by Justin Kadoura and Alexandra Markward; edited by John Basenfelder
Chanda Miller works as an associate in the litigation group at Drinker Biddle & Reath in Philadelphia. She graduated magna cum laude from Temple Law in 2007. While at Temple, Chanda served as the editor-in-chief of Temple Law Review. Prior to joining Drinker Biddle & Reath, she clerked for the Honorable William H. Yohn Jr. in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
TLR: How did you end up in law school?
CM: Law school was always something I was interested in. I spent four years working, first teaching in Brazil and then working in an after-school program for at-risk youth back in the states. And I loved working with kids, but I realized my passion really was the law, and so I went back to law school. It’s something I had always had in the back of my mind, and after being in the working world just confirmed that that was what I wanted to do.
TLR: Did you consider doing family law or something like that?
CM: I had considered it. My stepfather was an attorney. He was a litigator, and I really, really liked litigation. And doing the integrated litigation program at Temple I realized it was something I was very much interested in, and so I really just stuck with litigation.
TLR: How did you end up at Temple?
CM: Well, honestly? Because I got an application fee waiver in the mail.
I was born and raised in Nebraska, had lived abroad and then went back to Nebraska. I was working for a non-profit, you know just applying to different law schools. At the time my then-fiancé, now husband— we knew we wanted to leave, and so we were looking at law school, and looking at cities on the East Coast. And application fees were starting to add up. And we hadn’t really considered Philadelphia, and then I got an application fee waiver from Temple. Started looking into the school. I really liked it. Applied. I was accepted. I came for a tour. I loved Philadelphia; I really liked the law school. And, you know, got some financial aid. And I ended up at Temple and never regretted that decision.
TLR: Had you ever been to Philly before that?
CM: Not before the campus tour, no.
TLR: Other than law review, did you do any extracurricular activities during law school?
CM: I had some involvement in SPIN and the Women’s Law Caucus. But once I got involved in law review that pretty much consumed all of my time.
TLR: Yeah, that tends to be the way it goes.
TLR: Did you do any clinicals or anything like that?
CM: I did. I did the clerkship clinical my third year. At that time is was sponsored by Judge Sloviter. She would teach a class once a week, and then I would intern for the now-retired Judge Bruce Kauffman. It was a phenomenal experience.
TLR: Did you pick your classes in a particular way? Did you just take what you liked or did you have a career goal in mind?
CM: Well the curriculum was structured a little bit differently. So we didn’t get to pick any classes at all our first year. And so my second year it was really based on the advice of the people before me in terms of still getting a broad foundation. I took the integrated trial [advocacy] program. I had heard great things about that. I picked the section that would allow me to have Professor Sonenshein again because I had him for Civil Procedure I and thought he was so great. I took Corporations, Trusts and Estates, some of the basic foundation classes my second year. And then my third year it was a combination of classes I was interested in and classes that were a bit more flexible because of how much time the law review took.
TLR: What was it like being editor-in-chief and taking all of your classes?
CM: It was very challenging. I think just the volume of work was tough. It didn’t leave a lot of time for anything else. Any other extracurriculars or anything else outside of law school.
TLR: Where did you work during your first summer?
CM: I interned for Judge Glynnis Hill. He’s a judge on the criminal court, in the Court of Common Pleas here in Philly.
TLR: Do you have any advice for people on law review who are trying to juggle classes?
CM: It’s really important to pick the classes you’re interested in.  If you’re not interested, and your time is short, you’re probably not going to put the effort that you need in. For example, I took a white collar seminar my third year which required reading. But because it was so interesting it wasn’t burdensome. You always made time for it. I think with law review deadlines it’s easy to put those first because everyone else is counting on you, internally and externally. So you’ve got to make sure the classes you’re taking you enjoy because you can’t let that slide and you want to make sure it’s something you have the time and energy to put into.
TLR: How did you make the decision to get on [the editorial board]?
CM: I like the editing aspect. I still to this day like editing. I am actually sort of infamous for my Bluebook—asking the paralegals, “if the Bluebook rule says this, why are you recommending that?”
So I like editing. I like the grammar aspect. I like the Bluebook aspect. So that sort of drew me to the [editorial board]. I liked the people I was working with as well.
TLR: Other than busy, what was your general experience on law review? Were there any specific, memorable moments or things that you worked on?
CM: Well the people you work with are a lot of fun. You develop a close camaraderie. You get to work with —just the way it was structured at the time you worked really closely with people on the editorial board, and also closely with the executive editor, and we had a great working relationship. It was fun to work with her. It was Elizabeth Eagle. And the articles you got to read as the editor-in-chief. The articles team are siphoning and siphoning through articles and only pushing up a few so you don’t read all of them, but it’s really interesting to see the variety of topics that come in. We also had the opportunity to publish a speech that was given by Judge Louis Pollak, who is now passed away. He was a phenomenal jurist and a great public speaker. The opportunity to work with him and get his speech ready for publication was an honor, and it was very educational as well.
TLR: What was your article topic?
