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Melissa Lierly: Development Editor, Florida Coastal Law Review, Florida Coastal School of Law, Jacksonville, FL
by Charisse Dengler
Lierly's first internship was with the Honorable Pattie Swift, a state district court judge for Colorado's 12th District. During her second internship, she worked for the Honorable Harvey Schlesinger, a federal district court judge for the Middle District of Florida.
Since she has never worked in a law firm and tends to enjoy the academic side of the law, Lierly said her dream legal job would be teaching, which she considers exciting. Currently, as Development Editor for the Florida Coastal Law Review editorial board, she gets to teach a little and thoroughly enjoys it.
"What I do is work with the new candidates that come into law review," she said. "I conduct weekly workshops to help them learn about the editing process and write their own scholarly papers and whatever else they need to learn about how to edit the articles that come through law review. I handle all things candidate-related, and then, hopefully, lay the foundation [...] for them to go on and become excellent staff editors."
Lierly's favorite aspect of the study of law is the fact that there's never one answer or one side to an issue. She said she likes that things could go either way with regard to lawsuits and legal issues. Also, because the legal system can be seen as bland and dry at times, Lierly appreciates the hidden humor that sneaks in unexpectedly.
"The legal profession seems so conservative and formal, but every once in a while, there are little bits of humor in it," she said. "You'll read these cases, and sometimes it's the judge—or the law clerk, perhaps—that was writing the opinion, and they'll put these little bits of humor or wit in it. And it just goes to show you that, even though the court and judiciary seem so conservative, that sometimes they do have a sense of humor. And I like that. I think it's kind of funny but very subtle."
When thinking back to what exactly it was that led her to law school, Lierly remembers "representing" her sister to their parents when she was growing up whenever they wanted some "added benefit in life."
"I think I always liked the advocacy part about it, where you could help someone else's cause and be their voice. And I worked for a few years after my undergraduate [degree] […], and I think I just intuitively knew that the next step was for me to go to school, and law school was it," she said.
In addition to serving as Development Editor for Florida Coastal's law review, Lierly is also Vice President of the Animal Law Society, a student organization that was formed about three years ago. The group, which currently has about 40 members, concerns itself with animal legal issues, raising money, calling government officials, petitioning, and writing emails with regard to animal rights legislation.
One of the organization's projects that Lierly thought was particularly powerful and was proud to be a part of was when its members constructed a daisy chain of 20,000 links that represented animal collars to visually emphasize the number of animals euthanized in shelters over the past two years.
Even though law school takes up a lot of time, Lierly thinks finding time to get involved in student organizations and to take part in projects like the one mentioned above is important because it gives students an escape from studying, reading cases, sitting in class, and doing outlines.
"I like to have one or two things that I'm passionate about. I think if a person can find those one or two things that they're interested in, then it's a great way to meet other people who have similar interests and passions about it but [who] also bring to the table lots of different talents and creativity," she said.
Lierly also encourages law students to travel during law school. She said her experience studying abroad in Chile and Argentina for four weeks is her favorite law school memory.
"I had never been to Chile or Argentina, and it just seemed so exciting and interesting, and I wanted to practice my Spanish," she said. "Sure enough, it was an incredible, inspirational experience."
While studying abroad, Lierly took one class on trade and investments and another class on perspectives on social problems.
"Each class was taught by a different Chilean professor," she said. "So we could not only listen to their experience but then be able to [...] really get an idea of how it related in Chile and in real life."
When they weren't busy studying, Lierly and her fellow classmates would plan day and weekend trips to explore the area. During her stint in South America, she went to the beach and went skiing in the Andes, which she loved.
"I felt like I was able to see the country and try to practice Spanish—really be immersed in it," she said. "I really enjoyed my time there, and I can't wait to go back, hopefully, and do some more traveling while I'm there."
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