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Scott Mitchell: Mechanical Engineer by Day, Law Student by Night

published February 18, 2008

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<<Deeming himself a "classic car aficionado," Mitchell is now in his third year at Whittier Law School, but the law is just one of his career interests.
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"Kind of strange, but it actually happened on a whim. Straight out of high school, I followed my true calling into mechanical engineering. I've always been interested in law and thought that I might get into it someday after I paid my dues as an engineer," he explains. "After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona, I spent a year working in the engineering field. At that time most of my friends were still in school, so I was bouncing around with nothing to do after work and feeling a little bored. I felt that I needed some sort of challenge."

From California State Polytechnic University — Pomona Mitchell received his degree in mechanical engineering. After doing some debating, though, he gave in to his second passion and went for it.

"I decided to take the LSAT and start going to law school if I did well," he says. "I ended up with a pretty good score and started looking around at schools with night programs. The rest is history."

Mitchell picked Whittier for a variety of reasons. He liked that the school had a flexible night program, and since he works at Southern California Edison's Refrigeration and Thermal Test Center in Irwindale, California, he wanted to continue to work and attend law school at the same time. Also, Whittier is close to his house in the Orange County area, so the commute isn't a big issue. Another important factor is that the school has an intellectual property certificate program, one of the few in the area, according to Mitchell.

"Whittier Law School is unique because it has a night program," Mitchell says. "The students tend to be a little older with more real-world experience, so there are often very intriguing points of view on some issues."
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Passionate about education, Mitchell says he likes gaining knowledge about the law.

"I love learning in general. I think the most enjoyable part about law is learning why things are the way they are," he admits. "Tracing the history of laws, rules, and processes we take as commonplace today gives you a much better understanding of how we've gotten to where we are. This is a part of the education that I totally was not expecting at the outset."

As for his career path, Mitchell says that the patents area is a strong possibility but that he wants to keep his options open, exploring utility regulation and environmental law.
Q. What do you do for fun?
A. Play soccer, watch soccer, travel, go bowling, play pool, listen to music.
Q. What CD is in your CD player right now, or what is the last song you heard?
A. Listening to iTunes on shuffle right now. The song is Flogging Molly — "Tomorrow Comes a Day Too Soon." (If you ever get a chance to see them live, do it. The energy at their shows is amazing!)
Q. What is the last magazine you read?
A. Have to be honest — haven't read a magazine in over a year. Except maybe something at the dentist's office.
Q. What is your favorite TV show?
A. Arrested Development. I never saw it when it was on TV, but I've seen all of it on DVD. There are so many hilarious cross-references and situations that I laugh the entire time I'm watching.
Q. Who is your role model?
A. One of my best friends, Nick Hopkins, who passed away at 20 in 2001. Although he's not here physically, he influences me every day. He battled leukemia his whole life and had a bone marrow transplant in 1999 which successfully rid him of cancer, only to develop a form of pneumonia which eventually got the best of him. Through it all, he never complained about anything or got down about it. His philosophy was "Don't think; live for tomorrow." He knew he had to make the most out of every second he had on this earth and lived it. I've developed a whole new outlook on life after going through this with him and his family.
Q. What is something most people don't know about you?
A. I like to cook.

"Patents [is my main focus] because I like technology and learning how things work. Since I already have the engineering degree, it seems like a perfect fit," Mitchell explains. "I'd like to explore a few different fields and see what I like best. Patents is the leading candidate right now. But there's also a possibility that I'll stay more on the engineering side of things and use the law degree to bolster some of my engineering work."

Currently Mitchell is slightly involved in a few things around campus but is primarily focusing on his studies and graduating.

"If the stars and planets align just right, I'll be graduating May 2009," he says.

Advising his peers on how to approach law school, Mitchell offers the following:
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"Be sure you can dedicate time to your studies. I spend most of the weekend reading because I have no time during the week. At times it is very difficult to resist some of the invitations and fun times happening. Not to say that I haven't had any fun at all — just have to really be good at blocking out time and actually using it to study. Self-discipline is the name of the game."