Assistant Director of Academic Support and Adjunct Professor Nicholas De Santis ’05 passionately ensures every Cleveland-Marshall College of Law student is given the resources and opportunity to succeed. His desire stems from personal experience, having relied on C|M|LAW’s Academic Support and Legal Career Opportunities Program (LCOP) during his time in law school to overcome learning obstacles and thrive as a student, and ultimately, in legal practice.
De Santis’ academic challenges date back to his very first schooling, when at the age of five he was diagnosed with dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia. Those learning disabilities led to challenges throughout his academic career and gave De Santis obstacles to overcome every step of the way.
“In grade school they wanted to put me in a special school, in high school they wanted to put me in a trade school and said I would never go to college, and in college they said I would never go to law school,” explained De Santis. “For all the people along the way that said I couldn’t do things there was a select special group who said I could, and those people included the people working with Cleveland-Marshall’s LCOP.”
De Santis benefitted from the head start offered through LCOP and the resources of the Academic Support program that was started during his first year of law school. He went on to thrive, becoming a student tutor and graduating 11th in his class.
De Santis also used the time management skills learned through Academic Support to become a well-rounded student who served as president of the Student Bar Association (SBA), senior editor of the Journal of Law and Health and a member of the Moot Court Board of Governors. While president of the SBA he was already looking for ways to promote student success, and effectively advocated for the school to change its exam scheduling policy to help students spread out their multiple exams.
De Santis believes in the student-first philosophy that serves as the overlying principle for the three Academic Support initiatives including the Academic Excellence Program, individualized mentoring plans, and peer tutoring. De Santis takes particular pride in the one-on-one mentoring he offers along with new Academic Support Specialist Alonda Bush, appreciating that his personal experience helps him connect with students at multiple levels.
“Being a student who needed academic support, I can understand what it feels like to put all the effort and work into something and have it not pay off,” said De Santis. “I know what failure feels like and the emotions that come with setbacks. But I also know what it takes to build success in law school.”
As part of his duties, De Santis is a member of the LCOP Faculty. C|M|LAW’s LCOP, founded in 1971, is a selective program for students who demonstrate strong academic ability and writing proficiency with an LSAT score that does not reflect their greater potential. Students in the LCOP program take two coordinated courses in their first semester that integrate learning strategies into the course content and provide individualized feedback. Those same concepts are now being extended to a broader student population in an experimental section of Property being co-taught this semester by De Santis and Professor Heidi Gorovitz Robertson.
De Santis was driven to pursue a legal degree by his desire to help others. A journalism major at Ohio State University, he was working in professional sports, including a yearlong internship with the Dallas Cowboys, when he realized that the field did not provide him a sense of fulfillment.
One of the specific ways De Santis hoped to help others in the legal profession was by advocating for students with disabilities. He achieved that mission by counseling several students seeking accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as part of a solo practice De Santis opened in 2013 after several years at the law firm Ziegler Metzger LLP in commercial litigation.
“I wanted to get back to helping people instead of institutions,” said De Santis, explaining his motivation for entering solo practice. “While I had good clients that were banks, I found I could have a greater impact in a one-on-one setting.”
De Santis values the one-on-one relationships he is able to develop in his solo practice and continues his practice part-time to maintain the bond he has forged with existing clients. However, the bulk of his time is now spent cultivating personal relationships with C|M|LAW students. De Santis prides himself in supporting students not only at an academic level, but at a personal level the same way special teachers and faculty inspired him.