How a non-traditional path to law school can make all the difference

Apr 17, 2023 | Students

For Samantha Meeker, a 3L student at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, a unique career path is something to be proud of—and she’s always ready to talk about hers. Meeker recently spoke at the Federal Bar Association’s “Tenth Circuit Rising Professionals Symposium,” a networking opportunity for law students and early-career legal professionals in the Salt Lake City area. Along with Utah Supreme Court Justice Paige Peterson, entertainment attorney Jeff Cohen, and Brigham Young University 3L Jennifer Kimball, Meeker spoke on the theme of “where you’ve been and where you hope to go.”

Meeker’s speech focused on her previous career as a massage therapist for the World Series of Poker, and what it taught her in her journey to law school. “When I first started working in poker, I would have to walk for hours before I found my first client,” she said. “That means that I was rejected by literally hundreds and sometimes thousands of people before finally being hired by one client. The takeaway from my speech was to never let rejection get to you, because all it takes is one yes to be successful in life.”

Before the symposium began, Meeker was invited to lunch with her fellow panelist Jeff Cohen, who was a former child actor in the ‘80s film “The Goonies.” Not only was he friendly and fun to talk to—his speech at the symposium also meant a lot to Meeker. “His speech was about breaking out of the role of Chunk and how hard it was to get people to take him seriously early in his law career,” she said. “I thought it was really inspiring, because I have experienced the same uphill climb as a fellow non-traditional law student. He taught me to not allow someone else to define who I am and what I can accomplish.”

Meeker says that as a student at Utah Law, she’s had endless opportunities to attend events like this one, and that the networking that happens there is incredibly valuable. “Events are a great way to meet people even if you aren’t an outgoing, networking type of person, because there is no pressure,” she explained. “It has given me the opportunity to introduce myself and shine a light on all the skills that I possess that aren’t conveyed through a resume and transcript.”

Along with drawing on her unique experiences to make professional connections, Meeker says it’s important to use the college’s Career Development Office (CDO) to explore upcoming events—because that can lead to surprising opportunities that you might not have expected. “The CDO is an incredible resource no matter what type of law you want to practice,” she said. “I would never have been given the opportunity to speak at the Rising Professionals Symposium if I wasn’t regularly meeting with the CDO.”