Present Adam Rodriguez ’07 with a legal situation and a set of facts about any number of litigation, real estate, and intellectual property matters, and he will digest the issues quickly and respond effectively. His holistic approach to solving problems and his love of learning have served him well as associate county attorney for the Westchester County Attorney’s Office, director of real estate for the Westchester County Executive’s Office, and, as of January, counsel for Bleakley Platt & Schmidt LLC in White Plains.
Rodriguez’s confidence working on cases of every type, in front of every court, derives, he says, from clerkships with the Hon. Ramon E. Reyes Jr., a magistrate judge with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, and the Hon. Dora Irizarry, chief judge of the Eastern District.
“Clerking set the stage for the rest of my career,” Rodriguez says. Observing judges in court and speaking to them afterward proved “invaluable,” he adds, because it taught him what tools he needs—now that he’s on the other side of the bench— to provide to a judge that will help him receive a favorable ruling, as well as the importance of professionalism and practicality among attorneys.
Rodriguez describes his path to clerking as atypical. His grades weren’t sterling at the outset of his law school career. He credits professors for challenging him to apply himself more—a message that resulted in improved grades and participation in numerous law school activities, including a position as symposium editor of the Fordham Journal of Corporate and Financial Law and research assistant to Professor Daniel Capra.
“Fordham Law changed me as a human being,” he notes. “I started to bring my A game in all aspects of my life.”
Rodriguez entered Fordham Law with a desire to practice IP law.
However, interning his second summer with Judge Irizarry introduced him to a variety of cases—a Fourth Amendment illegal seizure case one day, a Daubert motion on expert-witness testimony the next—that inspired him to seek out a more varied career.
After graduation, Rodriguez worked for a year at Morgan Finnegan as an IP associate before starting his one-year clerkship with Judge Reyes in September 2008. His second clerkship came about in a “fortuitous” fashion, he recalls, when he sent Judge Irizarry an affidavit for admittance to the bar along with a brief note. The judge responded that she would be interviewing for clerks in 2009.
Clerking for magistrate and district judges showed Rodriguez federal litigation from beginning to end, he says. Magistrate judges encounter pretrial civil matters, whereas district court judges apply a wide breadth of federal and state laws in their cases. For instance, during his almost two years with Judge Irizarry, Rodriguez assisted her with court proceedings, including on a terrorism-conspiracy jury trial, and drafted an opinion in a lawsuit involving infringement of the Mister Softee trademark.
“You learn to know your audience, which is a common-sense thing, because as clerks you are drafting opinions that decide matters,” Rodriguez says. “If you want to be a litigator, there’s no better training than through clerking.”