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From the Seminary to Law School, Zack Weber Shares How It All Connects

Cincinnati native and first-year law student Zack Weber spent his time following high school on a unique and diverse path exploring different areas of interest that fit his personal and professional motivations. From his early studies in the seminary to seven-years of professional experience, Weber has found that his desire to make a difference in the lives of others has been a strong motivating factor throughout his professional journey and has inspired him to pursue a career in the legal field. 

“It’s been a bit of a round about path here,” he teased.

Weber expressed that his interest in the seminary started around his sophomore year in high school. After graduating from local Cincinnati school Elder, he did not pursue that line of study initially, but instead began his undergraduate study in Engineering at the University of Dayton.

“Engineering was actually an interest of mine in high school as well so I wanted to give that a shot, you know a fair shot first before deciding to start with seminary.”

But it wasn't long until Weber decided to start his seminary journey. After his first year at UD he decided to transfer to the Pontifical College of Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, where he received his undergraduate degree in Philosophy in addition to his early priesthood training. Following his studies at Josephinum, Weber continued on in the seminary and traveled over 4,000 miles to Rome, Italy for graduate studies in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University.       

“I was [at the Gregorian] a total of four academic years. Although in-between my third and fourth year of studies I actually did an internship back here in the States with a parish in Hamilton, Ohio where I was helping out with different parish functions. I couldn’t say mass or anything like that but I was helping out with the school, with their parish counsel, and with anything else I could without being a priest at that point,” Weber shared.

After returning from Italy, he ultimately decided to not be ordained a priest. Around that time, Weber recalled, a good friend who also left the seminary had gone directly into law school. And about five or six of his friends from seminary were likewise taking the law school path.

“I always thought that was kind of curious, ‘what’s the connection?’” Weber questioned, and through conversations with his friends, who are now practicing attorneys, noticed there were many parallels between the two professions that he could identify with.

“It kind of struck a chord with me. I think the idea of being in seminary and wanting to be a priest has a lot of commonality with wanting to be a lawyer. I think in both arenas you have a great ability to help people, albeit in different ways; and while many priests want to help people in a spiritual way, the ideas of truth and justice, I think, carry over into both places.”

This desire to pursue law school prompted Weber to take the LSAT in 2007, but he determined at that particular time law school wasn’t the best decision. So he started out his career in retail and customer service, sharpening his communication and interpersonal skills. After his return from Italy, Weber began working at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza as a front office assistant manager, before later moving into a position at Nordstrom. Most recently, he was the manager for the Art of Shaving, a retail store that sells a men’s luxury grooming line. Weber opened the store in 2012 and was the general manager for three years before he left this summer for law school.

He commented, “I think my desire professionally has always been to make a substantial difference in people’s lives. And I think that was my initial desire when I thought I wanted to be a priest. And I think it's still my deep desire now. Which, you know in retail you can make a difference but I don’t think it was the kind of difference I was looking for.”

Now as first year law student and Fellow with the Center for Race, Gender and Social Justice, Weber endeavors to explore different areas of law to be able to pursue that goal of making a substantial difference in people’s lives. With UC Law being at the top of his list, Weber noted that the Center was one of the major factors in making UC Law his final decision.

“Social justice has always been a major interest of mine, probably from the time I was in grade school. I remember wanting to get involved in community service type activities. I actually did a 10-week mission trip and volunteered at Catholic youth camps and stuff like that in college. So I’ve always been trying to commit myself, to give my energy, my abilities, and my skills to help people in whatever position they are in in life.”

Weber admits that his specific career goals are not fine-tuned at this moment, but he is looking forward to exploring different areas of law where he can tie-in his interest for social justice.

“I think that the idea of social justice can be found pretty much at any level. You know whether you’re in a business, whether you’re in small practice or public interest, you can really carry that out in any area… But I’m keeping my mind really open. I do want to spend some time both in the public and private sector before I make a decision. That’s a pretty broad generalization, but it’s a starting point.”

By: Sarah Nelson’17

College of Law, a '2015 Best Value' Law School, sees 38 Percent First Year/JD Enrollment Jump

High bar passage, plus employment, minus school debt add up to student success

This fall, first-year enrollment at UC's College of Law jumped 38 percent as the College earned A-level recognition as a "best value" law school. In addition, the college reports a 64% increase in the number of LLM students. These figures represent a 42% increase in the number of newly enrolled students, as compared to last year.

The school's high bar passage and employment rates for its students, combined with low student debt, tuition and cost of living, distinguished it from its peers.

Students new to the school this year include 101 J.D. students and 18 graduate students, 40 percent of whom are from out of state. Overall, the class represents 30 undergraduate majors from 64 colleges. Ten percent of the new class is comprised of "Double Bearcats," or students who also have an undergraduate degree from UC.

"We are all delighted by the first year class," said Jennifer S. Bard, Dean and Nippert Professor of Law at the school. "Their strengths illustrate that our high-quality programs, our emphasis on learning by doing and our externship placements are gaining the recognition they deserve."

