168th Commencement: Watch Live
Attorney, scientist, marathoner – even this impressive list is far too brief for Mary Holmes '12. Better add in swimming instructor in Peru, food co-op volunteer in Albany, bicycle commuter from a North Sea campsite to classes in the American University Law School in The Hague and more. As if all that's not complex enough, she studied at night at George Mason Law School and Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C., transferring credits to Albany Law School while working for a patent research firm in Alexandria, Va.
Holmes' peripatetic path began in the west end of Syracuse, N.Y. She earned her BS in Biology at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, then faced a crossroads by choosing multiple options, in her own sequence.
"I had considered law school while finishing my B.S., but went on for more science with an eye to teaching at the university level," she said. She had nearly completed an M.S. in Biology at the State University of New York at Brockport when she detoured into hands-on science as a research technologist in the Pharmaceutics Department at Roswell Park Cancer Institute of the University of Buffalo.
"I had intended to roll the M.S. coursework directly into a Ph.D. in Immunology/Pharmacology," she said. However, "I decided to pursue law school after having met the lawyers who handled patenting for Roswell and realized that I could still be in science but also not be cooped up in a lab." Understating considerably, she said she also realized, "…science background as an attorney could be something worthwhile."
Holmes reflected, "I went on to law school and when I finished, I reached out to Brockport to tie up loose ends." She explained, "Luckily, by then they had a program that I could wrap up my science work with an M.A. online: DONE!"
"When I started law school, I was already committed to working in intellectual property and technology," Holmes recalled. In Albany, she lived within walking distance of law school, enjoyed burritos at Bombers, pizza from Dino's, music at Valentine's and volunteering at the Honest Weight Food Co-Op. "The Albany Law default bar for my section was the Lionheart, and once a week we'd go bowling at the Playdium." An avid runner, she trained for marathons along the Hudson and through Washington Park near her Pine Hills apartment.
"Immunology ended up being one of the most useful classes, as did Trial Advocacy and Seminars," said Holmes. "Amazingly I was very nervous speaking publicly during my first year of law school, something I had never suffered from before." After graduation, she continued to work as an intellectual property researcher by day and studied for the bar exam at night.
"There was a need for technically trained lawyers and I was banking on my science background helping me during a tough legal market," said Holmes; her scientific-legal skill set coming into play when the OSCAR website presented an opportunity to clerk for a Special Master at the Vaccine Court in Washington, D.C.
"I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to work for the Office of Special Masters at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and completely content to be able to use my science background and legal training," said Holmes. "Though it was not intellectual property work, it completely brought my education full circle and was a perfectly fulfilling experience. I clerked there for two years before being offered an opportunity (as a Judicial Law Clerk) with Chief Judge Campbell-Smith at the Court of Federal Claims."
Holmes said, "I am overwhelmed by the support of my law school professors when I needed recommendations for positions, especially my advisor Professor Ray Brescia and Dean Alicia Ouellette." She explained, "They seemed to just be happy for me and supportive every time. I have incredible respect and gratitude for that."