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Baker ’24 on Finding She's 'Meant to Be' in Courtroom

Kara Baker ’24

By Alex Peebles
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Since earning her undergraduate degree in 2012, Kara Baker ’24 has held nearly every position in the legal profession—aside from being an attorney. Soon enough, her resume will include that title as well. Baker is closer than ever to achieving her longtime dream of becoming a trial attorney, but she’s not waiting until then to make a difference. In March, she tried and won her first case in federal court under the Northern District of New York student practice order. 

Working closely under the supervision of the Hon. Mae A. D'Agostino, United States District Judge, Baker was able to apply what she had learned in the classroom at Albany Law School to a federal courtroom with real 4th Amendment implications. The federal civil rights case had Baker helping represent the city of Albany and detectives in the Albany Police Department. During the trial Baker gave the opening statement and executed the direct examination of a witness.

"This opportunity showed me where I should be and what I'm meant to do. I felt great in the courtroom," Baker said. "Of course, I was unbelievably nervous and certainly just itching at the opportunity, but I think it just made me realize that I'm on the right path and the steps that I've taken—and even though it's taken a little bit longer in my life to get to law school—I think that [this experience] just proved to me that this is what I need to be doing."

"I chose this specific case because it was Judge D'Agostino, and I look up to her, she's very inspiring. So, I think it was very special to be in her courtroom, see her practices, and go through the entire process. Baker said. "It was really a great experience. And at the end of the trial, she mentioned and talked about what an incredible opportunity this was, and if she had had this kind of opportunity in law school, she would've just absolutely jumped at it."

Baker is a paralegal at The Rehfuss Law Firm, owned by Albany Law School Trustee Stephen J. Rehfuss ’85.

"When I was thinking about applying to law school, it was after years in the legal field and just knowing that this is what I wanted to do. Albany is essentially in my backyard, and my boss has some strong ties to Albany Law. Two of his daughters went there. He's a trustee there. So, it all felt meant to be that I worked for him and that I had a lot of support from him going there," Baker said. "And I also had incredible support from my professors. I would say, especially Professor Michael Hutter, who I nagged tirelessly about evidence issues related to trial. And he was more than willing to talk to me nonstop about any fears I had, specifically about any evidence issues that would come up. "

Baker encourages every aspiring trial attorney to take advantage of the Northern District's student practice order.

"I don't think this is a common thing to happen, and certainly, from what Judge D'Agostino told me, it's a very, very rare opportunity, and it is an opportunity out there for other students. The Northern District of New York has the student practice order application, and it is a little bit of a process to get it approved, and you certainly must have a sponsorship from a law firm that is going to a trial and approval from clients and then the judge," Baker said. "But if you want to be a trial attorney or if you want to get into litigation, I think that this is just a great way to know if it's something that you want to do, and it's open for 3Ls. Overall, just an unbelievable experience."

Kara Baker 24'