Barista, bartender, bar: 3L Anthony Tenney’s journey to law school

Mar 22, 2024 | Students

by Angela Turnbow

Anthony Tenney, a young white man with collar-length red hair and a beard3L Anthony Tenney initially planned on the life of an academic after pursuing a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies from Ohio State University. However, after working in the service industry for several years as a barista and bartender and then losing his job due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he began thinking of alternative ways to influence his community.

“I wanted to use my experiences in the service industry to help other workers,” Tenney says, “and decided that becoming an employment and labor attorney would be the best career to have a positive impact on my community.”

Tenney is passionate about helping others to understand their legal rights.

“Getting access to legal help is nearly impossible for the average person. Doing pro bono work, volunteering at clinics, and otherwise increasing people’s ability to understand their legal rights is crucial to improve access to justice for the public to empower themselves and assert their legal rights,” he explains.

What drew Tenney to Utah Law was the access to faculty and practitioners as mentors for law students, the low student-to-faculty ratio, and the proximity to the state capitol for opportunities to work closely with professors and practicing attorneys. But all in all, it’s the community here at Utah Law he likes best.

“Our community is small, and I can walk through the law building and say hi to classmates, faculty, staff, and guests,” Tenney says. “I have found friends for life through my classes and extracurricular activities. Everyone can find a way to be involved and find a community here.”

Tenney says that an open mind is key to the law school experience.

“Law school is an opportunity to be curious, to ask questions, to take classes just because they are interesting, and to attend events or lectures that are exciting to you,” he says.

This past January, Tenney and his fellow classmates, Michael Meszaros and Jesus Salazar, spent a week in New York City representing Utah Law at the National Moot Court Competition—an experience he feels most proud of achieving and where he and his teammates “learned a great deal about writing and advocacy.”

After graduation, Tenney will work at Scholnick Birch Hallam Harstad Thorne, a firm specializing in employment and labor law.

“My career ambition is to empower workers and unions to increase wages and job security to build better communities for everyone,” he says.