Miguel Willis

Miguel Willis

Class of 2017

B.A. in Political Science, minor in Economics
Howard University

What did you do before law school, and what led to you pursue a law degree?

While attending Howard University, I began my career at the Department of Justice Office of Immigration Litigation. This experience was a great introduction to working in a legal setting and understanding the complex issues that face our immigration system. During my six-year tenure at the DOJ, I served in various capacities including legal assistant, paralegal, and intern coordinator. This experience definitely prepared me as I entered law school.

I always knew I wanted to facilitate the spread of innovative ideas and tools that make people's lives better, but I did not always know I wanted to be a lawyer, as there were no lawyers in my family. After interning and working in multiple legal settings, I was able to see firsthand how the law affects every facet of our lives and how lawyers have the unique opportunity to affect the lives of so many through innovative just and equitable solutions. I decided then that I wanted to pursue a legal career. Seattle University School of Law has provided me an excellent practical entry point to be of service to others.

What activities are you involved in at the law school or in the community?

At school, I have the humble privilege to serve as the current president of the Black Law Students Association. I also serve on the Student Bar Association as the King County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division representative. Additionally, I was appointed to serve as a student liaison on the Washington State Supreme Court Minority & Justice Commission.

I founded a start-up called CaseBooker during the fall of my 1L year. CaseBooker is a web and mobile application that connects law students to buy and sell their textbooks, outlines, and other supplementary materials.

I also participated and placed among the finalists in the 2015 Seattle University Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition.

I am initiating the Social Justice Hackathon on campus next year. This event will allow law students to create and pitch ideas on how to innovate our legal system to increase access to justice for underrepresented communities.

I also worked in various volunteer programs. I served as a volunteer my first year in Wayfind Micro-Enterprise Clinic, where I help attorneys provide legal assistance to low-income entrepreneurs. I created the Application Cultivation Elevation (ACE) program in conjunction with the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative at the YMCA. This program teaches underprivileged youth app development and entrepreneurship skills.

What have you found most valuable during your law school education?

Cultivating my legal writing skills has been one of the most painstaking iterative processes that I have faced, but the writing program here at Seattle University has been exceptional with its top-tier writing instruction. In addition to conducting legal research and drafting memos, the writing program offered me a practical opportunity to apply my writing skills with real clients my first year. It is wonderful to work with passionate legal writing professors that truly work with you and help you improve your writing ability.

In addition to the Introduction to Practice course that SU offers to first-year law students, I interned part-time at Rehmke and Flynn, PLLC, a deeds, trusts, and estates law firm. I not only worked alongside a great cast of attorneys, but also applied many of the doctrines I learned in my first year to real clients and cases.

The level of assistance faculty, staff, alumni, and other students have offered me during my first year is incomparable. Professors have gone out of their way to offer me guidance and direction. The staff here at Seattle University is extremely helpful and truly wants to see you succeed, not only in law school, but also in the legal profession. Alumni have mentored me every step of the way throughout my first year. Lastly, 2L and 3L students have personally taken me under their wings in order to ensure that my first-year transition was smooth. I cannot overstate the level of community here at SU.

What advice would you offer a prospective law student?

First, immerse yourself in the law school and the legal community. Get involved early with some of the great student organizations on campus, and the many bar associations; these organizations will usually allow free student membership and provide a great mechanism to connect with attorneys and allow you to offer legal assistance to the community. Take leadership positions. Garner relationships early with your professors, career services staff, and other faculty members; these relationships will allow you to better steer your future career path, ease your preparation with finding internships, and help you navigate difficult job interviews.

Second, be creatively different. The more you try to fit in and emulate what everyone is doing, the more you will find yourself battling an uphill curve. Here are the facts: you have already chosen a very competitive career field, where the prospects for high-paying law jobs are dwindling each year. However, there is no shortage of complex problems in all areas of law with unmet solutions. Work in a creative space where you are constantly challenging yourself to find innovative solutions to these problems, whether it be the many issues that plague our criminal justice systems, or the need for comprehensive immigration reform in our country. These problems will require zealous advocates that offer unique perspectives.

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