On her way: Student takes key role with national bar association

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Rose Nicole Rodriguez had her sights set on a law career from her high school days in Lancaster, Calif., in the Antelope Valley of the western Mojave Desert. 

“I grew up seeing a lot of injustice and discrimination against others as well as myself,” she said. “Seeing all this made me want to help others going through similar situations and I decided a career in law would help me achieve this goal.”

Clearly Rodriguez, a 3L student at Michigan State University College of Law and recently elected vice president of communications for the Hispanic National Bar Association-Law Student Division, chose the right career path.

“Being a first-generation student as well as being Latina, it can often be a difficult road and I began to doubt myself — but being part of HNBA I see amazing attorneys who have gone through that difficult path and have excelled in their careers because they did not give up,” she said. “Seeing and hearing their stories inspires me and shows me I can do the same.”

After earning her undergrad degree in political science from the University of California, where she was a member of the Gamma Beta Phi Honor Society, Rodriguez headed to MSU Law where her focus is criminal law, specifically criminal cefense. 

“I enjoy being part of a law student community where there’s a willingness to help one another,” she said. “I’ve told a student about my interest in criminal law and they tell me to apply to a specific place or talk to a student with similar interests without hesitation.”

She has been working since August at the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office in Lansing. 

“I’m able to gain real world experience in the area of law I enjoy,” she said. ”I do screening but my main work is with juveniles. I do dispositional hearings as well as pre-trials in front of the referees.”

Earlier this year, she worked at Legal Services of South Central Michigan in Lansing, focusing mainly on family law issues, conducting intakes and inputting information into clients’ files in order to make the final determination on eligibility. 

“I was able to gain experience in talking with clients and being able to communicate with them in an effective manner,” she said. She spent the summer back in California, clerking for Kestler Derryberry LLP, in her hometown. 

“I drafted various types of deeds as well as prepared estate plan documents for the clients,” she said. “My co-workers were great to work with and were always willing to help when I had a question.”

Rodriguez, who also gained experience in a four-month externship with the Washtenaw County Trial Court, spent the summer of 2016 studying at the University of Rijeka Summer Intellectual Property Institute in Croatia. 

“It was great visiting a different country, learning about their culture and food, and learning in such a beautiful location,” she said. “I was lucky enough to partake in a cruise along the coastline of Croatia and visit Dubrovnik, where they filmed ‘Game of Thrones.’”

Her jam-packed schedule at MSU Law includes serving as a voice for the student body as a senator of the Student Bar Association. 

“Being in SBA has allowed me to connect more with students and inform them of all the great events we plan, such as socials, food drives, and fundraisers,” she said.

As secretary on the board of the school’s Latino Law Society, she plans events that bring awareness to the Hispanic culture. During National Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15-October 15, the society planned various events to encourage law students to learn more about the Latin community.

A student member of the MSU Law American Inn of Court, Rodriguez participates on a team of judges, attorneys, and law students and enjoys listening to different perspectives during presentations. She also makes time to serve as a student executive ambassador. 

“I really enjoy welcoming prospective students and learning more about them and why they want to go to law school,” she said.

After graduation, Rodriguez hopes to return to the Golden State and work at a Public Defender’s Office. 

“I enjoy working with indigent defendants and I want to be an advocate for them in the criminal justice system,” she said.

In her leisure time, Rodriguez aims to maintain a healthy lifestyle with exercise and running; and enjoys shopping at farmers markets, reading non-law books and playing video games. 

During undergrad, she spent a summer volunteering with Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue in Lancaster, Calif. 

“It was a great break from the everyday routine,” she said. “I would see how they trained them and helped groom the horses.”

Now she spends her summers volunteering with Christian Legal Aid of Los Angeles. 

“I think working in legal aid that is faith based is amazing,” she said. “Clients are always respectful when we pray for them regardless of their faith and it’s good to be able to do that for them.”

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