UMass Dartmouth School of Law students share their stories

Issue April 2010

Erin Owens
Second year

Erin Owens was working as a corporate recruiter for Volkswagen of America when she met the company's in-house counsel, who told her that law school was within her reach. She used $50 extra in her checking account to apply. "I loved the atmosphere at Dartmouth. I wanted a more relaxed environment to study in." After meeting with staff, she decided the school was a good fit, and she was accepted.

When Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick visited the school on March 10, Owens shared a story about a project she is working on - a proclamation of innocence for Charles Cuffee, a teenager who 150 years ago was charged with the murder of a neighbor, interrogated by police without benefit of counsel or contact with family members, and convicted. He died two years later in Charles Street Jail. Owens is working on a declaration of innocence for Cuffee, since exoneration cannot occur posthumously, and expects to present it to the governor.

Owens is the first generation in her family to attend law school. The first year of law school was a lot of work, and second-year is more, she says. "But I know how to handle it. It's worth it."

Shannon Grindrod
Second year

No "passing the bar" jokes, please. Shannon Grindrod tends bar at night and commutes from East Providence to SNESL during the day on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, while raising two young children - Patrick, 2, and Bridget, 4. She commends the school's sense of community and camaraderie.

"Most of the faculty know about what's going on in our lives," she says. "It's about finishing what we've started," she says of the faculty's tremendous support for students, and the students' support of each other.

Grindrod had considered becoming a paralegal, but she had always wanted to be a lawyer, and SNESL provided the opportunity. For her classmates who have made similar decisions as their lives branch out, "This is our second chance," she says.

James Chisholm
Second year

James Chisholm got his first taste of the legal profession as a junior officer in the Navy, where one of his collateral duties was acting as the legal officer for his command. In that role, he was able to talk with many outstanding lawyers who served as an inspiration.  As a child, being a lawyer had not been an option, but with the opportunity to come to New England, with some of the best law schools in the country, "I decided it's now or never."

Chisholm is a lieutenant commander in the Navy, stationed at General Electric in Lynn. He works for the Defense Contract Management Agency, as the program integrator for the GE F414-400 engine, which powers the F/A-18 SuperHornet. "Essentially, I'm the middle man between General Electric and the Navy pertaining to contract issues and actual problems with the engines," he says.

Chisholm lives in Stoughton, equidistant from school and work. He says the long-term benefits of school outweigh the difficulties of the long commute.  His family is in Virginia, close to his wife's family. "When I accepted these orders, it was with the knowledge I may have to deploy to Iraq," he says - and seven months into his orders and during his first semester at SNESL, he was deployed to Iraq.

He chose SNESL because it was more supportive of his demanding schedule. "Receiving a quality law education was the ultimate goal, but also having a sense of belonging," he says. "After visiting SNESL and meeting the staff and a few students, it was an easy choice."