An Interview with PW and Law School Alum Simon Zagata

Having just graduated from William and Mary Law School in Virginia, PW alumnus Simon Zagata has returned to his home state of Michigan to accept a position as a law clerk with the 49th Circuit Court in Big Rapids. Last month, Simon was a speaker at the Careers in Law event hosted by Career Services of the College of Arts and Letters and James Madison College. Following the event, Simon graciously agreed to sit down with current PW student Abby Girardot to answer a few questions regarding his latest accomplishments and changes since graduating. His experience transitioning from the professional writing program at MSU to a prestigious law school offers useful insights for PW students who are considering a similar path.

How was your move back home to Michigan from Virginia?

I am really happy to be home. I knew as soon as I got out to Virginia that I wanted to be back in Michigan eventually. I am a little too close to my parents, but it is nice to have a built-in dog sitter, which is very important. And I love Michigan State. My brother and friends are here so I get to see them, and I love being here with them.

Shortly after you graduated from MSU, you were interviewed for the WRAC website. You mentioned your desire to work with nonprofits, specifically with survivors of domestic abuse and/or violence. How do you see this fitting into your life now?

I am a law clerk right now, so I can kind of take it wherever I want, hopefully, and domestic violence legal aid is one of the things I want to do. I am not sure where or when it will fit in, or whether I would work pro-bono to start, because I do have loans, but it is still a part of the plan.

Another thing I am really interested in, which stemmed from [PW Professor] Danielle DeVoss’s class, is IP [intellectual property]. My interest really grew when I took a copyright class and a trademark class in law school during my last semester. I just absolutely loved it. That kind of gave me another career option that would pay off loans, but I also want that work-life balance that we’ve been talking about, so we’ll see. Whatever the case, domestic violence legal aid is definitely in my future somewhere.

Speaking of your class with Professor Danielle DeVoss, how would you say your PW major still impacts your work today, even after graduating law school?

I am always thinking to myself, “How can I make this more readable? How can I lay this out so people can pick out the important parts?” which are skills taught throughout the PW program. Just today I made a small little graphic in Microsoft Word that I thought would make Danielle proud! I think those skills definitely translate to whatever I end up doing. For example, if I have my own practice, I can use my skills in design and targeting an audience to save money on advertising and do it myself, or I will at least know how to pick out a good advertiser who knows how to do it.

If you were speaking to PW graduates considering law school, what advice would you give them?

Don’t be afraid of it. I remember doing an informational interview for a class, and I interviewed one of my brother’s friends about law school because he is a lawyer. At this point I was already set on going to law school. And he said, “Don’t ever go to law school, don’t do it, it’s awful.” And a lot of people on the panel said law school is hard, and it is, but I absolutely loved it. I met a lot of great people there, some of my best friends. I learned a lot, had a lot of fun, and had a lot of great experiences. So, don’t let someone scare you off if that is what you really want to do. Think it through but don’t be discouraged.

Earlier, you mentioned needing a dog sitter. What kind of dogs do you have?

A border collie-beagle mix and a German Shepard/chow-chow mix, but the chow-chow is in Virginia. Both my girlfriend and I had our own dogs before we met, but once we met in October of the first year of law school, our dogs became both of ours. She had the chow-chow before we met, and right now she is completing a yearlong fellowship at William and Mary, so one dog is with her and “my” dog is here with me. I will be seeing them over Thanksgiving break, which I am looking forward to.

Written and photo by Abby Girardot