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Kelly Anne Targett, Class of 2009

In nominating Kelly Anne Targett to deliver the student address at commencement, members of the graduating class cited her many achievements – top grades, clerkship on the New Jersey Supreme Court, member of Law Review and Moot Court, first place oralist in the appellate advocacy competition, semi-finalist with the appellate nationals team, summer associate position with an international law firm, Minority Student Program facilitator, Legal Research & Writing teaching assistant – all while working full time and attending Rutgers Law School as an evening student.

Targett first learned to successfully juggle a full-time job and part-time studies while an undergraduate at Rutgers–Newark. She graduated in May 2005 summa cum laude with a B.A. in political science and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honors society. Law school at Rutgers–Newark seemed the inevitable next step.

Kelly Targett 

 Kelly Anne Targett

According to family legend, Targett’s father began telling anyone who would listen when she was still an infant that his daughter would become a lawyer. “That’s because I was a great debater on every subject as soon as I could talk,” she explains. It was “innate stubbornness” that initially sent her down a different career path. “After high school, I started college at NYU with visions of myself as the female counterpart to Indiana Jones.” A double major in medieval/Renaissance studies and archeology when a deteriorating family situation forced her to drop out, Targett worked several part-time jobs to support herself during the eight years it took to return to college.

Her first full-time job during that period was as a legal assistant at the law firm Koch, Koch & Bennett in her hometown of Kearny. She later worked for two busy sole practitioners with very broad practices. Law seemed to suit her yet she still wasn’t sold. It took a fellow Rutgers undergraduate to convince her to take the LSAT by asking “What else are you going to do next year?” Rutgers Law School, with its reputation, proximity to home, and cost, was always one of her top choices. “It was only when I arrived here that I had a true sense of how tight-knit and supportive the community is. Needless to say, my choice to attend Rutgers is one decision I have never regretted.” 

For most of her four years, Targett worked for Connell Foley LLP, first as a legal secretary and then as a marketing coordinator. Attending law school as an evening student was never really a choice. “I have been completely independent for more than a decade,” she explains, “and so I had no alternative means of support other than full-time employment.” Not surprisingly, she finds that “the more I have to do, the more I am able to get done, and the better I am at doing it.” Working full-time while attending law school certainly isn’t easy, but Targett is not convinced she’d want it any other way. “I certainly don’t envy the day-student lifestyle,” she says. “I always imagined exam time must be incredibly difficult when you have back-to-back subjects with no real break. To me, that requires tremendous organization and perseverance. I need to have multiple projects at all times so that I can shift focus when my mind starts to wander.”

Determined to get involved in extracurricular activities despite her status as an evening student, Targett often found herself extending already long days past 11 pm to accommodate office hour requirements for law journals and moot court. Mandatory meetings and events as well as exam time meant taking vacation days from work. That flexibility, she points out, is not possible for all evening students. She hopes that as the legal profession places a greater emphasis on mentoring and inclusiveness, law schools become more accommodating to evening students so that fewer are forced to choose academics over activities.

Targett left her full-time position with Connell Foley in May 2008 so she could have another great legal experience – working as a summer associate for Proskauer Rose LLP in its labor and employment department. This year, with scholarships from the law school as well as from the Executive Women of New Jersey and Hudson County Bar Association, savings from the summer, and work as a research assistant, she was able to attend school full-time and fulfill another goal – to participate in the clinical program.

The best overall experience at Rutgers, she says, was working with the criminal section of the Urban Legal Clinic. “Laura Cohen is an amazing advocate with a passion for justice that is absolutely infectious. I was on my feet in a courtroom on the very first day, and left the courthouse with two clients depending on me. It was overwhelming and at the same time exhilarating, and before the semester was finished I found myself dramatically changed by the experience. A clinic inspires the kind of learning and self-confidence that simply cannot be taught in a traditional law school classroom.”

Asked to identify what she’ll remember most about her law school classes, Targett offers, “Rutgers has some super-star faculty members, and I have been honored to be taught and truly mentored by some amazing individuals, including Jim Pope, Anna Gelpern, and Kim Guadagno. When professors are not mere instructors but scholars and practitioners with real passion, enthusiasm and eagerness to impart their knowledge, the learning experience rises to a whole new level.”

Looking back on the past four years, Targett offers this advice to incoming law students: “Know yourself. Know your capabilities. You’ll neither defeat yourself in an endeavor before you begin nor accept more responsibility than you can handle. Remember that at the end of the day, it’s not the number of activities or societies to which you attach your name, but the reputation that you earn for yourself through your involvement in those activities that matters.”