Sociology and Anthropology

Meet Attorney Anthony DiClaudio '00
by Corey Waters (Department of Sociology and Anthropology)

During his course of study as a double major in Sociology and History at Rowan University, Anthony DiClaudio knew that he wanted to be an advocate for others. He was fascinated with academia and considered pursuing a graduate degree in Sociology, but he selected law school as a venue more conducive to advocating for others. As a J.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Anthony discovered that he could help others not only by practicing law, but also by engaging in academia through researching, publishing, and teaching. So he did both. After earning his J.D. with a focus in criminal law/procedure, constitutional law, and public interest law, Anthony was a Judicial Clerk for Judge Norma L. Shapiro, the first female judge in any district in the Third Circuit. He was also a Teaching and Research Fellow at Tufts University and Harvard University, where he served as a teaching assistant for Alan Dershowitz. He passed the bar examinations in Massachusetts and New York and became a public defender with the Legal Aid Society in Nassau County, where he served for three years. Anthony is now a contract attorney in Brooklyn.

Corey: How is practicing law rewarding?

Anthony: The law has been rewarding because it's given me the opportunity to indulge in both sides of my nature: I get to do very hands-on stuff, like work directly with clients, in the courtroom and at the jailhouse -- instant feedback as to whether I'm making a difference. And at the same time, I'm able to write and read about anything and everything I've always loved, including pedagogy. I've written a bunch of unpublished stuff about first year of law school pedagogy and why I believe reading some of the more seminal works in the field of law and language would be really beneficial. I've also been working on a pedagogical tool, basically a very in-depth algorithm/flow chart, demonstrating how one might break down a fact pattern -- that is, facts of a criminal case -- into its constituent relevant legal issues. Long story short, practicing law is rewarding because it's both theory and practice. I learn about the philosophy behind the system through practicing, and my practice is guided by an always changing and refining philosophy.

Corey: How have you made a difference with clients in the courtroom and at the jailhouse?

Anthony: A lawyer has to wear a number of hats. Of course, there's what we all think of -- namely, standing before the judge, cross-examining a witness -- as well as what goes on in the conference room: depositions, plea bargaining, settlements; and back at the office: research. But that's often the least frequent task. Rather, a lawyer needs to be a motivational speaker to his client, a guide through the Byzantine system, a confidante, a shoulder to cry on -- for the client's loved ones as well as the client. When you're a public defender, your clients more often than not have clinical needs: medical care, substance abuse counseling, gambling addiction, psychiatric care. So really you're sort of a proto-social worker. You've always got your eye on what's best for your client short-term -- "winning" the case, as if anyone wins criminal cases -- and the longer-term matter of addressing the underlying issue. And often a plea bargain is based exclusively on the fulfillment of the promise to get help. So a lawyer makes a difference when she's able to see the forest for the trees; and to understand how to bring the client, the DA/opposing counsel, the judge, the jury, detectives, victims, and the family to a consensus, hopefully one that is mutually beneficial for all, and thereby beneficial to the client.

Have I personally been able to do this? I like to think I've made a difference for those clients who were apt or able to make a change in their lives, but oftentimes, clients are too far gone and you see them cycle in and out of the system.

With this in mind, I've been trying to figure out which area of law could most use my skill set, and that's why I'm trying to break into elder care for low-income clients. I do believe that another lawyer in that system wouldn't simply disappear, and that my services wouldn't be negligible. Or at least I hope so. We'll see.

Corey: For the Rowan Sociology majors contemplating law school, can you offer advice on how to succeed in the law school application process and in law school?

Anthony: The LSAT is not fun, and studying for it is even worse. But it's absolutely crucial you do well. I won't go as far as advising spending a lot of money on a prep course -- although I do think it's probably worth it -- but I will say that, in the end, it's all about how much you practice ahead of time. I studied for months. Every day. It paid off for me because I got into my number one pick. But I also had a bit of luck applying when I did.

Letters of recommendation are also crucial. So start thinking about professors you've worked closely with or have an opportunity to work closely with because you're going to need some really shining recommendations.

Think about why you're interested in law school. How familiar are you with what lawyers actually do? To be honest, I don't really know very well. The various pockets of law are quite segregated, and specializations are getting more and more specialized. So "to be a lawyer" isn't a useful answer. I know a lot of people think of lawyers as in the courtroom on a regular basis, but the truth is most rarely are. I say all of this because, if you know what sort of law you want to practice, then that'll help you tremendously in choosing the right law school for you. If you want to study international law, then a smaller state school such as Rutgers probably wouldn't be as useful of a lily pad as, say, Columbia. If you want to do public interest law, then perhaps it won't be necessary to go to an "elite" school, but rather you should search for a school that values your credentials and will more likely offer you grants/scholarships. Or if you know you want to work in New York, then go to a school in New York, because getting a job in New York after graduating from a school in Tennessee is very difficult.

