Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Law Review 101: Interview with Tommy Sturgeon, Editor in Chief, Rock Star, and Soon-to-Be Lawyer

The below interview is the second installment in a three-part series about the University of Louisville Law Review. To read the first part, click here. Today's post focuses on the networking value of being a journal member, and I can’t think of a better person to focus on than Tommy Sturgeon, the law review’s editor in chief for the last year. As the leader of the school’s flagship journal, he essentially has a full-time job on top of law school. Even so, he has an unfailingly positive attitude, a great sense of humor, and an impressive willingness to spend time answering nit-picky questions from first-year law review members such as myself (full disclaimer: the editor in chief is technically my boss at the journal, but next year’s editors were selected before this interview took place). I’ve met a lot of terrific people in my first year on the law review, and they’ve helped me in many ways, from career advice to shared outlines to exam tips. I could rattle on about how helpful everyone has been, but I couldn’t say it better than Tommy.

Name: Tommy Sturgeon
Age: 37
Hometown: Louisville
Undergrad: Belmont University
Before U of L: Professional Musician
After U of L: Associate,  Frost Brown Todd

2L at U of L: I'm always interested in the backgrounds of successful law students. How did your career as a musician play into your decision to attend law school?

Sturgeon: I knew my season as a performer was coming to its end, and my father helped me to choose what the next phase of my life would look like.  His main advice to me: You have to find something that you love as much as music.  I tossed around some ideas of possible careers, and when I started looking into law school, I decided to buy a Con Law textbook at a used bookstore to see what the reading might be like.  As a musician, I spent hours and hours practicing my instrument (guitar) and songwriting. In other words, I enjoy immersing myself fully into whatever I do for long stretches of time.   When I started reading this used textbook, I realized how much I enjoyed focusing on it.  It was odd, but I found that my emotional response to law was very similar to my emotional response to playing and writing music.  I had found something that I could enjoy as much music, and, like music, there is no end--you can never fully master it--so there is an element of pursuit that remains, no matter how good you get.   I've never looked back.

2L at U of L: How did you pick U of L?

Sturgeon: It was an easy choice.  I love the Louisville community.  I had heard good things about the school, and it made no sense to leave Louisville to attend law school, only to return after graduation, when I could get the same quality education at greater value with the added benefit of networking locally while in school.  U of L Law School is a gem; I'm not sure if people truly appreciate the great opportunities that this school provides.

2L at U of L: What made you want to apply for the law review here?

Sturgeon: In my 1L year, I was trying to decide what school activities I wanted to pursue.  There are a lot of options.  So I asked a local attorney what was the best choice.  He told me that, by far and away, Law Review (not just any of the school's journals, but the University of Louisville Law Review) was the most important.  His opinion was shared by practically everyone I talked to.  In those conversations, I realized that Law Review across the nation is viewed like a stamp of excellence.  I wanted that stamp.

2L at U of L: You mentioned recently that the three biggest benefits of being on law review are skills, networking, and enhanced job prospects. Tell us a little more about the networking aspect of being on law review. 

Sturgeon: When it is all said and done, you are going to remember the relationships, the people that you surround yourself with.  In ten years, I doubt that I will remember the substance of all of the articles that I edited this year.  But I guarantee that I will remember the people that I served with, and I hope we will still be close friends.  The people on Law Review are just great people; they are hard workers; they are motivated; and, best of all, they are fun to be around.  The shared experience of law review membership creates bonds that will last.  And these are people who are going to go out and make a difference.  I anticipate great things from everyone on law review, and the ability to get to know each of them personally has been an extraordinary opportunity.

2L at U of L: What made you want to apply for the editor in chief position?

Sturgeon:  This may sound cliche, but I wanted to leave this school better off than how I found it.  I wanted to make a difference, however small.  My background gave me a unique skill set, and I truly believed that I was the best person for the job.  I wanted to raise the bar of excellence, and when it is all said and done, I hope I will have succeeded.

2L at U of L: Being the top editor of the law review is a ton of work. How do you balance it all and still find time for your family?

Sturgeon: If you think being top editor of the law review is a ton of work, try being a stay-at-home mother of two young boys (ages 3 and 1) while your husband is the top editor of the law review.  That is really a ton of work!!!  What I am saying is, I am able to do it for one reason--my wife, Paige.  She helps me to be able to focus on the boys when I am home, to keep me in check if I become too school-focused, and to provide me the opportunity to succeed when it comes to crunch time.  And frankly, when people ask me: "How do you do it with a family," my response is: "How do you do it without a family?"  It is honestly an advantage because I must be so time-conscious.   

2L at U of L: One of the things I appreciate about the law review here at U of L is that you don't necessarily have to be in the Top 10 Percent of your class to be selected. What advice would you offer a 1L who is thinking of applying? 

Sturgeon: Treat it as if finding a job after graduation depends on making law review (it might!).   Do it.  Absolutely.  Apply and don't second guess it.  Although grades are an element of selection, every year there are people who make Law Review on the strength of their writing in the application process.  My main advice is to treat the first few days after finals like you were still in school.  It's only one or two days.  Work hard on your law review application and you will have a very, very good chance of making law review.  As you can imagine, not everyone will work hard on their application, and those that put in the effort will stick out.  Effort is noticed.

2L at U of L:  What will you remember most about law review?

Sturgeon: I'm answering this question while I am in the Law Review office, and I am looking at a wall where we have placed the photos of our 44 members.  To some degree I'm repeating myself, but I can't really place into words how special this group has been.  I can look at each photo and tell you honestly that I am blessed to have known that person.  What an experience!

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