Before coming to Touro Law Center, Darren Stakey already had a successful career in both private aviation handling as well as the music industry. In 2012, Darren suddenly found himself in a position to make a career shift. “A major expansion in the aviation business fell through at the same time as my music contract was wrapping up… Since I had done everything I had set out to do, I decided it was time to pursue my dream [of becoming a lawyer]. I registered for the LSAT that night.”
When asked if such a major shift was difficult for him, Darren responded, “Of course! I was nervous, scared, excited, and anxious. I had built a life for myself that was ending… I had to make a choice and take the chance to do something new.”
Nevertheless, Darren knows that he made the right choice. “Touro Law Center uses all the latest technology and is scrupulously maintained. The staff is amazingly helpful and supportive. Professors at the school are among the top in their field and the Law Library is state-of-the-art. Touro has a great connection with the federal courthouse across the street. Unlike many other law schools, where students can only engage in theoretical discussions, Touro Law introduces us to the law firsthand, right from the start.”
Since arriving at Touro Law Center, Darren (currently in his second year at Touro Law) has really flourished. He is a member of the Touro Law Review, Mock Trial Program, Inside NYC Elite Law Firms Program and the Honors Program. He has been on the Dean’s List and maintained a GPA above 4.0 throughout his first year. Darren is also a CALI Awards recipient for Academic Excellence in Criminal Law, for Outstanding Appellate Brief, and for Outstanding Oral Argument and the 2013 Pratt Fellowship recipient. In addition to his academic achievements, Darren was also a 1L representative in the Student Bar Association, elected Tribune of Delta Theta Phi, and a member of the Federalist Society, Student Disaster Relief Network, and the Arts, Entertainment, and Sports Law Society. And, Darren is still involved in recording for his music career and has plans to come out with a Christmas EP before the end of the year.
How does he manage it all? Darren advises, “ΓΝ?ΘΙ ΣΕΑΥΤ?Ν,” Greek for “Know thyself.” “You need to have a basic sense of organization that works for you. I know for myself, I need to keep my calendar in my phone to keep track of my schedule for the day. Also, don’t get overwhelmed; stay positive and excited. Be sure to take things one at a time and be totally present in what you have to accomplish that day...Touro Law schedules a common hour from 12:30-1:30 every day. This common hour allows student organizations to host events and gives student organizers a chance to keep up with our responsibilities during the school day.”
This past summer Darren also had the opportunity to intern with Judge Wexler at the Federal Courthouse, across the street from Touro Law Center. “This was a life-changing experience for me. Judge Wexler is doing something that no other judge in the country is doing. Touro Law students have the opportunity to observe all aspects of litigation in Federal Court with him.” Darren worked on six federal trials with Judge Wexler, in everything from jury selections to drafting memos for clerks, from partaking in conferences and side bars to discussing federal sentencing guidelines.
The experience in the court with Judge Wexler gave Darren practical knowledge that he will one day be able to utilize in practice as a lawyer. For example, learning from Judge Wexler about federal sentencing guidelines, “has been an amazing experience. I’m now better prepared to tell future clients what they may be facing in terms of sentencing, and what factors influence the decision.” The opportunity also afforded Darren the chance to learn by observing lawyers in practice: “The biggest thing for me was the opportunity to meet, observe and work with successful litigators. I have learned by seeing in practice the kind of lawyer I want to be.”
Making the leap to law school for Darren was, “the best decision I could have made.” He advises anyone else interested in making the same move to, “Go for it! Do not get overwhelmed by the enormity of the change… And know that when you enter law school, you start fresh. On your first day, your reputation starts that day. If you are fair, focused, and ethical, you will gain the reputation you deserve and people will want to work with you. Success will follow.”