In addition to its academic advantages, students appreciate the city and its surrounding opportunities, according to Mina Jones Jefferson, the College of Law's Senior Assistant Dean and Director of the Center for Professional Development. "Prospective students are hearing about the law school’s vibrant network of opportunity.”

She continued, “The law school is less than 6 miles from the region’s strongest law firms, legal departments of Fortune 500 companies and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is one step away from the Nation’s Supreme Court.  This proximity means that students get experience from the first day and move seamlessly between the University and legal community.”

She also noted that “Ohio is a top 10 state for legal entry-level employment and Cincinnati is the fastest growing economy in the Midwest, which means opportunity follows.” Jefferson said that there are also more non-traditional high-level jobs available primarily to those with law degrees, including human resources managers, patent examiners, providers of international tax services and hospital administrators.

UC Law’s LLM Program Gives Students Training, Experience and Inspiration

Like other legal professionals from around the world, three new UC College of Law students came to the United States for advanced training and, just as importantly, inspiration.

“Studying law in the U.S. is like magic. It’s so difficult,” states Frinwi Gwenelyne Achu, an LL.M. student from Cameroon.

In addition to Achu, this year’s LL.M. class features two other students from Africa: Arnold Agaba and Amanda Arigaba, both from Uganda. The LL.M. program provides students who have studied law in a foreign country the opportunity to receive up to two years of exposure to the U.S. legal system. Each student has, at minimum, a bachelor’s in law and earns a masters in law for foreign-trained lawyers. The program is currently in its fourth year, and has so far graduated 30 students from 18 different countries. This year’s class features 18 students from 10 countries.

Achu attended University of Buea Cameroon, the first Anglo-Saxon University in that nation. Agaba studied at Uganda Christian University, which he describes as young and vibrant. Arigaba attended two schools in Kampala, the capital of Uganda; she earned her undergraduate Bachelor of Laws degree at Makerere University and her diploma in Human Rights at the Law Development Centre.

While the students have adjusted their lives, time zones and learning methods, all three say their experiences here have been overwhelmingly positive. However, each student was motivated to study law in America for different reasons, and each has different end goals upon returning to their home countries.

Arigaba has wanted to be a lawyer since she can remember. With parents who were lawyers, she was “always in awe of my father’s choice of syntax and vast knowledge of everything...something I attributed to his profession,” she said.

She would watch or read the news, hoping to understand conversations he had with other adults. Her mother she viewed as a superwoman who juggled being a mother and a lawyer “flawlessly.”

Achu and Agaba both looked to law because of its integral role in society and job opportunities available after legal training. Agaba was driven by his desire to influence rule-change and thinking in his community in Uganda; Achu wants to combat disparities.

To fulfill their career wishes, though, they knew they needed to look to the West, specifically, to America.

Universities across the globe look to the U.S. as the ideal for building legal expertise. Studying in any foreign country gives students chances to understand their subjects on larger scales, something particularly valuable to employers. Studying in the country that sets standards, however, is even more enticing.

“Why did I choose the greatest country in the world?” Agaba asked. After a pause, he explained that America is viewed as the leader, a place where “development is real and the lives of the people in that country are bettered by its government on a daily basis.”

Arigaba agreed, saying that she chose to study here because of the America’s “admirable“ legal evolution.

Teaching methods have been one of the toughest things to adjust to, the students said. Precedent cases differ from country to country, meaning that even if concepts are the same, applicability is not. Students in America are highly encouraged to have a robust understanding of cases, to push boundaries and to engage in conversations and establish relationships with professors and other faculty members, which is not the case in every country.

“You may go through law school without ever having a personal relationship with an instructor,” said Agaba of legal education in Uganda, “which, I think, is terrible because you can’t better someone’s life at a distance. It has to be personal.”

Networking with faculty, area professionals and other students has been a priority for the LL.M. students. Arigaba has enjoyed conferences featuring renowned or acclaimed individuals who share their knowledge with students. “They put into context a lot of what is delivered in the classroom walls and are very inspiring considering their accolades, a reminder of how much work there is to be done and how much I can achieve.”

Achu experienced the same kind of awe when visiting a local law firm that employs 200 lawyers. The largest firm in Cameroon has 10.

Networking helps keep career goals at the front of the students’ minds, and upon completion of the LL.M. program, each has distinct plans.

Achu wants to work toward creating her own company encouraging foreign investments in Cameroon, where eight of 10 regions speak French, while the other two speak English. Because business laws conflict between the two types, many companies do not expand, which leads to disparities between communities.

Foreign investments, Achu said, will impact citizens’ lives by expanding opportunities in the country rich in natural resources. “I know if I create good contacts and connections with people, we’ll be able to get a forum where we work out a partnership,” she said. “We [Cameroon] have the materials, we send it to you, and it’s going to help you.”

Agaba would rather teach than practice law. “Teaching offers me the opportunity to change mindsets, to show people different experiences, rather than simply solving one problem of theirs. I could change the mindset of various people, and lawyers are a big part of social change. So, if you influence a lawyer, you can influence a greater part of the society.”

