Young Alumni Profiles: Taisha Tolliver
Taisha Tolliver’s time on Widener’s Harrisburg campus gave her the confidence she needed to succeed to in a fast-paced environment.
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Fulfilling a Dream
Cirrioncione400px“I wanted to be a trial lawyer since I was 15 years old,” says Widener Law alum John Cirrinicione ’07. “Ironically, it all started after losing my very first mock trial competition as a freshman in High School. As a kid growing up in a small town from southern New Jersey, I always dreamed about becoming a lawyer and winning a big verdict in Philadelphia.” In August of 2010, John made his dream a reality and secured a quarter-million dollar verdict for his clients after concluding his first Philadelphia jury trial.

John was an active student while studying at Widener Law. In addition to serving as the Student Bar Association President during his final year at Widener Law, John made it a point to seek out opportunities to learn the skills he needed to become an effective trial attorney. As an active member and competitor in Widener’s Moe Levine Trial Advocacy Honor Society, John instructed at student seminars and served as lead trial counsel on the 2007 Hugh B. Pierce Championship team.

John was also a participant of Widener’s Intensive Trial Advocacy Program (ITAP). He confesses, “Anyone who has experienced ITAP will tell you what a worthwhile experience it is. No matter how good you are, you will be humbled by some of the greatest and most respected trial lawyers from across the country. At times it was difficult for me to swallow my pride and unlearn my bad habits, but doing so made me a better trial lawyer.”

For the last three years, John has been invited back to Widener to serve as an ITAP instructor alongside his heroes. “I will admit that I am still humbled when I am in the company of these talented men and women. I trust I will be learning from them for the rest of my life no matter how many years I practice,” he adds.

After graduating Widener in 2007, John went on to pass both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bar exams. His first job was as the judicial law clerk for the Honorable Raymond A. Batten ‘79 of the New Jersey Superior Court for Cape May County. John recalls, “At the time, New Jersey had delayed appointing Judges due to budgetary issues, so for the majority of my clerkship, Judge Batten was the only sitting Judge hearing criminal cases. This resulted in early mornings and late evenings for both of us. Essentially, I was working firm hours for State pay. It was challenging, but thanks to my experiences from my clerkship with Judge Batten, I felt prepared for the rigors of private practice.”

After his clerkship ended in 2008, John joined Leonard, Sciolla, Hutchison, Leonard, and Tinari, L.L.P as an associate. Eight months later, in April of 2009, the firm gave John his first jury trial, which he won by a unanimous 6-0 verdict. John continued to try cases either by himself or alongside Gregory E. Sciolla ’75, the managing partner of the firm’s New Jersey office. His experience with the firm culminated in August of 2010 with his first Philadelphia jury trial. “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a nervous wreck the entire time. I felt like I had been preparing for this moment for most of my life, and I was afraid I had screwed everything up.” The jury’s verdict suggested otherwise.

Since October of 2011, John has been an associate with Parker McCay, P.A., where he specializes in defending hospitals, doctors, nurses, and other medical care providers against allegations that they have violated applicable standards of care. “It has been a great challenge for me, because this type of work requires me to combine everything I have learned as a lawyer with what I need to learn about different practices of medicine.” John notes, however, that the positive working environment of his firm has substantially outweighed any challenge he has faced. “I can honestly say that I look forward to coming to work each day. I am constantly learning from the people in the medical malpractice department, be it a secretary, paralegal, associate, or shareholder. I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”

It has been five years since John graduated from Widener Law School, but he maintains a strong connection to the law school because, “… a lot of people helped me along the way, and I am just paying it forward.” John currently serves as a student mentor, keynote speaker, competition judge, fundraiser, and sits on the Alumni Board. He minces no words when crediting Widener Law School with making his dream a reality. “Widener Law School made me the trial lawyer I have always wanted to be. It proved to be an ideal learning environment for me because every professor who taught me had real world experience. There was an instant credibility with everything they said, and I knew that applying what they taught would be both ethical and effective.”

John credits the relationships with his professors as the most memorable aspect of his education at Widener Law. “I owe a particular debt of gratitude to a handful of professors with whom I was able to cultivate a closer relationship during and after graduation. I felt as though they took a personal interest in my development. They went above and beyond what they were obligated to do as my professor to make me the best person and the best lawyer I could possibly be. Credit for any success I have had or will have belongs to them. To those professors who read this, you know who you are, and I want you all to know I will never forget what you did for me. I am forever in your debt and will forever be your student.”

While quick to cite the professors as a seminal part of his legal experience, John also is quick to note how important his classmates were to the experience. “My wife, Lauren A.P. Cirrinicione ‘07 and I love nothing more than hosting the ‘law school group’ for dinner or meeting up with them for drinks. We are a diverse crowd, but the experiences we shared at Widener have become the ties that bond,” he says.

John provides the following advice for future law students: “Law school is what you make it. The more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. It will be challenging, no doubt about it…but remember, lawyers are respected because of their ability to handle situations that other people are unable to handle on their own. When times get tough, remind yourself that attending law school and practicing law is a privilege. There are many people who would love to have the opportunity that you have been given. Make the most of it and enjoy the struggle. It will make you a better person and a better lawyer.”