Successful alum advises students to ‘take full advantage’ of law school experience
By Richard Goldstein
Rahul Patel (JD 97) stood before a ballroom filled with 360 UF Law students last week and told them how he had a couple of obstacles to clear before getting into law school.
After years of undergraduate biology and chemistry classes, Patel found himself drawn to books on business and political science in his spare time and to law as a career.
Since he had taken mostly pre-med classes as an undergraduate at the University of Florida, it looked – accurately – as if he was preparing a career in medicine. What’s more, “My parents, like all Indian parents, were keen on me becoming a doctor.”
Arriving at the appointed place on the day his MCAT training course was to begin, Patel found himself, quite literally, at a fork in the road of life.
Two signs stared at him pointing in opposite directions: “MCAT that way, LSAT that way.”
“I went into the LSAT room.”
He explained to his parents about the silver lining. “Good news: You’ll get a refund!” The LSAT course was cheaper.
Patel told this story on Tuesday to incoming 1Ls and UF Law ambassadors in the Reitz Union’s Grand Ballroom.
He spoke after Interim Dean George Dawson welcomed the students with “bonjour,” a nod to his recent return from France where he was teaching in UF Law’s summer abroad program at the University of Montpellier.
“I welcome you to our law school and what is now your law school,” Dawson said.
Patel told students that Dawson had offered him $100 to deliver the alumni exhortation at Tuesday’s orientation. He declined, noting that the dean could probably find someone more accomplished. Then the dean offered four tickets to the Florida-Georgia football game. “So, my name is Rahul Patel and it’s my pleasure to give the alumni exhortation today ,” he said to laughter.
You can tell that was a joke, because it doesn’t take Florida-Georgia tickets to bring Patel back to his alma mater. Upon graduating in 1997, Patel went to work for King & Spalding, a global law firm where he is a partner in the mergers & acquisitions group and serves on the firm’s global management committee. He has hardly missed a chance to come back since then. Patel is a past president of the college of law’s Law Alumni Council, immediate past president of the UF National Alumni Association, a current member of the UF Foundation Board of Trustees and a current member of the Law Center Association (also known as the board of trustees). Perhaps most impressively, for 18 years running, Patel has interviewed UF Law students for King & Spalding during on campus interviews.
As Patel shows, employers come hunting for UF Law recruits even before the semester begins. Lori Little is director of the Office of Career Development and she spearheads the on campus interviews program. Little said that during early interview week Tuesday through Friday the college hosted 33 law firms whose representatives interviewed 112 students in a total of 628 interviews. This recruiting season, students have participated in job fairs in Atlanta; Marietta, Georgia; Chicago; Washington D.C.; and New York City. On-campus interviews will continue until mid-November and will take place in five phases or interview weeks. Students can register for on-campus interviews by completing the online OCI registration form.
Career Development also hosted a reception for students and employers and a panel discussion giving students tips on how best to engage employers during the interviews.
At orientation in the Reitz Union – only minutes before he would to take part in his 18th consecutive UF on-campus interview season – Patel advised students to study hard, develop an effective routine and take full advantage of the law school experience. It seems to have served him well, after all, laying the foundation for a career traveling all over the world doing mergers & acquisition deals.