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Member Spotlight - Adriel Colón

Wednesday, January 10, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Molly Myers
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Name: Adriel Colón 

Law School: Albany Law School

Member of the ACBA since: 2016


What is your role?

I am a third year law student at Albany Law School, and I’m also the Albany County Bar Association Student Representative. I have a seat in the student government, the Student Bar Association at the law school, and my role is to represent the students and the Albany County Bar Association’s interests at the Student Bar’s meetings.


What made you want to become a lawyer?

My family faced some challenges where we really needed a lawyer, and I’m the first generation and person in my immediate family to become a lawyer, so it was a skill that really didn’t exist in my family. So, what I took from that experience is that we should have someone who is familiar with that. Basically what it boils down to is that you get all these additional resources and additional benefits and a unique skill set, and the exchange is that you put some time into growing and improving the communities that you are a part of. That’s why I want to become a lawyer; I wanted to contribute to my community, I wanted to get a unique skill set, and I wanted to further my education and help my family.


What areas of law are you interested in?

I really became interested in health law. So, health law compliance, the interaction between physicians and government, the different health policies. I really do view the practice of law surrounding the health care field to be one of the fundamental ways of improving a community dynamic. Usually health laws surround the ideas of communities becoming healthier, that organizations act responsibly, and that private businesses have the room to grow so that they can improve the health of the communities that they are in. So that is really fascinating to me. I am also interested in government affairs, which is an area that intersects people’s interests and their right to petition government and the government officials that represent them. I think that those relationships are interesting and the kind of work I’d like to practice.


And you currently have an internship where you are learning about government law?

Yes, I’m a law clerk for a government affairs firm here in Albany [Shenker Russo Clark LLP]. It’s been truly a wonderful experience. The people in the firm really have a viewpoint of teaching their craft and so being in that office you get exposure to the expertise that they’ve built up for years. I have a phenomenal mentor named Mishka Woodley who is another member of the ACBA, who has been amazing at showing me the ropes, guiding me, just really helping me through that process. The result is that I really have been able to thrive in that law clerk position. 


What other organizations are you a part of?

I’m also president of the Latin American Law Student Association. A lot of my responsibilities are making sure that the Latino representation in law schools increases and grows, so making sure that students have the support their looking for and that the environments are able to cultivate from them. So I advocate for Latino students, I showcase Latino culture on campus, I collaborate with other affinity groups on campus to make sure that we all live in harmony and have a great reciprocal relationship. I am also a fellow for the Government Law Center. The Government Law Center is a non-partisan think tank at the law school that has a lot of experience in terms of how government interacts with their constituents. It’s been great to be able to go to the law school and participate as a fellow in the Law Center. I’m also a member of the Capital District Black and Hispanic Bar Association, and being a member of many different bar associations helps because they help and train you in different ways. Sometimes you’ll see this push and pull that “I need to participate in only one bar association,” but really you should participate in as many as you feel that you can collaborate with. That wealth of knowledge is going to be different between all of them and particularly if you’re a student or a new attorney that will be very helpful for you to have different knowledge pools to pull from that are all in the same world of each other.

I think one of the cool things about being a member of a bar association is that they have a pulse on what is needed and what are areas of improvement in the full spectrum. You see that in things like the CLE programs that they offer. Those programs are designed, in one way or another it seems like, to be beneficial to their membership. I think that’s great to have an advocacy group out there for you, helping you, and going through and making sure you have the skills that the legal field would like you to have cultivated. If you’re a law student I think that you should be doing something beyond being a law student. There’s this temptation, I think, to exclusively be reading cases, studying, all of this kind of stuff, just 100% focusing on the law school component. While that should be the vast majority of your time, setting some time to make sure you eat well and sleep well, meaning you put time into making sure you sleep enough and that you have some kind of creative element. So, me and my friends go hiking, I like to paint, I like to sculpt, occasionally I like to cook, and I think that having some kind of creative non-law outlet does a good job of setting yourself into a good rhythm. It gives you some place to blow off some steam, work a different part of your brain, and then at the same time let you relax. I think that is something that is not encouraged enough. Time management should be your number one skill that you have, but you should build into whatever budget of time that you have some time to actually just relax and breathe so you don’t burn yourself out.


You were a student member of our bar association before you were the Student Representative. Why do you think being a student member is important?

I think being a member of a bar association, because it is this skill set that you’re building on, it is important to expose yourself to the people that are actually practicing to learn practical knowledge, and to see the people as you will eventually become one of their contemporaries. Jumping in as soon as possible gets you into the flow, and the expectations of what it means to be practicing in Albany. Bar associations are a hub of real world practical knowledge and a place where students can meet mentors. The Albany County Bar Association is a particularly active bar so I really encourage everyone to join. I think that is one of the main selling points of this bar association; you get to learn about what it means to practice locally, and access to that knowledge base that is already there for you. Plus, when you’re a student your thinking about jobs, you need to know what the landscape looks like. You can find out who is hiring, what kinds of law is being practiced in this area, and talk to people in the field. It’s a great thing to have access to that is outside of the walls of the law school.

I’m a non-traditional student, which means there’s something different about me beyond the normal process. I define this in three ways. Number one, I’m married, most law students are not. Number two, I’m a Latino, so that means that I’m a member of an underrepresented group. And three, I waited five years before I went to law school. I got some practical knowledge in what it means to work outside of the walls of a university. I saw it as an advantage for me to get exposure to the interactions you have in an office, the push and pull dynamics, and I brought that to my law school experience which I think helped mellow me out a lot. I also think that non-traditional students, because of their outside experience, can sometimes use that experience as beneficial for the practice of law. So they have, for example, when you go from being on student loans or this semester payout versus a paycheck every week, you learn how to budget, the importance of certain negotiations and future planning. I think that those are things you can get from real world experience that you can bring to law school that certainly helps me be successful. I think more non-traditional students should be encouraged to go to law school for a number of reasons. I think that they increase the diversity and perspectives on campus, and a lot of employers value the skills that you get from a non-traditional pathway when they are seeking candidates. That’s something that I have found very valuable to me, that I have something to talk about other than the law that was in a professional environment.

I also think going outside of your comfort zone is important. Practicing the law will inherently be about resolving some kind of friction. You don’t normally talk to a lawyer unless you think one of two things, either I’m right or there’s some kind of conflict that I need to resolve. So attorneys are in that space to figure out, ok, what are the rules that govern this, does this fall where I think it falls, and then can we come to a solution that makes my client happy and preferable everybody happy as well. That means that there’s this “go getter-ness” that you need to have as an attorney, and when you become a student and you’re going through that there’s a tendency to see everyone as some kind of a competitor for you. Maybe they are, but really it’s about learning how to collaboratively compete with other people, which is kind of an interesting thought. So, that’s how I view it.   


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