Alumni Spotlight

Donovan ’23: Pro Bono Scholar Turned Family Law Attorney

Will Donovan ’23

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Will Donovan ’23 came to Albany Law School with a plan—gain experience to move his career in family law forward.

And he’s made it happen.

Before Albany Law School, Donovan worked in human services, specifically with children and families, in various capacities. He hit a point where an advanced degree was the smartest way to move higher.

When he found Albany Law School’s Pro Bono Scholars Program he knew it would be a great way to gain experience and get back into the workforce.

The program allows 3L students to take the bar exam in February during the final semester of study and then devote the next 12 weeks to providing pro bono legal assistance full-time through an approved field placement or clinic, typically within areas to assist people who otherwise could not access the legal system.

“I wanted to work in family law in some capacity, so I really spent a lot of time just trying to get the experience and placements. The idea of being able to take the bar exam early and then put one more experiential learning placement on my resume was really appealing,” he said. “I could get started working right after graduation and bring in an income in so that my wife didn't have to be the sole income of the household.”

He’s now at the Schenectady County Public Defender's Office in the family law unit.

“Children in certain family law cases are afforded representation and that includes custody, abuse, neglect, visitation, and some juvenile justice cases. In custody and visitation, abuse, neglect and Person in Need of Supervision (PINS), I've worked with different counties,” he said. “That's been a really good variety of experience. A lot of it has been legal research and motion drafting. The document drafting is especially heavy in the juvenile justice areas. I'll write petitions or motions to dismiss. I got a felony charged against one of our clients dismissed, and that was pretty cool because I was able to write the whole motion. It felt great to see my work have an actual result.”

Though much of Donovan’s law school experience was atypical, from starting in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and the birth of his first child, he found ways to make connections on campus.

“Professor [Melissa] Breger was my faculty advisor, and she has been tremendous in helping me plan out my very non-traditional law school experience and muck through some of the challenges lawyers in family law face,” he said. “She served as a faculty advisor for my upper level writing requirement, and helped me develop my thoughts and approaches to this area of law. She gave me the support I needed to be curious and figure things out for myself.”

As someone who came into law school with the clear goal in mind—rather than gaining a broad swath of experience and choosing form there—Donovan sometimes felt like an outsider. But now that he’s on the other side, he knows there’s a team of people behind him.

“I wanted to become a lawyer so that I could fix things. I feel equipped to help where I can and put my energy towards that as opposed to taking on the entirety of the ills of institutions and societies,” he said.

Will Donovan and Family