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Released on May 31, 2023
Graduate Profile: SBA President Christina O’Brien ’23
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Christina O'Brien

Christina O’Brien recalls sitting in her grandfather’s apartment as a young child watching the President on the news. “One day, you will be President,” her grandfather told her. “What do I need to do to become president?” she asked. Her grandfather answered her with words that she’s carried. “You will need to become a lawyer first.”

Now decades later, the 2023 Cleveland State University College of Law graduate has indeed become a lawyer.  And, while not yet president of the United States, she spent her final year of law school as president the of CSU|LAW's Student Bar Association, advocating that students need to be brought to the table when decisions are being made that affect them and that it is imperative for student voices to be heard for buy in to change.

Christina’s conversation with her grandfather that day was not the only motivation from her childhood to become a lawyer. Christina was raised in a home with a father who was emotionally abusive to her mother and siblings and physically abusive to her mother. On a number of occasions, her mother and siblings had to flee their home to the safety of domestic violence shelters.  One of those occasions in particular stands out for Christina.

“I met another child that was staying at the shelter and we began talking about what had happened that day that led to both of us being there,” Christina recalled. “He shared his story that his mother’s boyfriend had been beating her and he came into the room and struck the boyfriend with a chair.  He was then locked out of the room while the mother’s boyfriend continued to abuse her.  That little boy was the same age as me at the time – 10.  I remember thinking how brave he was and that he was so courageous in coming to his mother's aid. I promised myself that day that when I was big enough, I would not be silent and would stand up for those that could not speak.”

For Christina, a career standing up for those in need did not initially mean a career in law.  She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. Shortly thereafter, she enrolled at Case Western Reserve University and received an MSSA in Non-Profit Management and Community Development. She has worked as Executive Director of the Victim Assistance Center, Executive Director of Downtown Inc.,  and in donor relations for The David Ortiz Children's Fund. 

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Christina O'Brien Woodwork

Christina stepped back from her career to raise two daughters while serving as a consultant for various non-profit and for-profit companies. During that time, she also turned a hobby into a business, starting Emerson Designs - Built by a Girl where she builds custom wood furniture.  With the support of her husband, the time had come for Christina to either return to her previous career or investigate her lifelong dream of pursuing law. She chose the latter.

“When I started law school, I had been out of school for 19 years,” Christina said. “I also now have a husband and two children which made my time very precious this time around and made the study of law very difficult. However, going to law school with real-world experience as well as previous work experience was very helpful in traversing interviews, applications, and a number of the subjects we covered in our courses.”

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Christina O'Brien Commencement

In addition to serving as SBA President, Christina was a member Phi Alpha Delta, The Entertainment and Sports Law Association, Student Public Interest Law Organization, and the Women’s Law Student Association. Recognizing the need for student organizations to work together and share resources, Christina created and implemented the CSU|LAW President’s Council – a monthly meeting of Presidents, Editors-in-Chief and Captains of the various student organizations, law reviews, mock trials and moot courts at the school.

During law school, Christina was able to work with non-profit organizations as a student in the Transactional Law Clinic.  But she intentionally chose to pursue an array of experiences.  Christina was an extern for US District Court, Northern District of Ohio Judge Solomon Oliver Jr., an extern with the United States Attorney’s Office Northern District of Ohio, a law clerk at Wickens Herzer Panza and an extern with JOANN Stores.

Christina plans to pursue work in transactional law and hopes to one day be able to incorporate a significant amount of pro-bono work in her practice.

 

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