By Jared Misner
In high school, the St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, she was an accomplished athlete, musician and thespian. Menegakis played the preteen Patrick in the musical “Mame.” It was a role that required her to dress up like a 10-year-old boy, which she was initially reluctant to do. Until she found out it gave her a solo song.
“I’ve always had this confidence,” Menegakis said. “I love performing on stage.”
These days Menegakis is performing as a busy third-year law student, as president of the UF Law Criminal Law Student Association, an executive board member of the Law College Council and recently as head researcher of the Florida Innocence Commission.
But her star turn arguably comes with a statewide leadership role for The Florida Bar. Menegakis this year became the first Gator to lead The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Law Student Division since its inception in 2007. As president, she’s in charge of all Florida Barsponsored events at Florida law schools.
“Most law students don’t really understand what The Florida Bar does,” Menegakis said. “The division’s main purpose is to educate law students on what The Florida Bar is and what it has to offer young lawyers entering the profession. Being a lawyer is more than just going to the office and billing hours. As a lawyer, people respect your advice. It is your responsibility to get involved and educate your community. This is what the bar does.”
She learned first-hand how hard the members of the bar work to improve the laws and legal community of Florida. She fondly recalls going to law conferences across the state with her mother Patty, especially the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar that her mother served on.
As president of the Law Student Division, Menegakis presides over a board of governors comprised of 66 elected law students from each of the Florida law schools. The division currently has over 4,000 members and is growing fast.
Menegakis has restructured the division by appointing an executive board and other committees. She has also extended the presence of a mentoring program for division members to each Florida law school.
She graduated magna cum laude in criminology after writing a senior research thesis titled, “The Dark Figure of College Crime,” based on a survey of over 3,000 UF students about self-protective factors (precautions to protect against crime) and victimization.
Menegakis is pursuing a Criminal Justice Certificate through the Criminal Justice Center at UF Law and hopes to work as a public defender.
“As a public defender you’re defending the most fundamental rights of those who can’t afford to pay for their own attorney,” said Menegakis, who was a certified legal intern last summer at the Palm Beach Public Defender’s Office in West Palm Beach.
Even for a seasoned performer, musician and an intramural tennis champion, shining moments bring stage fright. Every time she would play the trumpet in front of people, whether a group of two or 200, Menegakis said her hands would shake. She said that the first time she stepped in front of the jury in her first trial in West Palm Beach, her hands steadied.
“I’m so thankful to everyone: my family, my teachers, my friends, who helped me get to this point,” Menegakis said. “It’s kind of cheesy, but I do think I found my calling.”