Shareefah Taylor, JD candidate ’21: Public Interest Law Fellow

Taylor interns for Justice Elspeth Cypher on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and at the UMass General Counsel’s Office

  • Hometown: Ewing, New Jersey
  • Degree program: Juris Doctor
  • Undergraduate degree: Haverford College ’12, Psychology major
  • Internships: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the UMass General Counsel’s Office
  • Research: Food label regulations on plant-based meat alternatives
  • Leadership: Law Review Editorial Board, Managing Editor ’20-’21; Health Law Society, cofounding member and secretary
  • Student organizations: UMass Law Black Law Students Association, UMass Law Legal Association of Women
  • Awards/Fellowships Public Interest Law Fellow

Experience in public service influenced Taylor’s decision to attend UMass Law

My work experience as a client service coordinator/case manager for disaster recovery with AmeriCorps in New Jersey and in human services for the Department of Social Services in Charlotte, North Carolina, greatly influenced my decision to not just attend law school, but to attend UMass Law.

Before attending UMass Law, I worked in various roles around social services and programs for underserved and in-need communities. I witnessed fundamental issues caused by an overtly bureaucratic system fueled by antiquated laws within government structures such as strict eligibility criteria for certain public assistance programs that, in some cases, disqualified the most vulnerable populations. I knew the best way to be that change-agent was to become a professional advocate. As a pillar for public interest, UMass Law made this vision come full focus.

Public Interest Law Fellowship

The UMass Law Public Interest Law Fellowship Program is a flagship program that helps further law students’ interest in serving within one of the many public interest fields. The fellowship offers exposure to industry leaders, elected and community officials, and all types of legal professionals.

Intern at MA Supreme Judicial Court and UMass General Counsel’s Office

My work in both the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and UMass General Counsel’s Office has been personally transformative. 

Currently, I intern for Justice Elspeth Cypher of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. On any given day, I can witness oral arguments, work on memoranda and research projects, or assist in other judicial functions. I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute to such a dynamic chamber.

Working with UMass General Counsel allowed me a glimpse into the indispensable work that Gerry Leone and the legal teams across the UMass system are executing on behalf of the campus network. I worked cross-functionally with various attorneys on projects that cover, to name a few, contract law, property law, statutory interpretation, and administrative law in the higher education context.

 

 

Law Review room
Shareefah Taylor JD '21 works on Law Review in the UMass Law Library. She will serve as the next managing editor.

Named managing editor of UMass Law Review

Serving on Law Review has been such a rewarding experience. While it does take a lot of time, work, and attention to detail to prepare the selected articles for publication, having the opportunity to contribute along with my colleagues and see the final result makes it all worthwhile. I’m on the editorial board as a managing editor for the upcoming school year and we’ve got a few projects in the works, so I’m excited to see what the new year will bring.

Research on food label regulations

I have been privileged to serve on UMass Law Review and be among an elite group of professionals whose work has been selected for publication. My research so far has led me to publish groundbreaking work around the unsettled intersection between federal and state food label regulations on plant-based meat alternatives.

The topic is unsettled because individual states have been enacting stricter laws than those set by federal guidelines, which is within the states’ power to do. But, the new legislation has been challenged in certain states on constitutional grounds and is currently unresolved.

Taylor plans to work with underrepresented populations

I’ve had the great opportunity to participate in experiences that I never could have imagined before starting law school. Those experiences, coupled with my life prior to law school, have motivated me to be the best that I can be, not only for myself, but to contribute meaningfully to the community.

Working with dedicated, passionate people throughout my journey has been eye-opening and inspires me to keep pushing forward for those who are underrepresented or feel like they do not have a voice.

Fellow UMass Law students made experience fulfilling

Law school is not an easy feat, but successfully navigating the challenges provides an indescribable fulfillment. The student body makes the experience particularly fulfilling. Many colleagues in UMass Law are already mid-career, well-established, and sought-out leaders in their own disciplines. There’s always solace in experience.

Future may include field of food law

Food is such a ubiquitous topic that touches everyone’s lives, so it is paramount that we have transparency in the food system and food regulations. Food law as a distinct discipline is an emerging field, but the laws are already ingrained in our society. I’m interested in the consumer protectionist side of the field but am also considering expanding my scope of interest into other unrelated areas of law.

Regardless of the field, I want to make a positive impact on the communities I serve.

Praise from the UMass General Counsel's Office and UMass Law 

“While we typically hire second- or third-year students, we hired Shareefah during her first year at UMass Law because we were impressed with the public interest work she had done after graduating from college. Shareefah was a terrific summer clerk for us," said Gerry Leone, general counsel for the University of Massachusetts system. "She assisted several of our attorneys with research projects and displayed a keen understanding of the often complex legal issues faced by a large university system. Shareefah is going to be a great attorney and we look forward to following her legal career after she graduates.”

"I have had the pleasure of supervising Shareefah as both a Public Interest Fellow and as a student worker. She is a smart, focused individual who has applied her skills in a variety of different ways during her first two years as a law student," said John Quinn, director of Public Interest Law Programs at UMass Law. "She has participated in two very prestigious internships as well as being very active as an officer on the Law Review Board. She is a pleasure to work with and she has a very bright future ahead of her."

 

The Public Interest Law Fellowship includes a substantial scholarship for tuition and fees in exchange for community service during school and a commitment to practice public interest law for four years following graduation.



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