LAW SCHOOL: Albany Law School
UNDERGRADUATE: B.A., Political Science; Minor in Business, State University of New York at Albany
HOME CITY/STATE: South Salem, New York
Joseph Rosati, a 3L at Albany Law School and executive editor of the Law Review’s New York Appeals issue, was both smart and lucky when it came to earning his JD. He was smart, he said, in understanding the kind of institution in which he would thrive as a student. That included the importance of size, location and cost of attendance. He was lucky, he added, in choosing a law school whose professors are both top-notch teachers and recognized statewide and nationwide as authorities in their fields, and whose classes include hefty doses of practical skills learning.
“I didn’t even consider the quality of the professors and classes when I was doing my research and deciding among several schools,” Rosati said in e-mails and a telephone interview.
Nor did he consider the strength of a law school’s geographic reach – in terms of supportive alumni and links to employers – in the places where Rosati said he intended to look for jobs.
“It is harder to make it in certain geographic markets, such as New York City and Boston, if your law school isn’t located in those places,” he said. “That’s why you need to be aware of the strength of a school’s alumni network and the supportive nature of those alums, along with any ties your professors or deans have to specific employers.”
As Rosati said, he managed to opt for a law school that helped him master the necessary skills and could advance the career he wants (corporate law at a large firm) in the city that he likes (the Big Apple). Now working in Albany Law’s admissions office, he says that he’s trying to assist prospective students in making good choices by design, not by default.
To smart and lucky, add determined to pay it forward.
LAWDRAGON: Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
JOSEPH ROSATI: I was always interested in the academic part of law – the subject matter, although I admit that my notions of what the law entailed were probably based more on the courtroom dramas I watched on TV. I took a basic law class as a high school senior and took to it as a very interactive subject, too. We even did a kind of moot court competition.
Then in college I took more law-related classes and found that the subject matter really did intrigue me, almost as much as the thought process, the critical thinking that I realized I would learn. I knew that those thinking skills would take me anywhere I wanted to go: to the New York State Assembly, for example, where I once interned. Many representatives were trained as lawyers. I suppose that in the end, the legal process – the basis for a lot of the work we do – and the thought process appealed to me. And the only way I’d be exposed to them would be to go to law school.
Once I was in law school and interning in the District Attorney’s office, I saw how the law is a part of people’s everyday lives. In corporate law, there is so much that is cutting edge or that involves exciting transactions, it’s hard to wrap your head around the breadth of whom they will affect and in what ways.
LD: What were key factors you used to choose your law school?
JR: Size, location, scholarships and cost of attendance were the main factors in my choice of a law school. I was looking for a small to mid-sized school with a good student-to-faculty ratio. Location within New York State was important. As a result, I seriously considered only Albany and New York City (my preferred post-law school destination). Total cost of attendance was a big factor, and there ended up being a big difference between Albany and the New York City schools.
I focused on small to mid-size institutions because I wanted the opportunity to develop the relationships with faculty that a small school gives you. It is easy to get lost in a big school, and while it has its perks and I had a great experience at SUNY-Albany, I felt that there could be a lot of advantages to pursuing a graduate degree at a small school.
Growing up in New York had a lot to do with me wanting to stay in the state and work in the city. I like the place and, frankly, it’s what I’m used to. I considered attending law school in Georgia because my family moved there a few years ago, but having spent some time in Georgia, it just didn’t feel the same. I think I took New York City for granted growing up, and didn’t realize how different it is from many other cities.
I admit that it was tough choosing between Albany and New York City law schools. As I said, I knew I wanted to work downstate, but Albany is such a great city for students and young professionals. It has several universities and, as a city, has seen a lot of positive change in recent years.
A lot of my choice came down to the cost of my law degree and what I thought gave me the best chance at success. I was comfortable in Albany; I knew the area, and I wasn’t worried about a big adjustment to a new place while also transitioning into law school. The cost of living in Albany is so low compared to the city that at the time, it felt right to stay.
One thing I learned is that alumni connections can be crucial to employment opportunities, and that holds especially true at Albany Law. A lot of Albany Law alumni are invested in the success of students and recent graduates, and they demonstrate that in every way possible: from being available to students for job-search advice to actively recruiting Albany Law grads.
Albany Law places people at some of the same big firms as the top law schools and I was fortunate to get that opportunity, so I don’t think that attending a school upstate over a New York City school affected my employment outcome at all. Looking back, I think it may be harder to break into the New York City market from a school outside the city, but people do it every year from Albany Law.
LD: What do you wish you’d known about law school before enrolling?
JR: I was fortunate to end up at a law school where many professors are distinguished statewide and nationwide authorities in their fields, as well as being amazing teachers who have taught me a tremendous amount. I say that I was fortunate because I didn’t even consider the quality of the professors and of the regularly available classes when I was researching law schools. Now I would counsel all prospective law school students to focus on this in their decision-making process.
I also wish I knew more about summer associate recruiting, and the barriers to entry in certain geographical areas. Let me explain. I knew that summer associate work often leads – or, you hope it leads — to full-time job offers. What I didn’t know going in is that a lot of the summer associate recruiting is determined solely on first-year grades, as many recruiting programs take place in the fall of the 2L year. That being said, it’s possible to secure a 1L summer internship, 2L summer internship and possibly a job offer all from one year of law school.
