The American Bar Association suggests students preparing for law school and legal careers need to excel in analytical thinking and problem solving, critical reading, writing, oral communication and listening, research, personal organization and management, serving others and promoting justice.
Coincidentally, Mercyhurst’s core curriculum was designed to help students master all these essential skills and values. That might explain why increasing numbers of Mercyhurst graduates are earning admission to top law schools, receiving significant scholarships, and launching successful legal careers.
At least a half-dozen 2014 graduates began law school this fall, joining an impressive group of Mercyhurst alums who are already in law school and practicing law. Mercyhurst students have recently earned admittance to schools including the University of Michigan, DePaul University, Duquesne University, Hofstra, University of Pittsburgh, Case Western Reserve and Indiana University at Bloomington.
Meredith Bollheimer, J.D., who has run Mercyhurst’s Pre-Law Society for the past nine years with Tina Fryling, J.D., says she is continually impressed with the number, quality and diversity of Mercyhurst students interested in attending law school.
Albert Veverka ’05, fourth from left, hosted members of the Pre-Law Society on a visit to Pittsburgh law schools last year. With him, from left: Evan Christensen, now a student at Northern Illinois University College of Law; Mary Mancuso, now at Indiana University Maurer School of Law; Amanda Bortak; Emily Orlando; Kelsey Gorcica; Ian Grecco, now at Duquesne University School of Law; Joseph Wheeler; and Mike Vervoort.
While the majority of pre-law students have been (and still are) political science majors, students from majors as varied as chemistry, public health, intelligence studies, history, business, criminal justice and dance are increasingly choosing to pursue pre-law studies and law school.
Students majoring in criminal justice, English or political science can take a pre-law concentration within their departments. These majors provide students with a solid foundation for the rigors of law school. Michael Federici, Ph.D., chair of the political science department, says that in his 20+ years in the department, not a single graduating senior in political science who has applied to law school has failed to be accepted.
Students in any major can pursue an 18-credit pre-law minor. In addition, students who have opted to not formally pick up a pre-law concentration or minor are still well prepared for law school as a result of the strong liberal arts foundation they receive at Mercyhurst.
Bollheimer says the liberal arts focus at Mercyhurst helps develop “intellectually well-rounded students” who will succeed in law school. She adds, “Law schools are looking for students who understand various ways of thinking, who know how people and society work, and who can engage in solving difficult problems in the world.”
Mercyhurst also has an infrastructure in place to assist students on the journey to law school, including an active Pre-Law Society that provides guidance on LSAT preparation and the admissions process. It brings in local attorneys and regional law school admissions representatives to meet with students, and organizes visits to law schools.
There’s also a flourishing network of ‘Hurst alumni who routinely provide advice and mentoring for prospective law students.
In the following pages, we profile just a few of Mercyhurst’s alumni lawyers.
An internship following his junior year at Mercyhurst helped push Albert Veverka ’05 toward law school. He spent that summer working for Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).
Like several other graduates, he’s quick to credit the grounding in reading, writing and oral argument he got in the political science department for preparing him to succeed at the West Virginia University College of Law. “I felt abundantly prepared, and I owe Doctors Clemons, Ripley, Federici and Morris a world of gratitude for challenging me through four years at Mercyhurst,” he says.
He interned his first summer of law school with Justice Max Baer of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and eventually took his first job as a law clerk to the Hon. Katherine B. Emery of the Washington County Court of Common Pleas.
Albert then spent three years as an assistant district attorney In Allegheny County before accepting a position this fall with the law firm of Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote in Pittsburgh. He currently focuses his practice on criminal and medical malpractice defense.
He’s returned home to Mt. Lebanon, a suburb in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. An avid golfer, he loves traveling to play courses all over the country. He also still plays tennis, the sport in which competed for four years at Mercyhurst.
Following up on his student office as co-president of the Mercyhurst Young Democrats, he now serves as a Democratic committeeman. He also visits high schools throughout the Pittsburgh area, talking to students about careers in law as well as preparing them for the legal challenges they may face when they turn 18.
Lindsey Weber Keljo ’04 majored in political science and world languages (specifically Russian and Spanish) at Mercyhurst. After her 2004 graduation, she did campaign work for the Republican Party in Pennsylvania for a couple of years until one of her clients – Erie County Court of Common Pleas Judge John Garhart – encouraged her to take the LSAT and apply for law school.
Before and during college, she worked as a child entertainer and clown, under the stage name “Rainbow.” She wrote about that experience when she applied to law schools, impressing admissions officers enough to win entrance to schools like Michigan, Duke and the University of Pennsylvania. She chose top-rated Michigan, whose admissions director told her, “You’re the first clown we’ve ever let in.”
Graduating in December 2008, she accepted a job in Washington, D.C., with Patton Boggs LLC (later Squire Patton Boggs), a law firm that is also consistently ranked as the nation’s top lobbying firm. Lindsey loved her job, which allowed her to use her legal degree to advocate on behalf of her clients on Capitol Hill and with the regulatory agencies. Perhaps because she joined the firm during the depths of the recent financial crisis, she specialized in financial services, focusing on, among other things, many of the regulations that have stemmed from the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
Earlier this year, she accepted a new position as counsel to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), a trade association that includes many of her former clients. At SIFMA, she will continue to advocate on behalf of the financial services industry.
Lindsey and husband Michael Keljo (an executive with Hilton Worldwide) welcomed son Charles John (Charlie) earlier this year. They look forward to raising him in D.C., which she says has some of the best schools in the nation, multitudes of educational activities, and where she expects him to meet “lots of Washington dorky famous people.” The first time she took Charlie to a work event, she recalls, Ken Starr kissed his head.
