have spent a good deal of my scholarship and focus on thinking about teaching; really, it is actually wonderful to hear.  I am looking forward to returning next year!

Fencing DMV
Outside of the law, Professor Vollweiler enjoys many hobbies, one of them being fencing. You can see her on the right, scoring a touch against a colleague. She rediscovered her collegiate sport during the pandemic.

Learn more about Debra Moss Vollweiler.

Pamela Guerrero '22

Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow

A first-generation US Citizen, Pamela Guerrero entered law school with a passion for immigration law. Throughout law school, she followed that passion by participating in the Immigration Justice Clinic. Now, a 3L, after the bar exam, Pamela is set to follow her dreams as she was awarded a prestigious Immigrant Justice Corps Fellowship.  Learn more about Pamela, her background, her experience with Haub Law’s Immigration Justice Clinic, and more in this Q&A.

Let’s start off with you telling us a bit about your background and how you chose Haub Law.

I am a first-gen US citizen from Dominican parents who originally moved to Washington Heights, Bronx, New York, but then settled in Westchester. My parents are both professionals (administrators in education), but neither of them ever served as lawyers in this country so I am also a first-gen law student. As a child, I had the rare opportunity of attending the first public Montessori School in Yonkers, NY and then went on to double major in Political Science/International Studies and minor in Spanish at Manhattanville College. I graduated from my undergraduate program a semester early and immediately started at Haub Law as a January admit. 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, Pace was the perfect place for me and I saw it as a place with diverse learning opportunities.

You mentioned, immigration law as an interest of yours, are there any other areas you have developed an interest in?

Yes, International Law and Health Law.

You are now a 3L, thinking back, which experiences at Haub Law have stuck with you?

Participating in the Immigration Justice Clinic. The Clinic has challenged me by making me learn how to do all the practical tasks of lawyering (such as maintaining client files and setting appointments) on top of the usual lawyer tasks related to client representation. It has also made me intellectually engage with other immigration lawyers within NYS and actively question the purpose of many immigration laws. The pandemic may have limited the contact I could have had with clients, but I have still been able to prep clients for hearings and learn how to establish rapport with potential clients. Finally, the clinic has provided me with a community of students that are interested in doing the best pro bono work possible and this has encouraged me to improve myself as a person and as a legal advocate. 

Along the same lines, which professors have had an impact on you?

Professor Smita Narula and Professor Vanessa Merton have made an impact on me. Seeing their passion in their work firsthand is inspiring and serves as a continuous reminder that there are lawyers who strive to work toward better for the clients that they serve. Both professors are also very research-oriented, which has taught me that being a lawyer can also mean being a student for life and that is a good thing. 

Which student organizations are you involved in on campus?

I am an E-Board member for the NLG – Pace Chapter. I am also president of the International Law Society. My participation in campus activities has allowed me to engage with many members of the Haub Law community and contribute to the excellent camaraderie that was already there. Just because we are in law school, studying and working hard a lot, doesn't mean we can't have exciting events that create great memories.

What does justice mean to you?

To me justice means that everyone is provided with the resources they need to thrive in their country and that no one person or group of people is left behind. We normally touch on equality when discussing justice, but what is really needed is equity because not everyone has the same socioeconomic needs. Instead of striving to make everyone equal we must simply do better and allow every difference to be accounted for in any conversation related to societal improvement. Thus to me justice is essentially equity and encouraging support for people/groups that have been traditionally disenfranchised and marginalized. 

What are some of your hobbies outside of law school?

I enjoy hiking on local trails and doing some urban exploring in NYC. The harder the trail is the better it tends to be (Bear Mountain is one of my favorites for hiking due to distance and challenge). As for urban exploration, I keep all the places in NYC that I hear about saved on my google maps and then take a day to visit all the doable places. I tend to find a lot of rare food places like an ice cream place that does ice cream towers in a jar or unique hobby places. I also tend to frequent The Strand, a very large bookstore in lower NYC. I also enjoy traveling outside of New York and have been to Chile, Switzerland, France, Canada, and other far-flung places.

What are your plans after law school?

I was awarded an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellowship and received a post-graduation immigration law placement with The Advocates for Human Rights in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Before I leave, I plan to study for and take the NY Bar exam and perhaps hike the Catskills one last time.