Madison Shaff

JD Candidate '22

Madison Shaff is a 2L at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. She recently received the Jefferson Award for Public Service, a Pace University honor recognizing individuals from the Pace community for their public and volunteer service, and dedication to improving the quality of life in their communities. Madison is also a member of the Pace Environmental Law Review and Secretary of the Student Bar Association.

What brought you to law school?

When I was in high school, I was captain of the rowing team in my hometown. While on the team, I witnessed many changes to the ecosystem around me. As a result of Lake Okeechobee discharges, my river was polluted with nutrients. The waters became uninhabitable to the many organisms that once lived there. These animals were the dolphins, manatees, and fish that made the 6:00AM workouts worth it. Eventually, the team was prohibited from going into the water due how much toxic algae had populated the water. There was no one in a place of power or with a legal background fighting for us, sharing in the loss of something we cherished. I went to law school to be one of the people fighting for polluted rivers. And, I chose Pace for its amazing environmental program.

What has been your most memorable experience during law school so far?

I would say the best part of my law school experience has been meeting some of the most honest and true friends to embark on this journey with. I have met so many genuine people, too many to name, but specifically since the first week of orientation, I have been lucky to have in my company my best friends Mikey Pabon, Abi Monahan Negron, Ashley Grullon, and Tuba Farooqui.

I see that you have been very involved as a law student in organizing suicide prevention trainings for law students – can you talk about that?

YES. This is one of my passions in and out of school environments. When I was younger one of my closest friends passed away from suicide. I know, personally, that people can be struggling all around us without us knowing. It is so interesting to me because everyone has mental health and everyone has struggles, it is a wonder to me why mental health has been stigmatized for so long historically. Specifically, in the legal field, we read cases day in and day out that are “heavy.” We need to unpack that emotional fatigue. I felt that having a suicide prevention training geared toward law student struggles was important so we can keep a watchful eye over all people in our community. Knowing the warning signs and knowing how to start a conversation can be a big help to possibly saving someone’s life.

Can you also talk about the Peer Leader Mentor program?

With so many students entering into a HUGE journey, mostly remotely, we found that the in-hall interactions where 1L’s could possibly meet upper classman would be mostly absent. Paige Guarino and I started the Peer Leader Mentor program last semester and went to great lengths to make sure all students (flex, January, and all 1L sections) were assigned a 2L or 3L mentor. These partnerships were made to have informal conversations about anything that the student may not know, from how to apply to internships, how to nail an interview, what to do when you mess up a cold call, etc. It is still in its beginning phases and we have worked out a few of the growing pains already. I am hopeful that it will continue for the upcoming years at the school, regardless of if we continue remote or move into fully in person learning.

How did you feel when you found out you were a Jefferson Award winner?

I was honestly shocked! I figured there were so many other wonderful people probably nominated – especially when you factor in that the award can be given to anyone (faculty, students, or staff from all Pace campuses). I thought it was a long shot and I was just flattered to have been nominated in the first place.

In your opinion, what makes a good advocate?

A good advocate is someone who questions the status quo. I think that now more than ever people are willing to take a deeper look at the systems that grant them privilege and are willing to fight and advocate for anyone who is being oppressed by those systems. I think the main thing that lawyers should be is open to change and open to changing their own understanding of what is “right” and “fair.” If we can’t be open to change, then we will never improve our legal system to accommodate all people.

You also participate in a web series – tell us about that.  

I am co-host to Approach the Bench TV (ATB). ATB is a talk show web series where my fellow co-host, Mikey Pabon, and I moderate and have dialogues regarding tough conversations. So far, we have discussed COVID-19, Black Lives Matter Protests, and the upcoming topic will be mental health. We have interviewed students and faculty from our very own Haub Law and the broader community of Westchester. You can view episodes at

Any non-law related hobbies or interesting facts about yourself you would like to share?

I am a musical theater nerd. I paint a lot! I used to channel all of my stress into running, but I mostly like to run in gyms. When COVID hit, I really didn’t feel comfortable running in a local gym surrounded by other people, so I turned to art. I recently submitted some work inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement and Police Reform to ArtsWestchester. And, let’s see, a random fact about me is: the only time I have ever broken a bone was due to jumping in a bounce house at age 20.

Shaff art
Original artwork by Haub Law student Madison Shaff

What is next on your law school agenda?

I will be running for SBA president!

Finally, what are your career aspirations post law school?

My dream job is to be an EPA administrative law judge. In a perfect world, I’d also like to reform some of the environmental statues that leave too many holes in our legal system for pollution.