225 pro bono hours fetches law student a new suit

Tanisha Taylor walked in to Patel and Gaines Law Offices in San Antonio, Tex., expecting a few pastries and kind words from the partners when she was invited to a reception in their office.

Kind words, she got. Pastries? Not exactly.

Try a $1,880 custom-fitted suit made from the fabric of her choosing. The third-year student at St. Mary's University School of Law — also based in San Antonio — said she was speechless by the recent gift. 

“Upon walking in the conference room I was greeted with smiling faces, applause, Another large screen that read ‘Congratulations Tanisha’, and a news camera,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting so much, but Patel Gaines went beyond and above to make me feel special.”

But she's a pretty special law school student. She completed 225 pro bono service hours shattering the college requirement of 30 hours and leading all other classmates. In fact, no one in St. Mary’s history had ever dedicated that amount of time to pro bono work, but community service is what Taylor was raised on.

“Community service is very important to me,” she said in an article on the school’s website. “Growing up, my mom owned several day care centers and always taught us to give back even if it was just little things like taking our toys and giving them to kids in the daycare. You never know what can change a person’s life, and it never hurts to give back.”

Patel and Gaines is the sponsor of St. Mary University’s Office of Career Strategies “Suit-Up” Station.

“We’re looking for professionals that have lots of great clothes they can give back to the law school, to give back to the students who may not be prepared, because law school is extremely expensive,” said Rahul B. Patel, J.D., managing partner. “If they’ve got an opportunity to give back, this is a great opportunity to make someone feel really good as they enter the workforce.”

Robin Thorner, the school's executive director of career strategy said the Suit Up Station allows students to shine in their interviews and look professional for their first day on the job. 

“The firm’s gift to the law school specifically supports our Summer Public Service Fellowships for students working in public interest and public sector positions,” she said. “As a Catholic and Marianist institution committed to service and justice, these summer fellowships allow our law students to do more and help in the community.”

Taylor chose a classic grey with red pinstripes, with her initials and total service hours embroidered in the jacket’s lapel. The ensemble was purchased from Style by JM, a full-service membership-based style agency 

The appearance of professionalism is a vital tool in the legal profession. To look the part is not always easy for law students when one suit can cost up to $1,200. Taylor said she was happy she did not have to splurge on a $60 suit as she planned.

The affordability of professional attire is an unspoken issue until you realize you have nothing to wear on your first day of legal practice.

“A lot of us go to law school essentially straight out of undergrad and we’ve never had to dress up before,” Taylor said in a KSAT TV interview. “We never had to wear suits. We don’t know what proper attire is expected from us and a lot of us don’t have a lot of money or any money and we are just making it.”

Taylor said she did not decide on her field but is sure she wants to do something that positively impacts the community 

“Like everything else in my life, I know that if I continue to walk the right path I will be lead to the field I am suppose to be in,” she said.

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