I was also lucky to end up at a law school with an impressive selection of classes focusing on or incorporating practical skills, such as negotiations, trial and appellate advocacy, and mediation, in addition to clinic and field-placement opportunities. Practice classes are a great way to try out different areas of the law and to gain some valuable experience learning the basics that will allow you to be more immediately effective in practice.
As far as barriers to entry in certain geographic areas, I’m referring to it being slightly harder to break into certain markets, such as New York and Boston, when you attend a law school outside that specific area. Being able to tap into a strong alumni network can certainly help you move past that barrier. Again, I’d advise prospective law students to consider where they want to work and how strong a network of alumni and potential employers each law school has in that geographic area.
LD: What has been your most memorable or valuable experience?
JR: Definitely the Gabrielli Appellate Advocacy Moot Court Competition. This is a competition for second-year students focusing on both oral advocacy and brief-writing. Teams of two students are given a case to appeal to the Supreme Court. Four of the final-round judges were federal judges from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.
Each team must write a brief addressing two specific issues on appeal, and then argue the case before a three-judge panel. Teams advance through a series of rounds culminating in a final round before a panel of five judges. Practicing so many important skills and gaining experience with oral arguments made it a memorable and valuable experience, and fun.
My internships were both personally rewarding. I spent my 1L summer interning for a Magistrate judge at the U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York. At the time I was exploring litigation as a possible career; this gave me a great perspective on both civil and criminal litigation. I was able to watch different aspects of several trials and court proceedings, and participate in meaningful discussions with the judge and his clerks in chambers. I will always be thankful to the judge for giving me that experience and opportunity.
At the Albany County D.A.’s office I interned in the Appeals Bureau. Under the guidance of my supervising attorney I was able to draft two appellate briefs submitted to the Third Department, and was able to appear in court on the record for a proceeding related to a negotiated plea.
LD: You’re involved in an interesting combination of extra-curricular activities, not all law-related, yes?
JR: True. But they are all longstanding interests of mine. I went out for executive editor of New York Appeals, one of four annual issues of the Law Review, for a few reasons. First and foremost, everyone on Law Review puts in a lot of effort every week, and many long hours – especially the sub-editors. I felt that after putting in all that time it made sense to follow through with that commitment and apply for an E-Board position.
E-Board has been a rewarding experience socially – we’ve had great times together, which makes the long hours much more tolerable – and academically. From a career standpoint, a position on E-Board reflects a large time commitment and a marketable skill set that includes experience in writing, legal research, attention to detail and time management.
I became involved with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany as a volunteer seven years ago during my freshman year in college through a community service program at SUNY-Albany. I started helping out with the after school program one or two times a week. The club provides a safe place for kids of all ages to have fun, do homework and be a part of some great educational programs.
During college, I started spending a lot more time at the club and getting involved with the preschool and after school programs. I also lifeguarded at the summer camp and worked as a youth development professional during the school year. Once I began law school I couldn’t continue with the same time commitment, but I have stayed involved by serving on committees for the annual Red, White & Chocolate fundraiser and participating in other activities such as the very popular Dodgeball Tournament. This has been one of my favorite experiences over the years and I hope to be able to continue to give back and stay involved with the Club.
I dived into the admissions program at Albany Law during my first semester by volunteering as one of several so-called admissions ambassadors. We are all enrolled students who give tours, attend information sessions and help out with various aspects of the admissions process.
I started as a work-study student in the Admissions Office the following semester and have recently begun to help oversee and train incoming admissions ambassadors. It’s a great office and a lot of fun to be a part of that team. I think it is important for any Admissions Office to involve current students in the recruiting process, as they know best about day-to-day student life, and prospective students can usually easily identify with them.
I just try to give prospective students as much information as I can to help make the admissions process and their ultimate decision as easy as possible.
Then there is my saltwater fish tank. As a kid I had a small freshwater fish tank; but then one of my favorite childhood books was Rainbow Fish. My roommates and I had one throughout college. During my first semester in law school I decided to take on the challenge of saltwater fish. I always loved snorkeling, and being able to recreate a coral reef in your home is exciting and fun.
LD: What do you plan to do with your law degree?
JR: After the bar exam I plan to join Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP in New York City, with a focus on corporate law. Working in New York City was always my goal, but my focus has shifted from litigation to corporate after my summer associate experience.
When I entered law school, I never expected to work at a prestigious firm such as Cahill Gordon. But after interviewing with a lot of firms, I jumped at the Cahill Gordon opportunity when it was offered. It simply stood out as having all of the things I felt were important: It has a good alumni connection to Albany Law. It has a great firm culture – I really felt at home there from the very first visit. Cahill offers the big deals and cutting-edge issues that usually characterize big New York City firms and all the great qualities and advantages of a smaller firm.
I know this firsthand since I had an amazing summer associate experience with Cahill. I was able to dig into interesting work in a variety of practice areas. I met a lot of wonderful, smart and supportive people. I feel that we’re a great fit.
Contact Margot Slade at (914) 396-4248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.