When graduating from Ohio University in June of 2006, C|M|LAW 3L student Zach Graham did not have law school in his sights. However, after working full-time for four years as an electrical engineer, first in an architectural firm and then a technology company, Graham realized he would need to further his education to reach his goals.
“I realized I would need some sort of secondary education to get where I wanted to go,” explained Graham. “Some people I was close to suggested that I would be successful in law school. I decided to go and visit some classes and talk to some attorneys I know throughout the area and quickly realized law school was the right avenue for me.”
For Graham, the decision to work before heading to law school was the right one. He believes it better prepared him for the rigors of attending law school.
“Working a job is a different type of experience, you’re not interacting with just people your age, and everybody has a different background,” remarked Graham. “You learn a lot of different things from a lot of different people. Having to live and pay bills and having responsibilities, it put me in a more serious mindset and coming from where I was as an undergrad, I think it better prepared me for law school.”
While it took Graham some time to decide law school was the right decision, the decision on where to attend law school was made easy due to a combination of factors.
“Cleveland-Marshall was cost effective and it’s in a great location for me,” explained Graham, who is a native of Shaker Heights, Ohio, a suburb less than a 20-minute drive from the downtown Cleveland campus. Staying in Cleveland also allows Graham to spend time with his family, which he does often.
Balancing his time between his personal life and the legal world is not always easy, and that is due largely to the number of superb opportunities Graham has been able to take advantage of the past two years. The 3L student has worked as a summer associate for Ulmer & Berne and a law clerk at Reminger. He also externed with Northern District of Ohio Judge David D. Dowd in the summer of 2012 and is currently externing with Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems. The externship with Judge Dowd was an experience for Graham outside of his previous law track and provided him with valuable experience.
“Getting the opportunity to work in a judge’s chamber alongside the clerk and the judge is a pretty rare opportunity and it afforded me some great experience that I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten,” said Graham. “(Judge Dowd) would have me attend the hearing, hear the results and have me draft a recommendation for him. A couple of times the suggested opinions I wrote for the judge were very similar to what was eventually produced by the judge as his opinion.”
It is his current externship with Bendix that is most in line with the career path Graham envisioned when he entered law school – working in the field of intellectual property. Intellectual property is a common track for electrical engineering majors when they enroll in law school.
“They are getting me right in here and using me for things that will help the company,” said Graham about his ongoing externship with Bendix. “It’s not just that my supervisor hands me busy work that they didn’t want to do. They have a very extensive patent portfolio and I’m getting the opportunity to evaluate the patents they have.”
While Graham still has interest in working on intellectual property proceedings, the diversity of Graham’s employment, studies and extracurricular activities while at C|M|LAW, including his participation on the school’s Moot Court team, will open doors in whatever legal field he pursues.
“I feel that the experience I’ve gotten through the externships will be a great help no matter the field, and that Judge Dowd is my most important contact,” explained Graham. “When I came here I was pretty convinced I would do intellectual property work but I’m not so caught up looking at just that area right now. There are a lot of different areas I would enjoy working in.”