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Reflections on Law School: Jennifer Vera, Studying Criminal Law

There wasn’t a specific moment where Jennifer Vera ’19 decided she wanted to be a lawyer.

She just always knew.

“I was always interested in the law, and I specifically wanted to do criminal law,” she says. She felt pulled toward the courtroom and trial work—and in law school, that’s just what she did.

Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Vera grew up in Lawrence, Massachusetts. She enrolled at the College of the Holy Cross ready to launch her legal career. That goal propelled her through graduation in 2016 with a major in political science, directly into her law school search.

Vera knew she wanted to practice law in Massachusetts, studying in Boston specifically. After applying to the Boston-area law schools, a tour of New England Law sealed the deal. “I like the smaller school atmosphere, and it seemed like everyone was so friendly,” she says.

Of course, even at a school as welcoming as New England Law, her classes weren’t cakewalks. “It was as stressful as I imagined law school was going to be,” Vera says with a chuckle. “But I enjoyed it more than the stress from college. I did better in law school than I did in college, oddly enough. It was something I was interested in, so it flowed easier—so much easier to understand.”

While at New England Law, she continued an undergraduate interest in mock trial, joining teams her 2L and 3L years, and going on to compete. But her biggest focus was on getting hands-on experience in law school. “I really enjoyed doing the clinics,” Vera says. “Learning how to speak to clients and getting the practical experience were great.”

In addition to joining the school’s in-house Public Interest Law Clinic, Vera got to test-drive her criminal law ambitions while doing the Criminal Procedure II Clinic, where she served as a student prosecutor in court. “I actually put on a jury trial,” she says. “That was one of the more exciting things I got to do.”

But for all the excitement of her courtroom experiences, Vera says the people made the biggest difference in law school. “You always hear about law school being overly competitive…and you worry about everyone just being a gunner,” she says. “Everyone [at New England Law] is a bit Type A but so, so friendly. No one was gunning for anyone.” Rather, they were able to “suffer through law school together,” Vera says, laughing. “It was a great experience.”

For now, Vera is looking forward to getting back to trial work. “Being in a courtroom was something I always enjoyed, being on my feet and speaking and arguing points,” she says. As an intern at the state public defender's office the summer of her 1L year, she "got to see the other side,” she says. “I like the role of the prosecutor.” And so she will be.

After taking the bar, Vera will be serving as an assistant district attorney in the Essex County District Attorney’s office, a job she got seven months before graduating.

“I plan to be an ADA for as long as possible.”

Learn more about studying criminal law.