Samara Shepherd’s interest in a career in law was cinched by a Florida State summer program designed to introduce students to the legal profession. Students in the program took law classes and met with attorneys. A native of Tampa, Florida, Shepherd has no lawyers in her family. But the more she learned about what lawyers do, “I knew I wanted to go to law school,” she recalled.
The strong work ethic Shepherd developed during long days as an honor student and basketball team member at an International Baccalaureate high school not only equipped her to excel as an undergraduate, but was also a good preparation for the rigors of law school. “I lived an hour from my high school and had to be at the bus stop at 5:30 a.m., and I’d get home after a game late at night with hours of homework,” she said. “Those long days helped put law school in perspective during my first year.”
As a 2L, Shepherd joined the editorial staff of the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law and served as co-chair of the Black Law Students Association’s Academic Success program. “I wanted to join organizations where I had an opportunity to give back,” Shepherd said. “It really helped me to have 2Ls and 3Ls I could look up to my first year, and I’ve enjoyed working with 1Ls to help them learn what they need to know to succeed in law school.” As a 3L, she is serving as JETLaw’s Notes Editor. “I work with 2Ls to help them prepare their required notes,” she explained.
Shepherd also participated in Moot Court and now serves on the Moot Court Board. “Moot Court was a really great experience,” she said. “But that fall was really busy. I think the challenges of the second year of law school are underestimated. You have a lot going on—journals, Moot Court, on-campus interviews—and you’re involved in more student organizations and activities.”
Shepherd is pursuing the Law and Business Certificate and has sought out courses taught by Professor Randall Thomas, who directs the Law and Business Program, including Corporations and Mergers & Acquisitions. “He has seen the evolution of law as a professional and an academic,” she said. “It’s great to learn from someone with such broad knowledge and a background in corporate law.” She also took advantage of a short course taught by Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo Strine and attorney David Katz of Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz. “It was a great opportunity to learn from practitioners who are at the top of their field,” she said. “I could never have imagined sitting in a class taught by two people of such stature.”
Shepherd knew before she started law school that she wanted to live and work in the South. Vanderbilt quickly became a top choice because of the collegial environment. “A Vanderbilt law degree is portable—you can go anywhere,” she said. “I also really liked the culture at Vanderbilt. When I visited, everyone genuinely seemed to get along. Faculty and students were so helpful and offered great advice. I knew I could spend three years here and then remain a part of this community once I graduated.”
Shepherd is a 2014 Paul Hastings Diversity Scholar. After graduation in May 2015, she plans to join Paul Hastings in Houston, where she worked during summer 2014, as an associate.