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Michael Mehlick

Michael Mehlick’s legal education and legal career have been full of innovation and fueled by a passion for learning and tackling difficult subject matter. From becoming the first male president of the Women’s Law Caucus at NIU College of Law and bringing awareness to gender discrimination in the legal field to going across the country to clerk in Massachusetts, his time at Northern Law prepared him well to analyze legal issues on a broad range of topics with the judges of Kane County.

What have you been up to since your time here at Northern Law? Since graduating from NIU College of Law and passing the Illinois Bar Exam, I have moved to St. Charles, Illinois (about half an hour from NIU). I moved last September for work. I currently work as a junior staff attorney for Kane County. It’s a great first job! I’m fortunate enough to work with amazing colleagues and the judiciary every day. Aside from work, I often find myself traveling, working out, and spending time in the city. I also recently became a volunteer ESL tutor for the Fox Valley Literacy Volunteers.

What is your current project? The current project I’m working on is a post-conviction order. In my line of work, I find myself researching and writing on different topics all the time.

Why did you become an attorney? I became an attorney for a lot of reasons. I’ve always excelled in writing and wanted a career that would play to that strength. I also knew I wanted to go to graduate school, and a law degree allowed for a wealth of career paths compared to a Ph.D., which wasn’t as flexible. I also enjoy the respect that comes with the profession.

What are your professional goals (other than what you’ve already accomplished)? I hope to become in-house counsel for a corporation or insurance company. Down the road, I would eventually like to switch to academia and teach law and/or women and gender studies.

How did Northern Law prepare you for your work? I think the research practicums and the faculty at NIU College of Law prepared me to be an efficient and effective legal researcher. I believe the different kinds of coursework I took also prepared me for the Illinois Bar Exam and for legal practice. During various times at work, I have found myself recalling different classes I took and realizing that I actually did have to know a lot of this stuff! 

What is your favorite memory of your time in law school? I have a lot of great memories from my time at NIU College of Law, from all the friends I made, to Palsgraf [the annual costume party] and Casino Night, to late nights in the law library cramming for final exams with pizza. But I think one of my favorite memories was when I was president of Women’s Law Caucus. To my knowledge, it was the first time in the law school’s history that a male student had the privilege to serve as president of WLC. During spring 2016, WLC hosted a panel discussion on gender discrimination in the legal field and it was a very informative and eye-opening experience for a lot of the students. Even Dean Cordes attended! It was a proud moment in my book.

What is your advice to current law students? Apply for everything! That includes organizational positions, jobs, internships and externships and scholarships. You never know people are looking for and the worst thing someone can say is, “No.” During my second year in law school, I applied to a national posting for a legal clerkship for Liberty Mutual Insurance in Boston, Massachusetts. I had no experience with researching Massachusetts law, I never took an insurance law course and I was pretty convinced I wanted nothing to do with civil law. However, much to my surprise, I landed the position and ended up spending the summer in Boston. It was both a life-changing and career-changing experience. So to all the law students: apply, apply, apply!

What is your advice to individuals thinking about starting law school? I think I would tell people to ensure they are going to law school for the right reasons. Don’t go to law school if plan on making six figures in your first job; that rarely happens. Don’t go to law school for someone else. Law school is a personal voyage; you have to do it for yourself. However, that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. In fact, you should seek out friends and mentors that can help you on the journey. There have been dozens of times when I felt like quitting, but others helped me keep the end goal in sight. Overall, go to law school if you want to be part of a highly esteemed group of professionals, want to learn and research and want to advocate for those who can’t and make a change in the world, no matter how small. 

What has been the greatest challenge in your career so far? Realizing how much you really don’t know about the practice of law. After three years of law school, it’s kind of intimidating to realize how little you know about the law. Every day at my job, I learn something new and I’ve already made mistakes. But I’ve learned to accept that with practice comes confidence.

What has been most rewarding about your career so far? I believe the most rewarding experience so far is when I’m able to successfully tackle a new area of the law. When a judge hands me a file on an area of law I’m unfamiliar with, which might as well be written in a different language, it’s rather daunting. However, after reading through the file and researching the case law, I’m able to make sense of it all and have an informed conversation with the judge about it. I find that very rewarding.

This interview was conducted in Winter 2016. 

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Class Year: 2016

Current title and position: Junior Staff Attorney, 16th Judicial Circuit of Illinois

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