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From Skeptic to Believer

From Skeptic to Believer

In retrospect, the law school’s Criminal Law Program was a perfect fit for Roderick Fancher, ’14, who was among the first eight graduates to concentrate in the field and received an award for Outstanding Achievement in the concentration. 

But when Fancher arrived at Drexel Law in 2011, it was hardly a foregone conclusion that he would do so.

On the one hand, Fancher and his family had gained firsthand experience as crime victims when their home was burglarized.

The “sense of being violated” deepened his resolve to stand up for victims and strengthened his lifelong desire to work in law enforcement, Fancher says.

As a 2L, Fancher threw himself into pro bono work at the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, racking up more than 400 hours in the Domestic Violence and Pre-Trial units.

Yet when Fancher had arrived at Drexel Law, the Criminal Law concentration did not exist. 

And even after the program launched, the Willow Grove native had no desire to complete a co-op placement, which is a pre-requisite for graduating with the concentration.

The very idea of paying tuition for a placement peeved Fancher, who had worked as a firefighter and as a security guard before enrolling in law school.

“I didn’t want to pay tuition to work for free,” he says.

But hearing classmates discuss the benefits that came from co-op placements softened Fancher’s resistance.

During the fall of his 3L year, Fancher completed a co-op placement with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.

“They sort of threw me to the wolves, even though they told me they wouldn’t,” Fancher recalls, noting the stark contrast between Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.

The pace of work was frantic in Philadelphia, and the culture in the courtroom lacked a trace of formality that he had experienced in Montgomery County’s criminal courtrooms.

“It’s hectic. Everybody’s talking at once,” he says. “There’s more confusion.”

That chaos taught Fancher to think on his feet, maintain focus and exude confidence.

“Fake it ‘til you make it,” was one of the lessons learned, Fancher recalls, along with the importance of acknowledging mistakes. “They do appreciate candor.” 

Fancher put his newfound advocacy skills on display at the Mid-Atlantic Super-Region of the Jessup International Moot Court Competition, where he won the award for Best Oralist.

Soon, Fancher will head back to the Montgomery County D.A.’s office to begin work as a special assistant district attorney in the Pre-Trial Unit.

Because prosecutors’ jobs are perpetually available and because other law schools in the Philadelphia region offer criminal law concentrations, Fancher said Drexel Law was wise to add the program.

He credited courses in Evidence, taught by Associate Dean Kevin Oates, and Criminal Law, taught by Professor Donald Tibbs, with providing critical tools and insights for his career.

And he acknowledged that the Co-op Program is a critical component to the concentration.

“The people who created the concentration knew what they were doing,” Fancher says. “I kind of wish I’d done another co-op.”