3L Angela McGuire combines passions in JD/MPP dual degree program

Apr 16, 2024 | Students

by Angela Turnbow

Angela McGuire, a young white woman with long, dark-brown hair wearing a teal blouseFor several years, 3L Angela McGuire worked on the fashion scene in New York City with big names like Armani and Chanel, styling looks for New York Fashion Week and Good Morning America. She recalls her first apartment in the city as “the top floor of a terribly outdated six-bedroom brownstone in Harlem with seven roommates.” No stranger to housing insecurity, McGuire began advocating for renters and their rights to stable living conditions while living in this particular apartment.

“Most of my roommates were foreign exchange students at nearby Columbia University, and most of us had moved in without having a chance to visit the space in person. We endured constant leaky ceilings and cold showers,” McGuire recalls. “Eventually, we worked together to navigate the city’s housing court to compel our landlord to make timely repairs and maintain the unit. This was the first time I really felt empowered by public policies that protected my right to have a safe and stable place to live.”

McGuire lived in this apartment for three years and became the unofficial apartment liaison for new roommates who needed help speaking with the landlord about repairs. Shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, she moved to Utah and once again picked up the torch to advocate for renters as the economy to came a halt. Her efforts ultimately led her to establish a nonprofit law firm to connect renters in eviction proceedings with attorneys who worked to reduce damages and negotiate better outcomes.

“Hearing concerns from my neighbors, I sprang into action. I contacted several local organizations and coordinated meetings with stakeholders to ensure that those renting in the community had a voice at the table,” McGuire explains. “Eventually, I penned a letter to Governor Herbert on behalf of a coalition of nonprofits, urging him to issue an eviction moratorium. Through this process, I met a number of people who were passionate about access to justice issues. I worked closely with members of the Utah Bar Foundation to secure federal COVID relief funding to support ongoing pro bono legal representation for renters facing eviction.”

Through these experiences, McGuire found a way to combine her passions for access to justice and policymaking by enrolling in the JD/Master of Public Policy (MPP) dual-degree program at Utah Law.

“I started the master’s in public policy program first and spent a lot of time up at the Utah State Capitol during special legislative sessions to lobby for more equitable housing policies,” she says. “I continued to run my nonprofit law firm during my first year of the MPP program, but law school felt like a natural progression and the perfect way to marry my interest in policymaking and passion for action.”

The best part of attending the S.J. Quinney College of Law, McGuire says, is learning directly from leading legal experts.

“I’ve taken classes from a Utah Supreme Court justice, a former federal judge, a Utah gubernatorial candidate, and a legal information designer and cartoonist! SJQ’s diverse faculty and subject area expertise truly allows students to tailor their education to their interests,” she says.

Currently, McGuire is in a field placement with the Utah State Court Self-Help Center (SHC). She previously teamed up with SHC during the COVID-19 pandemic to compile resources for tenants across the state to access via the court’s website. Now the work she does with the center involves her capstone project for the MPP program.

“I’ve spent the last year gathering data and interviewing inmates at the Utah State Correctional Facility (USCF) to understand what kinds of legal issues they face while imprisoned. Ninety-four percent of inmates at USCF will one day be released, and many of them will encounter at least one civil legal issue during their sentence,” McGuire explains. “In response to my findings, I’ve created a number of learning modules that will be made available to inmates, empowering them to solve their legal issues with the SHC resources. This is another way I hope to close the access to justice gap in our state and encourage successful reentry.”

That’s not all McGuire has accomplished since attending the S.J. Quinney College of Law. Among her many achievements, she is most proud to have recently argued a case.

“I was granted permission to present oral argument at the Utah Court of Appeals. In February, I argued on behalf of the appellants in Concerned Coalition v. Governor Cox,” she says.

McGuire is most passionate about making the law more accessible to everyone. She is looking forward to continuing her work with a Utah defense attorney after graduation.

“I have been working as a law clerk for Greg Skordas for the last year and have gotten incredible exposure to all kinds of law. He has really trusted me with important legal research and brief writing on a number of cases, both civil and criminal,” she says. “I will be working at Skordas & Caston and continue to work alongside Mr. Skordas and Ms. Gabriela Mena, both SJQ alumni.”

Interested in the dual-degree JD/MPP program at Utah Law? Learn more about the requirements.