By late February, no one in the law school universe needs time off more than 1Ls. But instead of diving into down time, dozens of first-year St. John’s Law students chose to sample law firm practice as participants in a new experiential program developed by the Career Development Office (CDO).
“We’ve had so much success introducing students to public interest work through our Spring Break Service Program,” says Jeanne Ardan ‘95, the Law School’s Associate Dean for Career Development and Externships. So, I thought it would be great to do something similar for students interested in private practice early in their academic journey. While the CDO team and I were excited about launching the Spring (Break) into Law Practice Experience, we weren’t sure how students would respond to this opportunity to learn in the field.”
The response was robust. In total, there were 51 placements (with several students having two placements) at seven New York law firms:
Each firm designed a full-day or half-day program that, focusing on one or more practice areas, exposed students to day-to-day private practice; provided opportunities for them to network with Law School alumni and other practitioners; and guided them on professional development.
“I’m interested in different areas of the law, like corporate and immigration, so this program was an excellent opportunity to see what that actually looks like in practice and to get to know some of the firms that do work in those areas,” Federico G. Curbelo ’25 shares about his spring break experience at Fragomen, where he learned about the firm’s global business immigration practice as well as its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and pro bono work. He also met with St. John’s Law alumni. “It was great seeing how eager the alumni were to share their experiences with us, and how much pride they took in knowing that we were all St. John’s students,” Curbelo adds.
That pride was shared by Fragomen partner F. Joseph Paldino ’98. “It was an honor to be asked to give back to the Law School by hosting the program,” he says. “The students were dynamic, engaged, and asked well-thought-out questions. The program is invaluable as it exposes the students to an area of the law they may wish to pursue further in the future. The students were truly energized after learning more about our firm and practice area.”
Reflecting on the program, Sarah Leveque ’25 is also enthusiastic about the experience. Before spending a half day at Arnold & Porter, she had never been to a New York City law firm. “It was interesting to learn about the kinds of matters people handle at different points in their career,” she says about the attorneys who spoke with the students. “The presentation was interactive, as they encouraged us to ask questions along the way. We learned about the training the firm gives to associates to develop critical skills for trial work. It was also interesting to hear about some unexpected paths attorneys took in their careers before they started at Arnold & Porter.”
Like her 1L classmates, Francesca Pomara ’25 enjoyed her Spring (Break) Into Law Practice Experience. “At Duane Morris, I was able to learn about a range of practice areas—from immigration law and litigation to intellectual property and trusts and estates,” she says. “The attorneys were incredibly welcoming and informative, sharing details about their different trajectories to law school, about their experiences at St. John’s, and about their day-to-day practice. I’m grateful to them for opening my mind to a career path that can lead to many stimulating opportunities for people from different backgrounds and with varied life experiences. My understanding of private practice is now more nuanced and expansive, which has made the career path more accessible and exciting to me.”
With the success of this year’s program, Dean Ardan looks forward to building on it in years to come. “St. John’s offers students many opportunities to learn about the practice of law hands on,” she says. “The Spring (Break) into Law Practice Experience is a wonderful addition to that suite of offerings, and we’re very grateful to the law firms and St. John’s Law alumni who hosted and supported this year’s inaugural program.”