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After a Tour of Iraq, Omar Minott ’11 Returns to Law School

Omar T. Minott has been attracted to the legal profession for some time. “I realized,” he explains, “that in order to effect social change, one is greatly aided by having a mastery of the laws that govern our lives.” Successful legal advocacy can impact clients like few other things in the course of their lifetime. “People don’t always love lawyers,” he adds, “but they never hesitate to call one when they are in need.” Finding the abiding need for effective counsel to be empowering, Minott applied to law school and chose Rutgers–Newark “because of its considerable reputation for training capable members of the legal profession who advocate on behalf of the poor. This sort of emphasis is far from universal in our profession,” he observes, “and I hope it never changes here at Newark.”

Omar Minott in Iraq   
Omar Minott in February 2009 at a school building project he helped with in Umm Qasr, Iraq.   
Minott, who participated in the Army ROTC at James Madison University, spent his first tour of Iraq as second-in-command of a 125-soldier parachute infantry company based in West Baghdad. He was a unit administrative officer in the New Jersey National Guard’s Newark-based unit and a first-year Rutgers–Newark law student when orders for his second deployment to Iraq arrived.

“Everyone I knew here supported my decision to serve on a combat deployment, even if they didn’t necessarily agree with the war,” he recalls. “The students and the administration have both supported me during a difficult time in my life, and I will never forget it. This feeling of still being tied in to everyone here was a great part of what sustained me during a trying time of service. I will always be grateful to the Law School community for embracing me while I was away, and welcoming me back the way it did when I returned.”

Minott returned from Iraq last summer, becoming company commander of a 100-soldier New Jersey National Guard Rifle Company in Newark, and resumed his J.D. studies. Frequently asked to compare law school with the Army, he usually responds that it’s an apples vs. oranges comparison. “Law school is an intense experience in its own right,” he states, “and there are many times when my weekend duty with the Guard was actually a chance for me to get away and do something else less intense. Is law school combat operations? Of course not! Still, I’ve been in the Army my entire adult life, and so much of it is intuitive to me now. Legal concepts are not nearly as intuitive for me. This is the fresh challenge that I sought when I came to Rutgers–Newark though, and I definitely found it!!

Minott is also a student in the Rutgers–Newark School of Public Affairs and Administration. “I believe in the concept of a lawyer being broadly educated in other things besides the law, whenever possible,” he explains, “with that making the individual and the profession of law as a whole stronger.” Additionally, as an Army infantry officer, Minott has come to enjoy leadership/management challenges. Effective management techniques fascinate him as a subject of study. “Lawyers are often asked to leave practice and take on non-legal leadership roles in the public and private sectors. If this opportunity were ever to present itself to me,” he adds, “I would like to be ready for it.”

With exams over, Minott considers his three law school semesters and reports that Constitutional Law with Professor Mark Weiner has been his best experience. “I not only enjoyed the way that he enthusiastically presented the class everyday, but I also found that the subject matter was the most relevant to me as a member of the U.S. military. The separation of powers and the checks and balances at play in the U.S. Constitution have no greater significance than in the decision to commit the country to war. Professor Weiner,” he adds, “brought it to life for me in both a legal and a military context.”

As for career interests, Minott hopes either to practice law for the Army Reserves in the Judge Advocate General Corps or work as a civilian in the U.S. State Department or the Veterans Administration, eventually making it into the federal government’s Senior Executive Service. “The concept of effective government serving the taxpayers for the good of the nation energizes me,” he offers, “and members of the legal profession have historically been in the front of this movement.”