Joseph Wolf, recipient of the Benjamin and David Scharps Legal Essay, sets his sights on law school.
Major: Legal Studies
Minor: Public Law
Hometown: Getzville, NY
Awards: Benjamin and David Scharps Legal Essay Award, 2018 recipient
I probably revised this essay close to 100 times ... It takes time. This isn’t something that you can do in a day. Don’t think that once you have it done the first time, that you’ll be good to go.
I was a nominee for the Chancellor's award. I also was the first place winner in the Benjamin and David Scharps Legal Essay, which is one of the things I am most proud of. It is a SUNY-wide [competition]. Each campus had their own competition where they chose three [recipients], which were sent off to SUNY. I won first place, I have it in front of me, as well, I bring it with me everywhere
The question this year was along the lines of what I want to do in my work, which is a First Amendment case, free speech. It’s a hypothetical question surrounding a “Mr. Dick Spangler,” a very controversial speaker coming to campus. They gave us around ten Supreme Court cases and we had to decide whether or not the university could deny Mr. Dick Spangler from speaking on campus or charge additional fees, and things like that. Considering my contacts at the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and the work that I’ve done at FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), I took the line of, “of course he’s allowed to speak and you can’t charge additional fees.” The position I took is one that I would take in the future as well.
Really, I didn’t know if I had a choice when I was younger, as both of my parents are attorneys and I worked with them at their law firm for the past four years. Once I got to UB, I was pretty much set on [the fact] that I wanted to go to law school, so my entire college career has been pushing me toward that. Whether that be with all the political science classes I’ve taken or all of the law courses that I’ve taken. It’s kind of been about putting together the best application possible for law school.
This wasn’t my first year doing it. The first year I did it, I didn’t win. This year, the big difference was the fact that I had taken multiple graduate courses in law. Also, I will shout out Dr. Charles Lamb’s civil liberties course, which in every single class we read three Supreme Court cases, talked about what the Supreme Court said, why they said it, and how they said it. That was one of the most intensive courses I’ve ever taken and that truly helped me nail down how to write this [essay]. Also, my experience working in a law firm, as well.
I’m the chief justice of the student-wide judiciary. I am the president and founder of the University at Buffalo Civil Liberties Union (UBCLU), which is the only ACLU-affiliated club on campus. Those are the two big ones.
Both of my parents are attorneys and I have worked a lot with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Also, I have interned with the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU). We didn’t have a [civil liberties union] club on campus, so why not.
The first essay I wrote for this [contest], the one I didn’t win, I considered one of the greatest essays I had ever written. It clearly wasn’t. This [essay] however, I would say is one of the greatest essays I have ever written. That form of reading your essay, revising it; I probably revised this [essay] close to 100 times. [It’s about] realizing that what you have now probably isn’t great but what you can create may become great. It takes time. This isn’t something that you can do in a day. Don’t think that once you have it done the first time, that you’ll be good to go
This would be two-fold. First of all, Dr. Rachel Hinkle, here at UB in the political science department, is an absolutely incredible professor. I have taken multiple graduate courses with her and she has truly been a shining light, leading me toward law school.
Second, Dr. Charles Lamb, in the UB political science department, as well. Who is, unfortunately, now retired. He is a research professor now. I had the privilege and the opportunity to taking the last civil liberties course he ever taught.