The key to doing well in law school is knowing what's important. Taking down everything a professor says is much less effective in getting an A than is speaking with students who've taken the course before or studying past exams. Also, law school is all about networking. If you want to get a good job coming out of law school, oftentimes it'll be a function of whom you know. Practicing law is 5 percent knowing the law and 95 percent knowing other lawyers.

Corey: Did your undergraduate course of study in Sociology (and History) prepare you well?

Anthony: As I mentioned before, to do well in law school, you have to study hard and strategize, but often it's just not possible to pick up all the tips and hints and tricks and helpful outlines unless you network. For me, if there was something I did not do well as an undergrad at Rowan, it was network -- that is, make friends. I was terribly bookish and unapproachable.

So did Rowan prepare me well? Well, in a few very important aspects, yes -- and terribly well, perhaps much better than I deserved. To succeed in law school, you need to learn how to speak well and write well. I received an inordinate amount of attention from professors when I was at Rowan, probably because I would just hound them nonstop and without shame. But it worked. If you look at the quality of writing freshman year compared to my senior year, it's ridiculous. My high school was a joke. So I entered Rowan without any idea of how to write a five-paragraph essay, but I left having written a 50-page thesis that gathered materials from dozens of books -- and about postmodernism nonetheless. This would not have been possible without the generosity of a dozen or so professors at Rowan. I've never been as engaged and focused on my work as I had been at Rowan, and it was only because certain professors took the time to answer my never-ending parade of half-baked questions. So, in short, Rowan prepared me for law school by giving me the equivalent of the sort of tutor oversight you'd get at Oxford. I say none of this with any exaggeration. I learned at Rowan how to speak like an academic and how to write like an academic.

Now, did Rowan prepare me for the social side of law school? No. But how could I expect that? That's always been my demon, and I can't imagine how any institution could coach me to be more social.

Corey: Which courses and professors at Rowan were most influential?

Anthony: There's a professor who's retired, David Applebaum, History. His specialty was 19th- and 20th-century France, cultural/legal history. He was probably the first professor who actually made me realize how interesting not just the study of history is, but historiography itself -- that is, the studying of history, the processes, the humans behind it as a profession. Really, it was just my first encounter with critical theory. And, of course. it blew my mind in a comical way. I, of course, delved into all of the critical theorists, and David was wonderfully helpful. He was one of the people who really encouraged me to get into academics; and to recognize that there's a world out there beyond South Jersey, that I could possibly go to grad school and be a professor. And a lot more. I took probably close to eight or ten classes with him. He later served as my thesis advisor. And I continued to ask him questions and for advice after Rowan. He's a genuinely nice guy and exercised a lot of patience with me.

The other professor that most influenced me was [current Chairperson of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology] Jim Abbott. When I was at the height of my critical theory phase, I decided it was necessary I learn about those theorists who started it all, including Marx. David suggested Jim's Classical Sociological Theory course. I took it and immediately realized I wanted to do exactly what he does. I wanted to study theory at Chicago and teach theory until I die. And I immediately insinuated myself into his life. What made this so easy was Jim didn't have a car. He took a shuttle from Rowan to Rutgers-Camden, and then the PATCO line to 8th, and then walked twenty minutes. I somehow convinced him that he should let me drive him home occasionally. And, as gracious as Jim is, he invited me. His home is absolutely stunning, by the way. And we'd drink wine and eat and talk everything from Marx to American Sociology, to Rowan Sociology, to my future, to his past, everything. This was during a time I didn't see my father very often. So he was really a huge presence in my life for a chunk of years. I should mention that David is one of the more charismatic people I've ever met, and he presided in the classroom that way. Incredibly funny and articulate, with a streak of self-effacing humor. And like David, Jim gave me as much time as I needed, and was happy to lend me any book, often giving me the book outright. There's really not enough I can say about how much I owe Jim.

John Myers is retired, but such a gracious, generous teacher. Jay Chaskes would sit me down in his office for hours and just teach me anything and everything. Dr. Miller would do the same. Dr. Li was incredibly nice. Dr. Hartman, Dr. Sommo, Dr. Hutter, Dr. Carter, and Marianne, who was the office administrator at the time. I could go on and on about each, and it's no exaggeration or flattery. It was, for a kid with time and energy and drive, an endless source. And they really helped me get into grad school and then later to law school.