From Teacher to Law Student, Nalani Gordon Exudes Confidence and Sparkle

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The 26-year-old law student and Miami Scholar is the kind of person who embraces all opportunity. When she was a student at Suncoast High School – top ranked by USN&WR – she captained the cheerleading squad, argued for the debate team, and joined the National Honor Society. And never missed a choir practice at her church.

Nalani Gordon

At the University of Central Florida, she graduated in three years, summa cum laude, in criminal justice as a Gates Millennium Scholar, Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, and Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society member. She intended to go the route of a prosecutor, earning certificates in criminal profiling and victims’ advocacy but had a change of heart.

Initially Took the Teaching Path

“I had seen where the school-to-prison pipeline ends through my studies at UCF and I thought I might have more of an impact if I went where the pipeline begins,” says the Soia Mentschikoff Scholar. “I admire teachers – my older sister is a great teacher – and I thought I could make a difference teaching and as an administrator.”

Gordon returned to UCF for a master’s in elementary education, now looking back on the experience as an enlightening gap year.

Law School Always on Her Mind

During that time, as well as a 4.0 GPA, she attained her highest achievement, to date: publishing Boys Will Be Boys?: Toward a Gender-Balanced Literature Curriculum. “My voice is in it,” she says, swelling with pride. “It looks at how boys and girls are portrayed in the images in hundreds of children’s books and provides an annotated bibliography with tons of books that are gender balanced.”

“Now I feel like I was finding myself – I loved teaching,” Gordon says “but it didn’t feel right. Law school still seemed like my path, even if I didn’t exactly know where I wanted it to lead me.” 

Miami Law + Public Interest Focus = Logical Choice

The youngest of seven in a blended Brady Bunch family hoped to stay closer to home and family. “I did my research and zoomed in on Miami Law’s commitment to public interest; at other schools, it was a footnote. That sold me.”

During her rising 2L year, the Colson scholar interned at the legendary personal injury firm, Colson Hicks Edison. “Colson has a diverse and impressive client list; I often felt like I was helping the wronged party fight the good fight. The firm is a litigation powerhouse,” Gordon says. “My mentors there were enormously helpful and, for me, it is a perfectly sized firm.”

At Miami Law, Gordon was stacking up accolades: submissions editor for the Race and Social Justice Law Review, Miami Public Interest Scholar, and four semesters on the Dean’s List. She also opted to join the Investor Right’s Clinic. “The other clinics were great choices but they all seemed liked typical choices for me,” she says, “and Investor Rights would introduce me to a world of which I knew nothing. I didn’t know a stock from a bond. It’s been interesting and enlightening, to say the least.”

Summer Associate at Gunster

As a second year, she took advantage of the on-campus interviews coordinated through Miami Law’s Career Development Office under the direction of Assistant Dean Marcelyn Cox. “I interviewed with nine firms,” she says. “I loved Gunster: the firm’s culture is very welcoming, they are very team-oriented, and they are based in West Palm Beach. They have an excellent reputation.”

After a summer at Gunster as an associate, Gordon liked them and they wanted her, extending an offer at the end of her rising 3L year. After graduation in May in the top 10% of her class, Gordon will take the July Florida Bar exam and plans to start work at the storied law firm in August.

Gordon is currently completing an externship at the Miami-Dade County School Board Attorney’s Office.

“These three years at Miami Law were well beyond my expectations,” she says. “I am so happy that I made the decision to come to Miami Law. I could not have asked for a better law school experience!”

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