CM: It was on Fourth Amendment search and seizure, and the constitutional rights of passengers. Professor [James] Shellenberger was my advisor and he was great. I thought I really had picked sort of an obscure topic, and shortly after I was done writing it the Third Circuit published an opinion on the issue. Thankfully it wasn’t contrary to what I was recommending. I’m not sure they were fully on board with it, but it wasn’t contrary.
TLR: How did you land on that topic?
CM: Well, clerking, or interning for a criminal court judge my 1L year, we spent a lot of time on search and seizure issues and that was one I’d seen pop up at the time. It was still a developing area and sort of conflicting law.
TLR: Do you feel like being on law review and being on the editorial board give you any kind of advantages or legs up in the future?
CM: Absolutely and part of that is due to, at the time, interviewing and applying for post-law school clerkship, the timing was different. When I was on [the editorial board] you could not even submit an application for a clerkship until the end of the summer your 3L year. So at that point you already knew your [editorial board] position, so practically speaking that was helpful, but in terms of experience as a lawyer, even if you’re not a litigator you spend so much time editing documents, just getting used to editing without changing style, looking to make sure that the things said in the document are accurate, are supportable. And we always say its really important, one, that the Bluebook is followed to a T but if you’re signing a document that’s being filed in court, the court has to be able to find the opinion, so just practically speaking being able to put in citations in a way that are readable and easy for the court is really important too.
TLR: So moving on to present day, what was the process or how did you begin working with Drinker?
CM: Are you asking why I picked Drinker or . . .
TLR: I guess a little bit of both. How you got there and why you ended up there.
CM: So I did the typical [on-campus interview] process. Not being a Philadelphia native, I felt a little bit like I was operating in the dark on Philadelphia firms. At that point we knew we were going to stay in Philly. I did a lot of research; I talked to my professors who were invaluable in terms of offering their feedback on what to be looking for in a firm based on what I had told them about my interests. Going through the process, I liked everyone I met at Drinker and I really liked what Drinker had to offer in terms of developing new lawyers through training. I liked Drinker’s commitment to pro bono. I liked the quality of work, the type of work that we do here.
TLR: Many staff editors are in the process of doing on-campus interviews and going to look for these jobs. What is the day-to-day experience at a firm like Drinker?
CM: Well, today I have a filing due. So I spent the first three and a half hours working with one of the partners on the case on file edits. Word choice really matters on things like this. You spend the last few hours quibbling over verbs and making sure there’s not too many adjectives. We have probably twenty-five exhibits to this filing and we need courtesy copies so I’ve been working with the paralegal and the vendor to make sure everything is going to be copied on time or hand delivered before the close of business. We spend a lot of time on discovery issues as well. I think that’s one aspect that the law school experience doesn’t necessarily capture. But writing and responding to discovery requests, preparing for and taking depositions, in a lot of the cases that I handle in a larger scale, there’s multiple depositions and preparing for them can take a few days
TLR: Have you had any particularly interesting assignments or experiences while you’ve been there?
CM: We work a lot with state plaintiff initiated civil litigation which is, over the past few years, has been an increasing area of the law and it’s really interesting when a government is the plaintiff in a civil litigation. The law and procedure that applies is really interesting and it’s a developing area of the law and being on the front end of some of that is always really interesting.
TLR: You mentioned earlier that something you liked about Drinker was the pro bono side of it, and Drinker’s website says that you work with Philadelphia VIP?
TLR: So is there something specific that draws you to them or something you enjoy about working with that organization?
CM: Philadelphia VIP is a place of last resort for a lot of individuals who are in civil litigation issues and don’t have the resources to find their own representation. So it’s really a way to impact someone meaningfully on an individual level and they, VIP, has great lawyers and resources and that’s sort of what drew me to them. I’m also currently working on a class action litigation in connection with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the Education Law Center, both of which are also great public interest organizations. The Philadelphia community is really unique in that there are a lot of very strong public interest organization that have pro bono clients and offer great pro bono opportunities for lawyers.
TLR: Are you working on specific types of cases with Philadelphia VIP?
CM: I tend to do name change cases. It was a training I had gone to a few years ago so I stuck with that. It’s a way to help someone individually and, for example, you find a lot of times someone’s name on their birth certificate maybe doesn’t match up with the social security card or driver’s license and that prohibits them from getting passports or signing leases, things like that. And so just helping them through the procedures of making sure all their identity documents match up helps them to move on.
TLR: Do you feel that working at Drinker they give you a good amount of time to do that kind of work?
CM: Absolutely. Drinker is very committed to the pro bono community and to providing pro bono support.
TLR: Great. I think generally that’s the questions that we have for you. Do you have anything that we didn’t get to that you’d like to talk about?
CM: I think these interviews are a great idea. I think law review is a phenomenal experience and it does help you going forward. It helps you with other people editing documents, learning to track down the sources you need to support what you’re saying. It is easy while you’re in the middle of it to get caught up in how busy it is and the details but it’s a great opportunity, not just for the things you learn but for the people you connect with and the authors you get to connect with so I think its great you guys are doing it.
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