Colin Smith (1st Quarter, 2006)

1st Quarter, 2006
Law School Scholarship Winner
Colin Smith

“A Man for Others,” my prep school motto, is a philosophy of life that taps into the best in all of us in that we contribute our talents and abilities to enrich one another’s lives professionally, intellectually, and socially. This mind set has given impetus to my pursuit of a degree in law where the perseverance, drive, and determination that have sustained me thus far in life will find a new opportunity for growth and development.

A Portion of Colin’s Winning Essay:

Colin Smith

My unique character, personality, background, corporate successes and education will be an asset to any law firm and will provide me with the tools to become an exceptional attorney.

My entry into corporate America could not have had a better beginning. To produce consultants for its organization, SAS Institute undertook a nationwide recruiting effort in 1996. SAS’ stellar reputation as a premier software company made these spots a valuable commodity amongst college graduates interested in technical careers. As one of 16 candidates chosen, I embarked on an exciting career as a technical consultant.

Business sense came easily to me through experience. I learned skills such as setting and managing expectations, strategic planning, management and the art of negotiation. My greatest lesson was that the common denominator to each and every success is the people and relationships among them. Creative thinking and extensive research are two of my strongest traits. I used these to bring SAS functionality together with that of another company’s software, and I later advocated and negotiated a mutually profitable partnership between both companies.

My solutions were on time and under budget and received commendations from customers and colleagues alike. In the mid-1990s, projects spanned a few months and generated a few thousand dollars of revenue. Currently, they span several years and generate over $20 million of revenue apiece. I moved to larger projects and roles of leadership such as technical team leader and liaison. I have also enjoyed serving as a mentor and advocate of process improvement and education. I have composed, taught and tutored customers and colleagues in a variety of subjects, including requirements gathering and data warehousing.

My professional successes contributed to my rise in the business world, but they fail to highlight the full extent of my capabilities and personal achievements. I was diagnosed with meningitis at the age of 4. This left me with a severe hearing loss in one ear and a total loss in the other. I attended small, private mainstream schools through my formative years and developed exceptional speech as a result of years of rigorous lessons. My disability never detracted from my goals and achievements. Only 1 percent of the population of those with childhood hearing losses the equivalent of mine achieve similar academic and social success.

I suffered a routine ear infection while a college student in 1993, which led to the complete demise of my remaining hearing. My hearing spiraled downwards towards imminent deafness from 1993 to 1995. During this period, my social life and academic scores suffered tremendously. I persisted in my academic rigors despite the circumstances and earned a degree in a computer science program that was ranked seventh nationwide in terms of quality and difficulty. My instructors were often from places in the world that made their speech very difficult to comprehend with my meager lip reading skills. The university informed me that the only help they could supply to a deaf student was an interpreter, who would translate speech into sign language, during class. Since I do not know sign language, no useful assistance was available.

The cochlear implant was activated in 1996, effectively restoring my hearing to that of an individual with a mild hearing loss. Those who have suffered from hearing loss related to meningitis often have inner ears damaged to the point where the option of an implant, should it exist, assists very little in one’s ability to distinguish sound. By contrast, I frequently enjoy music and lead large conference calls with ease. I attend a support group regularly to advise and hopefully inspire other implant recipients and those considering implants, so that they may achieve similar results.

The skills which I have honed during my personal life and professional career will be an asset to my career as an attorney. As a consultant, I have designed and planned based on clients’ needs and financial parameters. Solutions were further refined through customer response, as clients continually suggested cosmetic and structural changes. From the first meeting through project closeout, I educated them in implications, associated tasks, advantages and drawbacks. Negotiation, reassurance and other soft skills are critical for customer satisfaction and retention. I learned and perfected these skills through training and experience, and I can apply them in a legal setting.

I believe my personality, background, circumstances and professional experience will add in a positive measure to the legal world, and I look forward to making positive contributions to it. Those same traits along with my legal education and training will help make me a contributing and active member of the bar. Because of my education and professional work, I am interested in business and intellectual property law. My life experiences are highlighted by my success in the stressful environments of traditional education and the corporate sector. These life experiences, as an individual not hindered with an existing physical disability, give me the ability to understand issues and concerns from both a management and employee perspective in discussions involving corporate, intellectual property and disability law and how they best serve our society. The legal world will be enriched by my contributions, as will I.

Copyright 2009, All rights reserved.

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