In her spare time, Lindsey likes to enjoy all the Washington area has to offer, from exploring museums and historical sites, to hiking just outside the city limits, to walking the streets of Old Town, Alexandria, where she lives with her family. She also enjoys playing soccer on a recreational team with fellow Michigan alums and spending time with her dog, Marcie.
Frank Kostik Jr. graduated from Mercyhurst in 2001 with a major in political science and an ROTC commission. When his fellow cadets were heading to active duty, he requested a waiver to pursue a degree in law.
It was only a temporary delay, though. After earning his J.D. from Harrisburg’s Widener University School of Law in 2004, he entered the Army. His first assignment was as a legal assistance attorney at Fort Riley, Kansas, but he worked his way rapidly up through the ranks.
He’s held a range of legal posts, including a deployment to Iraq during “the surge” as a brigade judge advocate, and earned a Master of Laws degree from the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School. Now a major, he’s part of the U.S. Army Trial Defense Service, assigned as senior defense counsel at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and acting senior defense counsel at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. In that role, he defends soldiers accused of committing crimes ranging from misdemeanors to serious felonies like sexual assault and murder.
It was Professor Michael Federici’s American Government class that drew Frank to political science, and a recommendation by an ROTC instructor that aimed him toward the law. He’s grateful for the preparation he received at Mercyhurst, particularly in case analysis and legal writing. The notoriously rigorous requirements of the poli sci department taught him to stay ahead of the reading, he says, and that’s a major component of success in law school.
Frank’s wife, Alison L. Fedrow, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, so she splits her time between Silver Spring, Maryland, and their home in Kansas.
Frank’s brother, Adam, graduated from Mercyhurst in 2011 with a double major in philosophy and political science – and an ROTC commission. He earned his degree this spring from the University of Dayton School of Law.
Three years into her legal career, Kaitlyn Faucett ’09 says she’s grateful to Mercyhurst for preparing her for law school at the State University of New York at Buffalo. “While I think it is hard for anything to truly prepare you for your first year of law school, I think the classes offered by the Political Science Department had me better prepared than most of my first-year counterparts. I would like to give a very grateful shout-out to Dr. Clemons, Dr. Federici, Dr. Morris and Dr. Ripley!”
She adds that Dr. Michael Federici is tougher than most law school professors she encountered. “He pushes each of his students to their edge, asking them to independently analyze complicated political, and legal, issues in his classes, not just accepting his thoughts or arguments as ‘true’ solely because he says so.” She also credits the tough love provided by department patriarch Dr. Randy Clemons. “He relishes forcing his students to think outside the box, reminding them that there is rarely a ‘right’ answer, and teaching them to look at every situation through multiple lenses before determining a course of action. This is exactly how you are asked to think in law school.”
Kaitlyn’s been licensed to practice in Texas since 2012 and New York since 2013. For the last year she’s been an associate at Levinthal Wilkins & Nguyen, PLLC, a Houston-based litigation firm that handles business and commercial disputes, as well as catastrophic personal injury actions. “I absolutely love my job!” she says.
Before joining LWN, she served as in-house counsel for a boutique oil & gas company where she primarily examined title and managed the company’s litigation.
Kaitlyn and her boyfriend, Ryan, live in Houston with their one-and-a-half-year-old Doberman Pinscher, Royal. In her free time, she enjoys running, hot yoga, Buffalo sports, and a fair amount of mindless reality TV.
Determined to give back to aspiring attorneys and law students, she’s active with the Houston Bar Association, the Texas Young Lawyers Association, the New York Bar Association, and Phi Alpha Delta.
Christopher Jurusik ’95 grew up in Elmira, New York, but played hockey and graduated from Bishop Ridely College in St. Catharine’s, Ontario. He says his hockey career didn’t flourish at Mercyhurst – but his academic career did.
One of his first classes, American Government with Dr. Randy Clemons, shifted his focus from the hard sciences to political science. Clemons’ teaching style, he says, encouraged students to participate during his lectures, creating a dialogue and encouraging critical thinking. “I owe a debt of gratitude to both Drs. Clemons and Michael Federici as they were instrumental in my maturation as a student and a person,” he says. “Their advice, guidance and rigorous courses helped instill in me the confidence and knowledge necessary to pursue a law degree.”
He earned his law degree from SUNY Buffalo School of Law in 1998. He worked as an assistant district attorney prosecuting criminals in Westchester County, New York, through 2003, then relocated to the Buffalo area and practiced in the malpractice field for five years. Returning to the prosecution side, he joined the Erie County District Attorney’s Office in 2009 and is now assigned to the Financial Crimes Bureau, specializing in white-collar prosecutions.
With a job, a wife and four children between the ages of 4 and 11, he doesn’t have much spare time, but does cycle, swim and coach his children’s hockey teams.
Andrea Bullotta Daloia ’98 was about halfway through a dance major at Mercyhurst when she decided political science would be a better fit for her (though she still kept a dance minor). During her senior year, Professors Michael Federici and Randy Clemons encouraged her to pursue law school.
She attended Cleveland Marshall College of Law, finishing second in her class in 2001. “Although nothing can entirely prepare you for law school, the tougher classes that focus on a ton of reading and writing (especially the ones taught by Drs. Federici and Clemons) did a great job in preparing me,” she says.
Today she’s still in Cleveland as counsel in the law offices of Thompson Hine. She focuses mainly on construction litigation involving contract disputes or injuries at construction sites. She’s also part of the Products Liability Practice Group, most often handling lawsuits related to occupational exposure to various chemicals.
Though she’s single and has no children of her own, she loves spending time with her nieces and nephews and other family members who have moved near her home in the Cleveland suburb of Westlake. In her spare time, she frequently practices yoga and Pilates, and is also involved in a variety of community service projects, from legal aid events to soup kitchens.