Arigaba is particularly interested in human rights and foreign affairs. She describes herself as appreciating hard work and service, and wants to see and impact change among the entire nation. “I have the mind and attitude of service, and I will go wherever I am needed,” she said. Studying in a foreign nation with other international students has also provided opportunities to understand other cultures and ways of doing things. Students leave with new skills and knowledge that they can integrate in their home country.

“You don’t just walk away with a masters degree,” Agaba said. “You walk away with a new lifestyle, a new mindset, with actual change. The person who came here in August is not the same person who is leaving. He is better in various ways. But in meaningful ways.”

University of Cincinnati College of Law Ranked a Best Value Law School…Again

The National Jurist and preLaw magazines have ranked the University of Cincinnati College of Law one of the Best Value Law Schools for the third year, and second consecutive year, respectively.

Each year, the magazines release rankings of law schools across the nation, taking into account many different factors. The ranking is designed to identify law schools where graduates have excellent chances of passing the bar and getting a legal job without taking on a ton of debt.  This year, the number of ranked schools increased from 53 to 64.

Factors for ranking include employment, which is the most important and makes up 35% of the grade, tuition and cost of living, and amount of debt upon graduation. In an effort to address enrollment decline, many law schools have increased scholarships, making it more affrdable for student.

This is not the only time that the College of Law has been honored by National Jurist. In Spring of both 2014 and 2015 it was ranked as a top law school for practical training, a testament to the work and impact of the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic.

And for those wishing to stay in the area after graduation, there is good news as well. According to Forbes’ 2015 ranking of “America’s Most Affordable Cities”, Cincinnati comes in at #5. This ranking assessed housing affordability and cost of living (which includes food, gas, utilities, transportation, medical expenses and other day-to-day expenditures), and weighed these factors according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index.

Looking at these three rankings together, it’s clear that both the College of Law and the City of Cincinnati are a great  “bang for the buck,” making Cincinnati an affordable opportunity to many law students.

(Read about Best Value Law Schools in The National Jurist)


First-Year Students Win the College of Law ABA Negotiation Competition

First-year students win the College of Law ABA Negotiation Competition.  The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Club, which promotes negotiation and dispute resolution activities, hosted  a competition to determine which students will represent the University of Cincinnati at the American Bar Association Negotiation Competition.  Two teams – David Lopez and Ben White as well as Meg Franklin and Melissa Springer – will represent the College at the ABA Regional Competition in November which will be held at Nothwestern Law School.  Twelve teams participated and were judged by local attorneys.    Students are coached by Professor Marjorie Aaron and James K. Lawrence, Esq., an Adjunct Faculty member.

Mina Jones Jefferson Appointed to Ohio Commission on Professionalism

Mina Jones Jefferson (’90), Senior Assistant Dean and Chief of Staff, was recently appointed to the Ohio Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism for a term ending on December 31, 2017.  The Commission promotes professionalism among attorneys admitted to practice law in Ohio, devoting its attention to the law as a profession and to maintaining the highest standards of integrity and honor among members of the profession.

Associate Dean of Faculty Sandra Sperino to Speak at Alabama Bar Association

Associate Dean of Faculty Sandra Sperino will speak at the Alabama Bar Association Labor and Employment Annual Conference.  Her talk will explore the Supreme Court’s recent cases that connect discrimination law with tort law and what this means for the future of federal discrimination law.

Professor Jacob Cogan Publishes

Professor Jacob Cogan published an essay, Stabilization and the Expanding Scope of the Security Council’s Work, 109 AMERICAN JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW 324 (2015).   He also had an article accepted for publication: The Two Codes on the Use of Force, EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW (forthcoming) (co-authored with Monica Hakimi).  Professor Cogan is an active member of the American Society of International Law and an elected member of the American Law Institute. He edits the International Law Reporter, a widely read blog on scholarship, events, and ideas in international law, international relations, and associated disciplines.

Professors Vazquez and Moore Take Center Stage at LatCrit2015

Cincinnati Law Faculty take center stage at the LatCrit 2015: Twentieth Anniversary Conference, October 1-3 in Anaheim, California.  Professor Yolanda Vázquez presented "Nothing is Ever Black & White: Mass Incarceration and the Continued Denial of Recognition of Immigration Detention's Role in It" and Professor Janet Moore presented “Make Them Hear You: Participatory Defense and the Struggle for Criminal Justice Reform.   LatCrit marked its twentieth anniversary by convening critical thinkers pursuing the goal of creating a legal order where equal justice for all is reality, not aspiration.

Professor Janet Moore Serves as Guest at Symposium for Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law

Professor Janet Moore will serve as co-Guest Editor with Andrew Davies, Ph.D., for an upcoming symposium edition of the OHIO STATE JOURNAL OF CRIMINAL LAW.  This symposium will include new empirical analyses of indigent defense by researchers who will present their work at a two-day conference during the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology in Washington, D.C. in November.  Professor Janet Moore also will serve as co-Guest Editor with Andrew Davies, Ph.D., for an upcoming symposium edition of the OHIO STATE JOURNAL OF CRIMINAL LAW.  This symposium will include new empirical analyses of indigent defense by researchers who will present their work at a two-day conference during the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology in Washington, D.C. in November.