Alumni Spotlight: Elena Meth ’19

Meet Elena Meth, a 2019 Political Science and Environmental Studies graduate. Elena is currently a 2nd-year law student at the University of Michigan, focusing on public interest lawyering. Elena has a particular interests in post-conviction and prison litigation and hopes to find full-time employment in this area after her graduation. In addition, she has long term interests in transitioning into legal academia and becoming a full time law professor. Last summer she worked for the Maryland Office of the Public Defender in their Post-Conviction Division and this summer she will be interning for the MacArthur Justice Center in their Supreme Court and Appellate Program. Elena shared that she is more than happy to chat about these experiences with anyone.

As a law student, Elena is a Book Review Editor on the Michigan Law Review, a research assistant to a professor, a co-president of the Women Law Students Association, a Board Member of the First Year Information Program, and a peer tutor. She likes to spend her free time walking around Ann Arbor’s green spaces, gardening and tending to her plants, and taking tap lessons. As a Denison student, Elena was a Teaching Assistant for the Environmental Studies department, President of SHARE and DCSR, and the Policy Chair of DCGA.

Although Elena didn’t come into Denison wanting to be an attorney, she turned to it fairly quickly. She points out a few things that set her on this path. First, she enrolled in Intro to International Politics fall of her sophomore year and her professor highly encouraged her to switch her major to Political Science. Elena encourages students to at least take the time to chat with professors when these kinds of suggestions come up – “He obviously saw a knack for the field in me that I didn’t yet see in myself!” Once she added PoliSci, she started taking more classes on political theory and law (particularly with Dr. Pool). She also took a few classes through Environmental Studies – like Environmental Decision Making and Environmental Dispute Resolution – that made her think about other ways to use her degree beyond research or working on the Hill.

The summer between Elena’s junior and senior year, she accepted an internship with a mediation nonprofit, MWI, in Boston, MA. She got her mediation certification through this experience and also had the opportunity to observe corporate, family, and eviction mediations as well as to take the lead on eviction cases in housing court. She shares, “This experience is probably what most solidified my desire to go to law school, and I highly encourage anyone considering law to get some kind of exposure to negotiation, mediation, or litigation if you have the chance.”

Elena’s advice to you- “I am a firm believer that anyone considering any graduate programs, but particularly a professional program like law school, should take at least a year or two off before jumping in. Even for people who are 100% confident that law school is the right path for them can benefit from a few years of working experience. I took a year between college and law school, and frankly often wish I had taken another year to gain some work experience. I think work experience is good for a few reasons. First, it can give you time to reset after a challenging four years to prevent you from burning out. Second, if you’re on the fence, taking time to explore positions that are similar to the programs you’re considering (or frankly entirely different) can make you feel more sure that you’re investing in the right program. And finally, there are skills and perspectives you can only develop from working a full-time job (how to find an apartment, how to deal with coworkers who are different in age from you, how to work a 9-5 meaningfully) that will also serve you well in law school.”

Finally, Elena shares “The aspects of my majors that most contribute to my current path are the intensive reading, researching, and writing I did through both. While it’s true that many law students have political science, history, and economics degrees, I think some of the most interesting and successful people I know have other backgrounds! As long as you’re giving yourself the chance to become a better reader, listener, and writer, you’re in the right major. Also, there are lots of times when having specialized knowledge comes in handy in law. For example, having expertise in environmental issues like pollution, chemical leaching, and superfund sites has made it significantly easier for me to understand tort cases on these topics when they come up.”

Thank you, Elena, for sharing your career journey and words of wisdom!

Connect with Elena on Linkedin.

By Maya Coppola
Maya Coppola