After a paralegal career in e-discovery, Joshua Demopoulos finds Fordham Law—and a family.
When Joshua Demopoulos ’17 received his undergraduate degree from NYU, he had many academic interests, but no one career path in mind. He hoped that some type of graduate school was in his future; after all, Josh had always worked while in school and felt nowhere near done with his education. He had taught consistently for America Reads, including one year in a second-grade classroom in Hell’s Kitchen, and another helping at-risk high school ESL students in the East Village. After taking the LSAT and working at Proskauer for nearly two years, law school or medical school seemed almost inevitable. While Josh’s mind was not quite made up regarding his professional life, his heart was leading him in a more certain direction.
Late in the summer of 2009, Josh met Sabila, a young woman studying physics at City College, after he posted an ad online looking for a third roommate to share a three-bedroom he was renting in Ridgewood. Despite Sabila’s initial misgivings about the commuting distance from Queens to Harlem, she was intrigued enough by the humorously written ad to travel to Ridgewood and meet Josh. It was fate. Josh didn’t just find a roommate; he found the woman of his dreams. Josh and Sabila were married in 2012.
Shortly after Josh and Sabila met, Sabila’s teenage sister had to move away from her home overseas due to family misfortune. She needed a nurturing home environment where she could be with family, finish high school, and go on to college. Josh decided then to take on a big commitment: a family. Sabila’s sister moved in with him and Sabila.
When Josh joined Dechert as a litigation paralegal in 2011, he came with a wealth of experience relating to document collection and discovery as well as in the systems and programs that composed e-discovery. In his previous legal positions, he had become familiar with litigation and document review tasks and improved his overall knowledge of the systems and technologies that helped him complete the tasks efficiently. Once at Dechert, he was even able to do some of his own computer programming, which he then fed back into the e-discovery programs to improve them.
“I put myself at the intersection of law and tech, where I could help lawyers work better and faster,” says Josh. E-discovery had unexpectedly become his bread and butter, at a time when his family needed both.
At Dechert, e-discovery had so thoroughly consumed Josh’s working day that he had trouble broadening his horizons, which is exactly what he would need to do given the rapidly changing landscape of legal practice. Technology was constantly improving, and firms were increasingly eliminating internal discovery teams in favor of outsourcing that work to vendors. If Josh decided to leave Dechert, he knew that much of his structural knowledge would go with him. At the same time, he understood that any future e-discovery path didn’t lay in-house at a firm but rather with a large outside vendor. While Josh had made a name for himself early in the halcyon days of e-discovery, he ultimately decided on another legal path.
Research led him to Fordham Law, where he discovered the School’s well-regarded evening program. The more Josh learned about the part-time program, the more it seemed to cater precisely to students like him: older, working professionals; those seeking career adjustments; dedicated family men and women.
Now a fourth-year student in the evening program, Josh has come to think of the Fordham Law community as his family, too, and has labored to do as much for them as his friends, professors, and mentors at the School have done for him. Josh represented his 1L section with distinction, getting to know every student in the evening division and ensuring their needs and concerns were heard and met.
As a 2L, Josh was elected to serve as a vice president of the Student Bar Association. Among his accomplishments were building coalitions in support of expanded food options and hours in the Law School—a key issue for evening students—and of better accommodating law students’ library access during reading and finals periods. Josh is also an accomplished member of the Moot Court Board and served as an associate editor of the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal.
Josh left Dechert this past March to focus on two longtime interests in his life: law and education. In spring 2016, he participated in the Family Advocacy Clinic, where he performed civil rights work in support of families of children with special needs who were the victims of violations of their right to a free and appropriate public education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. He stayed on with the clinic through the summer as a dean’s fellow.
This fall, Josh joined the Legislative and Policy Advocacy Clinic, where he worked closely with Fordham community partner The Osborne Association on a project related to the rights of children of incarcerated parents. Josh has the further honor of being one of three Fordham Pro Bono Scholars for the 2016–2017 school year. As part of this program, he will take the bar exam early in February before graduating and dedicate the remainder of his time in law school to full-time pro bono work.
It’s that power to do good, to effect change, and to help others that attracted Josh to law in the first place. Meanwhile, on the homefront, he’s learning Russian, his wife has graduated from City College and is working for Twitter, and his now sister-in-law, whom he helped usher through her turbulent teenage years, is a successful senior at SUNY Geneseo.
Josh’s family will have two new graduates in 2017.
Story by Julie Case, photograph by Robert Essel