Go (Mid)West, Young Man
By Katie Vloet
As an undergrad in Los Angeles, Sean Tierney played beach volleyball on weekends. His school, Loyola Marymount University, sat on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. He knew he wanted to go to law school, and he assumed it would be at a school on the West Coast.
But he'd heard great things about Michigan Law—the collegiality of the professors and students, the high quality of the education—so he decided to apply. He was accepted, and came for a visit during March, when snow still dotted the ground.
During his visit, he sat in on a bankruptcy class taught by Prof. John Pottow. "I knew nothing about what was going on. He was taking no mercy on students, and at the time, I wasn't used to the Socratic method," he said. "I saw this guy at the front of the classroom who was brilliant, but who was also likable and funny."
He also saw a video online of the SFF Auction. "I remember seeing Dean Caminker and other administrators singing and being goofy. I thought, this is a place where the people running the show are clearly brilliant but don't take themselves too seriously. That's the type of person I want to become.
"There's a pretty cool spirit about this place. I didn't get the impression when I came here that this was a snobby place, in spite of its academic tenacity," he said. "There's a humble confidence about the place, and I knew that was something that I wanted to be part of."
Now a 3L on the cusp of receiving his law degree, Tierney—one of 113 JD students from California currently attending Michigan Law—continues to be pleased with the decision he made to attend Michigan. "I knew from researching the school ahead of time that I would have a good chance of finding a job on the West Coast," he said.
One of the firms that interested him was Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which sent two representatives to Michigan during On-Campus Interviews. Not only will he begin working for Gibson Dunn in September, but so will classmate Arthur Chan (who hails from San Francisco) and Michael Huston, '11.
"It just confirmed for me that, not only did I not sacrifice anything by coming out here, I really was able to achieve what I wanted to: attend a top law school, and return to California for a job at a firm I admired," he said.
When he talks with prospective students about his experiences here, including alumni of LMU, he tells them about the spirit of the school and the academic strengths. He also shares one of the benefits that he didn't expect: the instant connection that he feels with other U-M and Michigan Law alumni around the world.
He went to Cairo earlier this year and was wearing a Michigan Law T-shirt one day. A fellow subway rider—a U-M alumnus, as it turned out—spotted the shirt and stopped Tierney to say hello. "I was literally on the other side of the world, meeting someone because of my ties to Michigan," he said.
During his 1L year, Tierney was on a Detroit to Phoenix flight for a cousin's wedding, his Con Law book and computer spread out across his tray table. The man who sat next to him—Tierney guessed he was in his early- to mid-70s—asked where he went to law school. Tierney told him, and showed the man his computer background photo of the Law Quad. Tierney pointed to the window of the room where he lived. His fellow passenger pointed to the window directly above Tierney's.
"That's where I lived," the man said.
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