Alumni pass the support down to the next generation of Fordham lawyers.
Through networking programs, local alumni chapter events, competition teams, and self-directed one-on-one efforts, Fordham Law alumni regularly reach out to mentor younger students and share their knowledge of life and the law. Here, some of them say what it means to be part of the legacy of support.
In addition to his work as a commercial and insurance litigator at Wilson Elser, Gavin White has been instrumental in building the Miami chapter of the Fordham Law Alumni Association. As part of his work with the association, he offers counsel to students from South Florida who are considering a legal education at Fordham.
I’ve come to be known as someone the students can call, and I’m happy to help out. The fact is that anyone who has a commute and cellphone has the time to help somebody who is younger in their career.
During my career I’ve had a lot of lucky breaks from people who helped me when they didn’t need to. My philosophy is that if I’ve benefited from that, then I should try to help other people as well.
Some of our mentees are concerned about what the law is going to be like, so we really try to put them at ease. And once they get kind of situated at the Law School, sometimes it’s just a friendly text message in the beginning of December saying, “Don’t worry; you’re going to do great on your finals.”
From nearly 17 years of practicing law I’ve come across a lot of people from different law schools, and I’ve never seen anything remotely as powerful as the Fordham connections that people have. What I see with Fordham is just a “one team, one fight” mentality.
Erik Rodriguez’s path to his current position as in-house counsel at an asset management firm began in his native Miami. It was there that he met White, a mentor whose counsel inspired him to attend Fordham, and who subsequently helped him navigate the challenges of law school and his nascent career.
Throughout all of law school I was asking Gavin questions—general questions, life questions. He kept me sane during my days studying for the bar exam. I can’t thank him enough for all the advice he has given me throughout the years.
Gavin is just such an infectious individual when it comes to speaking about Fordham and getting you pumped to go through law school and experience all of it. I think that level of enthusiasm just latches on to you and propels you toward inevitably enjoying it. His optimism counters the misconception that law school is terrible and that you should only strive to survive.
During school I was a 1L adviser my second year, and then I was actually on the board of student advisers my third year. In that position I was able to manage all of the 1L advisers in my last year, and that was my way of contributing to that legacy.
I think Fordham’s alumni network is vast and very engaging for current and incoming students. The only way that has succeeded and will continue to do so is due to individuals who want to pay it forward, just like Gavin does every day.
Fordham’s Brendan Moore Trial Advocacy Center has played an essential role in Brittany Russell’s career. Russell, currently a trial attorney specializing in personal injury, served on the Moore Advocates board while a student at Fordham, interned with the center’s benefactor Tom Moore ’72, and has since returned to work with the center as an alumni coach, putting in 13-hour days in order to tutor Moores while working a full-time job. For Russell, however, the benefits of mentoring make the time commitment more than worth it.
The great benefit of Fordham’s Brendan Moore Trial Advocacy Program is the opportunity to learn and make mistakes without any real-world consequences. There’s nothing more valuable than being on trial two nights a week and every weekend with nothing to lose and a team of practicing attorneys devoted to helping you figure out how to be the most persuasive version of yourself. It really does prepare you for real trials where real people’s lives are depending on your advocacy skills. It gives a young attorney such an advantage and an unparalleled comfort level.
Moore Advocate coaches Greg SanGermano ’02, Adam Shlahet ’02, and Jeff Briem ’05 made the most profound difference in my trial skills. I’ve tried lots of cases, but at some point in every single trial I think of Greg, Adam, or Jeff because I did something that one of them taught me to do when I was 22 years old. Often I’ll even call one of my former coaches after a day in court and say, ‘Guess what happened today!’
I am forever indebted to my coaches and to Thomas Moore and Judy Livingston for creating such an amazing program and for investing in students like me. For the past 10 semesters, I have tried to pay back the invaluable skills the Moores gave me by coaching current students. Now sometimes my former students call me to tell me about their real-life courtroom successes. I love being on the receiving end of those calls!
Brianna Gallo didn’t think of herself as much of a public speaker until she tried out for the Brendan Moore Trial Advocates during her 2L year. The tryout process stimulated her latent talent for the work of a trial attorney. This talent was further refined by Brittany Russell, who served as the coach for Gallo’s trial advocacy team for two semesters and who remains a friend to this day.
When I was trying out for the Moore Advocates, Brittany was one of the judges. I remember I was so nervous, but she gave me this big smile. I didn’t know who she was at the time, but I thought, “One of these judges is clearly happy with what I’m doing, so I guess I can keep going.”
Brittany was clearly somebody who was teaching me so much, but at the same time we became really friendly, because she liked to joke around and help us feel comfortable.
Seeing Brittany show us how to face challenges and keep going and respond in a clever way taught me that confidence really helps so much. Having confidence in what you’re doing makes your performance so much better.
The relationship you build with your coaches is so much more important than so many people from the outside even recognize. They were truly mentors and teachers, every bit as much as my actual professors.
I want to be able to come back and coach at some point. It’s a way to stay involved with Fordham in a way that’s fun and that means something to the students who are still at the School.