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Potholes, Taxes and Law School

There are many reasons why people decide to go to law school and a flat tire is as good a reason as any....

There are many reasons why people decide to go to law school. A flat tire is as good a reason as any - just ask Touro Law second year evening student Mickelle Damassia. When asked why she decided to go to law school she responded, “It’s very simple, taxes and potholes.”

Soon after Mickelle received her Bachelors of Business Administration from Monroe College, she was driving to work when her car got a flat tire due to a very large pothole. Tis made Mickelle wonder where her hard-earned taxes were going. This curiosity led her to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Administration and Policy Analysis at Baruch College, where she learned more about tax policy. The knowledge she gained at Baruch lead her to the realization that if she wanted to change the tax code she would have to become a lawyer. Thanks to that pothole and a natural curiosity and love of learning, Mickelle is now one of Touro Law’s many successful students.

Mickelle’s journey to law school does not actually begin with that pothole. Her journey doesn’t even start in this country. Mickelle, the youngest of three girls, was born in Trinidad and her family migrated to the United States when she was 3 years old. They lived in Brooklyn and then in Queens and eventually settled in Huntington, NY. The rule in her household was that after high school the girls needed to either go to college or join the military. While telling her story Mickelle candidly admits that she “did not want to go to college at all.” She decided to follow in her big sister’s footsteps and join the military.

Two weeks after her senior prom and before she was even eighteen years old, Mickelle, armed with a waiver signed by her parents, signed up to join the United States Military. She wanted to join the United States Army like her eldest sister, who is now a Captain, but she was told by her sister that one Damassia in the Army was enough and so she joined the United States Air Force. Mickelle spent the next four years in active duty and reserve duty. She was first stationed in Japan where she was an operations manager in the civil engineer unit. She is a trained marksman, also known as a “sharp shooter,, and she was tasked with guarding “secret planes.” Upon completion of her service and after obtaining her BBA and MA, Mickelle started her own business as a financial planner primarily for minority-owned small businesses and sole proprietorships. At the same time she became a contract consultant for the City of New York, working on various state and federal grants with the New York City Department for the Aging.  

Based on Mickelle’s extensive career experience and her successes here at Touro Law, it is no surprise that the New York City Bar Association selected Mickelle as a NYC Diversity Fellow. The selection criteria for Program Fellows are demanding. As a result, the NYC Bar identifies students who have proven themselves capable of flourishing in the challenging settings that are today's government offices, law firms and corporations. Mickelle is excited to have been selected as a fellow and is eager to start her summer internship at the New York County District Attorney’s Office. This fellowship is Mickelle’s most recent success but she has been receiving recognition for her hard work since her 1L year when she received a CALI Award for Excellence in Legal Process II for Best Brief and she also received a CALI for Best Oral Argument. She was also selected to participate in the Black Law Student Association (BLSA) Mock Trial Competition during her first year which opened the doors to her competing and advancing in the Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition the following year and ultimately led to her position as the Northeast Regional Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition director. On top of all this success, Mickelle is also a member of the Moot Court Honors Board and the Honor Society. She is an executive board member of BLSA and Touro Law’s Veteran Law Student Organization and a member of the Journal of Race, Gender, and Ethnicity.

Mickelle finds “figuring out how to be a better adult” her biggest challenge. However, based on her successes so far, it appears that she has overcome this challenge and is not only a successful law student, but a successful human being.


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