February 25, 2014
Get to know current Lewis & Clark Law Students through J.D. Candidate Halah Ilias’s blog posts on her classmates.
“Mark is someone I admire a lot. Like many people, he is smart and accomplished. But, frankly, those words aren’t enough to describe him. He is witty and funny. He makes people feel good. He is kind and considerate. When you talk to him, you feel comfortable and welcome. He is composed. He also has a great perspective to share. He is the type of person you will remember, but he is also the type of person you will want to remember.”
I asked Mark the following questions. Here are his answers:
What’s your educational background?
I have a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Central Florida. However, most of my education came from reading and being around smart and engaged people. The year after I graduated from college, I moved to my family’s cabin in Montana for eight months. I learned more by myself in those eight months than I did in four years of college.
What about your family background?
My mother’s side of the family is from Bogota, Colombia. My immediate family lived in Vicksburg, Mississippi until I was twelve, and then moved to Pensacola Beach, Florida where I spent my adolescence. My mother is a retired high school English and Spanish teacher, and is now a “yogi” who teaches Kundalini yoga. My stepfather is an ocean engineer. My parents split their time between Portland and Florida. My brother and his family also live in the Portland area, and my brother is an alum of the law school.
Why did you decide to go to law school?
Cynical answer: the sociology factory was out of jobs.
More truthful answer: I spent a lot of time as an activist during and after college. By attending law school, I hoped to establish a career that would allow me to address injustice in society and help those in need of advocacy, while also supporting a family. Lewis & Clark was an easy choice for me since I lived in Portland for a few years before applying and I definitely wanted to stay in Oregon.
What is your favorite part about Lewis & Clark?
Lewis & Clark attracts people with passion and the school environment fosters that passion. Whether it’s for environmental work, criminal defense, or Indian law, many students are drawn to Lewis & Clark because they care deeply about an issue or field. The faculty and staff help transform that passion into a career.
What is your least favorite part about Lewis & Clark?
During these past few years I wish I could have spent more time with my wife and family, and more time doing the outdoor activities I love. The time demands of law school are not unique to Lewis & Clark though. Instead, I believe a heavy workload is an attribute of all legal educations.
What are your future job and career goals?
I am blessed to have a position clerking with a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals after graduation. After that, I hope to practice criminal defense at either the trial or appellate level. Prior to law school, I worked as a legal assistant at the Metropolitan Public Defender’s office in Hillsboro, and returned during my 2L summer as a certified law student. Since my 1L summer, I have clerked for the Federal Public Defender’s office here in Portland. My hope is that these positions have prepared me for a career in criminal defense.
What do you think prospective students should know about law school?
If you are coming to law school these days you know what you’re in for and you’re ready for the challenge. That said, I think there are two primary pitfalls that prospective students should watch out for. First, take care of yourself. There is always more to do in law school—something else you could be studying or a commercial supplement you could be reading. Only you can draw the line. My advice: stick to a routine and listen to your body. Success takes hard work, but it also requires that you get sufficient sleep and stay healthy.
Second, don’t compete for the sake of competing. Lewis & Clark is an incredibly collegial environment as compared to other schools, however there is still plenty of competition. Compete for the things you are interested in or that match your career goals, but don’t fall into the trap of competing for something you don’t want or need just because your peers are.
What is an interesting part about your background? Or in other words, how do you contribute to the diversity of Lewis & Clark?
I come from a long line of writers. My grandfather was a well-known novelist and poet in Colombia, as well as a journalist for Bogota’s biggest newspaper. After immigrating to the United States, he became a food critic for the Miami Herald and continued to write beautiful prose until his last days. My mother is a talented poet who has published two books of poetry and a novel. Writing is in my blood, and Lewis & Clark provides tons of opportunity for me to practice the craft.