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Four Women MSP Students at the Helm of Rutgers Law School Journals

A commitment to the principles of excellence, opportunity and impact has characterized Rutgers School of Law–Newark since its earliest days. One measure of that commitment is the school’s exceptional role in advancing women in the law and gender equity, marked by such achievements as: admitting women to its first entering class; creating the first law school clinic to focus on discrimination based on gender; and launching the first legal journal in the country devoted to women’s legal rights.

This year, not only are four of the school’s five main journals headed by women but, in another measure of the distinctive culture at Rutgers–Newark Law, four of the Class of 2013 editors-in-chief (EIC) heading three of the journals are also participants in the Minority Student Program (MSP). Their routes to law school and their post-graduation plans differ but their testimonials to a supportive environment school-wide and a strong MSP community that has helped them to excel are remarkably similar. As EIC Patrina Ozurumba put it, “MSP is a family that I am most fortunate to be part of. Based on my interactions with MSP students and alumni, and wowed by the dynamism of these individuals, I know that being part of this family has broadened my professional network and support group in exciting ways that I have yet to discover.”  

Silvia Medina and Acting Dean Chen
Rutgers Law Review EIC Silvia Medina ’13 with Acting Dean Ronald Chen, 1982-1983 EIC, at the Law Review’s April 2013 reunion.

Silvia Medina, EIC of the Rutgers Law Review, was an evening student during her first three years of law school, commuting 60 miles four days a week to Newark from her IT analyst job with the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) in Trenton. The experience developed strong time-management skills, she said, and “prepared me well for this year as EIC and for my future career.” 

Medina relishes her EIC position on a journal that, published continuously since 1947, regularly contributes to the national dialogue on complex contemporary legal issues. In addition to interacting with outstanding scholars and legal professionals, the opportunity “to work closely with so many of my peers and administrators has really changed my law school experience and fostered a great sense of dedication to both the school and the Law Review,” she said.

As an undergraduate interested in human behavior, Medina majored in psychology at Rutgers University’s Douglass College. Thinking she might want to practice criminal law one day, she also received a certificate in criminology from the university. Instead of heading to law school right after graduation, she heeded the advice both of a friend who suggested that experience within the courts would be valuable to an aspiring attorney and of her undergraduate adviser who counseled working for a few years before law school. 

Medina held a series of increasingly responsible positions as an information technology analyst with the Municipal Court Services Division of the AOC, which at the time was developing and updating its criminal complaint processing system. “My supervisors and directors were very supportive of my decision to attend law school,” she explained, “and allowed me to take on responsibilities that would help me on that path.”

At Rutgers–Newark, she has been a member of the Moot Court Board, Student Bar Association vice president for evening students, Association of Latin American Law Students alumni liaison, MSP study group facilitator and, most recently, a member of the Student Advisory Group for the Rutgers Universitywide Strategic Planning Initiative. 

In the fall Medina will join the Commercial Litigation Practice Group at White & Case, LLP.

Having her name at the top of the Rutgers Race & and the Law Review masthead is particularly meaningful for Alba Aviles. “As the first person in my family to go to law school, I feel that working as a co-EIC is the culmination of my academic journey,” she said. “Additionally, the journal’s mission of increasing awareness about multicultural issues is an ideology that I hold dear. Furthering this mission of allowing Rutgers Law students to engage in progressive, challenging and important discourse has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of my law school career.”

MSP Bravo-Weber and EIC students
Minority Student Program Dean Yvette Bravo-Weber at the April 2013 MSP Banquet with EICs (l-r) Emmy Acevedo, Alba Aviles and Patrina Ozurumba.

Aviles is a cum laude graduate of Syracuse University with a B.A. in international relations and geography. At Rutgers–Newark Law, she has been awarded an Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey scholarship, and has served as co-president of the Association of American Law Students, a Public Interest Law Foundation representative, and a student board member of the Loan Repayment Assistance Program. As a Justice Pollock Fellow, she interned after her 1L year at Clemente Mueller, P.A. and at Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti LLP.

Aviles is clear about why she came to law school: “I became a lawyer to become an advocate.” She plans to use her J.D. to advocate for others in various practice areas and industries.

It’s a goal that she traces to her experience when, as a two-year-old, “my mother led my sister and me out of war-torn El Salvador so that we could join my father who had recently emigrated to the U.S. Although just a toddler, the small steps on this journey were the first of many in an effort to gain a voice.”

