Sometimes a cold call can lead to a meaningful connection.
Nearing the end of a two-year stint with AmeriCorps’ Public Allies program, Jack Stucker, ’13 was certain about his career interest—housing rights—but he still had reservations about investing in a legal education. So he phoned law school administrators in the region to ask how their programs might help him take his advocacy to the next level, and make a living.
That’s how he came to know Susan Brooks, associate dean of experiential learning. “Dean Brooks and I had a very good conversation, and she helped persuade me that going to law school would be a good idea,” he said.
At the time, the Kline School of Law didn’t offer a housing clinic, but Stucker was impressed enough by the program’s flexibility to enroll. True to her word, Dean Brooks and her staff helped Stucker land relevant co-op and pro bono placements, which created a pathway to a job in his area of interest.
“I did some pretty intensive pro bono work with the housing unit at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, and during my last semester I was awarded an Independence Foundation Fellowship at Regional Housing Legal Services,” said Stucker, who recently left a staff attorney position at RHLS to join the Delaware State Housing Authority, where he administers Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.
Throughout his time at Drexel, Stucker found Dean Brooks to be an excellent mentor, who, like other professors at the law school, treated him like a budding professional with valuable thoughts and experiences to share. “I spent a number of hours in her office as a student just thinking about how to communicate these ideas about the importance of the lawyer-client relationship and how principles of social justice are applicable to the practice of law in general and not just the public interest box,” Stucker said.
Those conversations stayed with Dean Brooks, who invited Stucker to co-teach Justice Lawyering Seminar, a course required for students participating in field clinics, with Erica Briant, ’14, staff attorney at Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania. “We start with larger macro issues of justice, talking about criminal justice reform or housing policy in America, and then work our way down to talking about very individual, interpersonal issues of justice,” he said. “Are you doing right by your client?”
Due to the format and content of the seminar, some of what one might expect from a mentoring relationship—helping students navigate the legal world—happens in the classroom. That can involve prompting students to think more broadly about what’s possible in the profession. “There’s often a tendency to break lawyers down into public interest lawyers and regular lawyers,” Stucker said. That’s a narrative he resists in seminar discussions, noting that nothing precludes an attorney at a traditional firm from contributing to social justice.
“I don’t take it as an opportunity to preach my personal sense of justice to the students,” he continued. “It’s about helping them be thoughtful about establishing their own compasses.”
Although he and Dean Brooks are colleagues now, Stucker hasn’t noticed a dramatic change in how the two get along. “In some ways it’s really satisfying to think that there wasn’t a tidal shift created by my title shift. We were just talking and the conversation looked very similar to what it would have five years ago when I was a student.”
The one thing that has changed, Stucker said: “I call her Susan now. That took a little getting used to.”