An Interview with Scott Colom '09

Q. Why did you decide to come to law school?
I decided to come to law school for two reasons. First, I am absolutely in love with the law. I’ve always been fascinated with how the law affects all spectrums of society and how the law is instrumental in shaping public policy. Second, I’ve always wanted to work in a field where you have the opportunity to really help people. Therefore, I was excited about the opportunities a law degree gives you in public service.

How did you choose Wisconsin?
The thing that really brought me to Wisconsin was its reputation for law in action. I had a friend who graduated from Wisconsin a couple years earlier and he told me, “Wisconsin doesn’t just produce great law students, it produces great lawyers.” I was drawn to the many possible clinics that take you away from the theoretical exercise of the classroom to the realities of the court room.

How has Wisconsin’s law-in-action philosophy influenced your legal education?
It has drastically influenced my legal education. The Criminal Appeals Project gave me the opportunity to have real clients, to talk to someone about their problems and to listen to their needs. But even in the traditional courses, professors go out of their way to give you a real world perspective about that particular field of the law. For example, my property professor, Thomas Mitchell, brought in an eminent domain lawyer to explain to the class the world of eminent domain from a lawyer’s perspective.

You’ve participated in the Mock Trial and Moot Court Program. Why did that interest you?
I love to argue. Point Blank. I idolize the old days where lawyers like Clarence Darrow would do a closing for three days. Though the days of three-day closings are surely gone, participating in Moot Court and Mock Trial gives me the opportunity to use my passion for persuasion.

What has been your favorite law school class or professor? Why?
My favorite law school class would have to be a tie between Constitutional Law and International Law. As a history and English major in college, I appreciate learning about how much history plays a part in the development of law. Both classes demonstrated how realities shaped the interpretation and creation of constitutions and international bodies.

Has there been a law school experience that was particularly important or meaningful for you?
Being a semi-finalist in the Omar Megahed oral argument competition was very meaningful. Receiving the opportunity to argue at the chambers of the Wisconsin Supreme Court was something I never imagined before coming to law school.

What did you do during the summers of your first and second years of law school?  How did you get those jobs?
The summer after my first year of law school I interned with the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda.  I applied and was accepted before law school, but was allowed to defer the internship until the summer after my first year of school.  (They probably thought I would be more useful then anyway.)

For my second summer of law school, I applied and was accepted in the Honors Program of the United States Department of Justice.  The program sends your initial application to the different divisions of the DOJ and then the divisions select the students for further applications and interviews.  The Civil Rights Division contracted me and, after an interview, selected me as one of their summer honors interns.

Your Skadden Fellowship work with the Mississippi Center for Justice sounds fascinating.  What have you done in your first year in that position?
I have been busy working on two major projects for the Center.  First, I've been working with a senior attorney to get municipalities to adopt ordinances regulating payday lending.  Mississippi allows one of the highest interest rates in the country for small-dollar, short-term loans -- 572%.  The Center has been unable to get the state to reform this industry because of the strong lobbying efforts put forth by the payday lenders, so this fall we started approaching municipalities with the problem.  Mississippi has the highest number of payday lenders per capita of any state, and many of the municipalities recognized the economic and business damage caused by this industry, so they support temporary moratoriums on new stores.  Second, I have been putting together a business plan for a sustainable alternative to payday lending, as well as reaching out to potential stakeholders in this area.  There is a unique opportunity for banks and credit unions to collaborate with public sector unions, associations, and private business to offer better loan options for consumers. The Mississippi Center for Justice believes this opportunity can combat the popularity of payday lending on the demand side.

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