Next year Aviles will clerk for the Honorable Walter Koprowski, Jr. Informed by her background and by the Minority Student Program, she also plans to make time to give back to the community. “I see myself,” she explained, “mentoring, advocating for and educating young students who, like me, were new Americans and forced to navigate unchartered waters.” 

Emmy Acevedo and Patrina Ozurumba are co-EICs of the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, whose faculty adviser in its early years was Rutgers–Newark Law professor Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

As Acevedo observed, the position “means following in the footsteps of some very extraordinary women and living up to the journal’s historic roots as the first legal publication devoted to women’s issues.” The Reporter’s first issue, published in July/August 1971, included case summaries in the areas of education, poverty, childcare, and birth control, topics that remain challenges for women. “The EIC role,” observed Ozurumba, “has provided me with an unparalleled opportunity to advance, in a meaningful way, scintillating discussions about women’s legal issues, which are issues that I personally care about.”

The co-editors-in-chief came to law school from different directions. “I knew I wanted to be an attorney since I was in middle school,” said Acevedo. With none in her family to shadow, she joined as many legal-oriented programs as possible to better understand what being an attorney actually meant. “I participated in a mentoring program at Newsweek where my mentor was the general counsel. Subsequently, I participated in the New York City Legal Outreach program where I had the chance to intern at four major NYC law firms (White & Case; Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett; Hahn & Hessen, and WilmerHale) and form one of the most meaningful mentor relationships of my life with an attorney, Carrie Anne Cavallo. All these experiences reassured me that I did indeed want to pursue a legal degree.” 

Acevedo attended Haverford College, graduating with a B.A. in political science and then working as a paralegal for two years. The summer after her sophomore year, she learned that a high school classmate had been killed by her boyfriend. “That event absolutely motivated me to seek out opportunities to advocate for victims of sexual and domestic violence,” she said. “I really believe a more candid dialogue on these issues would encourage more men and women who suffer in silence as victims to reach out for help.” 

Her activities at Rutgers include the Domestic Violence Advocacy Project and the Courtroom Advocates Project, as well as the Community Law Clinic. Since 2009 she has volunteered as an advocate with the Mount Sinai Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Program. 

As for her work on the Reporter, Acevedo said, “Joining the Women’s Rights Law Reporter as a 2L was especially exciting because it touched upon many women’s issues that I care about, including violence against women, equality for women in employment, and women’s rights in general. Now, as EIC, I feel all the more fortunate to have the opportunity to learn to love a different side of the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, namely the business, management, and public relations side.”

Acevedo hopes that a clerkship followed by private practice experience will enable her to open her own practice in the near future. She is particularly interested in family law, trusts and estates, and corporate law.

Ozurumba, who holds a B.A. in economics from Barnard College, worked as a healthcare finance analyst for UBS Investment Bank and an associate consultant in the executive compensation practice at Hay Group before starting law school in 2010. “I have always wanted to be an attorney,” she explained, “but I also knew that I wanted to obtain certain skills that would ensure that I would be a sought-after business lawyer.”

She began developing those skills while at Barnard where, among other honors, she took first place in the Goldman Sachs Institute for Entrepreneurial Thinking Regional Business Plan Competition and was named an Emerging Business Leader by the U.S. Department of Commerce. At Rutgers–Newark she held summer positions at Wyndham Worldwide and the New York City’s Comptroller’s Office; served as 2011-2012 co-president of the Labor and Employment Law Society; and was selected to participate in the New York City Bar Association and the Alliance of Securities and Financial Educators’ Securities and Finance Law Seminar Series. 

Ozurumba also produced two pieces of legal scholarship: “Information Under-Load: Rethinking IP Valuation in the Context of U.S. Securities Regulation,” 19 J. Law, Bus. and Ethics 89 (February 2013) – the only featured student article – and “Girl Power: How Female Entrepreneurs Can Overcome Barriers to Successful Businesses,” 34 Women’s Rts. L. Rep. (forthcoming May 2013). 

As for her year as co-editor-in-chief of the Reporter, Ozurumba said, “I have made it my personal mission to ensure that my peers end the publication year feeling motivated and invited to innovate the processes of our journal, and also rewarded in that they have obtained new skills that will ease their eventual transition to full-time employment. The most rewarding aspect of this role,” she continued, “has been to witness both how my peers have demonstrated greater confidence in their professional abilities by surpassing the demands of the journal and how my peers have likewise challenged me to sharpen my own skills.”

Post-graduation, Ozurumba will be an associate at a New York City law firm with a primary focus on hedge fund and private equity transactions. In five years she hopes to have established a career in the private investment funds sector.