It was the fall of 2010 and first-year law student Chelsea Jones was scared. How would a former NPR journalist, trained to write short radio news stories, ever master scholarly articles, legal briefs, client memos or the infamous "Blue Book" style guide for legal citations?
Her solution: practice. "You have to know your weakness and then do things to strengthen it," she says.
In her case that meant going to the law school's Writing Center if she needed assistance; completing a Maryland Carey Law Asper Fellowship, which required her to do legal research and writing for Judge Andre Davis '78, of the U.S. Court of Appeals; co-authoring an article for the New England Law Review with Professor David Gray; and "blue booking" as Executive Articles Editor of the Maryland Law Journal of Race, Religion, Gender and Class.
Public speaking was another worry, so she plunged into the law school's Myerowitz Moot Court Competition.
Although "the learning curve was difficult for me during the first semester," Jones says, all that practice paid off. She graduates on May 17 with two academic publications to her credit, three awards for moot court competitions, and the 2013 Elizabeth Maxwell Carroll Chesnut Prize—known as "the Dean's award"-- for her scholarship, personal drive and excellence in writing.
Jones’ calendar is full. She plans to become a litigation associate in the Baltimore office of Saul Ewing LLP-- after she completes two legal clerkships: the first, starting this summer, with Magistrate Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland; and a second, in the summer of 2014, back at the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit with The Honorable Andre Davis ’78.
"Graduation is bittersweet," Jones says. "I'm excited about the future, but I've made life-long friends and future colleagues here, through moot court and the journal. I'll miss them. The law school is a real community."
It was also the place that introduced her to a new passion: working with ex-offenders, a challenge she took on during two semesters in Professor Michael Pinard’s Reentry Clinic, where she ran bi-weekly expungement workshops and counseled individual clients on how to clear their records. "I plan to keep up that work," she says, "if only on a pro bono basis."
At a time when some are calling for law schools to compress their curricula into two years, Jones believes law school was too short. "I'd love to have taken a tax course, an oral advocacy course, a statutory interpretations course," she remarks. "But on the other hand, I'd never want to sacrifice the co-curricular work I did during my third year in the clinic, the moot court and the journal. That was terrific."
Jones' long-term goal is clear: "I want to make a difference and be a really, really good lawyer wherever I am." And you can bet she'll practice to make sure she is.