A native of the Pacific Northwest who spent his college summers on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, Garrett C. Parks did not choose Rutgers School of Law–Newark for its proximity to more than 500 miles of trout-fishing streams. His extended family is scattered along the Eastern Seaboard, he explains, “and being close to them at this stage in life was important to me.” The high-quality education and affordability of Rutgers were also attractive as was access to the metropolitan job market.
Most persuasive, however, was his Spring 2007 visit to the school. “I was extremely impressed with the high-caliber, intelligent and ambitious student body in our law school,” he says. “I knew after my visit that Rutgers was the school that would challenge my intellect and motivate me to be the best law student possible.”
|Garrett Parks with an Alaskan halibut on a fishing boat in Homer, Alaska.
Deciding to get a J.D. was the result of his experiences in Washington, DC after graduating from the University of Washington with a double major in political communication and political science. “Law school found me as much as I looked for it,” Parks explains. “While interning for Congress and working in a political think tank, I met and worked with many talented and influential people, including quite a few lawyers who suggested that one way to broaden my future spectrum of career opportunities was acquiring a legal education. I think that advice, combined with my natural desire to lead people and positively contribute to society, led me to law school and Rutgers–Newark.”
At Rutgers, Parks was a student member of the Maritime Law Association of the United States and senior submissions editor for the Women’s Rights Law Reporter. He also worked as a law clerk for Casey & Barnett, LLC in New York and as a mediator for the alternative dispute resolution unit of the New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs.
It was Mediation, a fast-growing field in legal practice, that particularly grabbed his interest. “Especially in light of the recent economic recession, clients seek more efficient and economical means of conducting business and resolving disputes. I want to be educated in and part of an area of law I believe we are shifting toward,” he adds. Parks also appreciates the opportunities that Alternative Dispute Resolution and Mediation present to rely on and apply diverse interpersonal communication skills when dealing with parties. “I enjoy human interaction and working with people to create solutions to disputes without always relying on black letter law.”
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Commercial Mediation Competition in Paris this past winter was one of his most memorable law school experiences. Classmate Michael Sager and Parks spent the better part of two months preparing with Professor Jon Hyman, named one of New Jersey’s “Legends of ADR” by the Dispute Resolution Section of the State Bar, and Adjunct Professor Hal Braff ’59 to compete in mediated negotiations with some of the best and brightest law students from around the world. Robert E. Margulies, a winner of the State Bar ADR Practitioner of the Year Award, took the lead in coaching Parks and Sager and accompanied them to Paris. Only 10 U.S. law schools were represented and competitors represented more than 18 countries.
“There were two moments from the competition that I will always remember,” he says. “My proudest moment came when the competition chairman announced in front of a standing-room only ballroom that Rutgers–Newark advanced as one of the eight finalists. The other moment came when our fellow competitors complimented our knowledge of mediation skills and our diligent preparation. Both compliments reflected on the high-quality education we received at Rutgers.”
“I enjoy human interaction and working with people to create solutions to disputes without always relying on black letter law.”
An article written by Parks titled “Where do we belong? New mediators’ roles in current practice” was published in the April 2010 Student Lawyer, a publication of the American Bar Association. The article refers to his Mediation course with Professor Hyman and his externship at the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. He suggests several ways in which students and new mediators can expand their mediation knowledge and training into practice.
The Paris competition was Parks’ most memorable experience at Rutgers but his most inspiring experience took place this spring as part of Dean Farmer’s National Security Law Seminar. In March, the class visited the U.S. Supreme Court, sat for two oral arguments, and afterwards had a private question-and-answer session with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “Having previously tried and failed to view Supreme Court arguments, sitting for two arguments and meeting Justice Ginsburg was an awe-inspiring day. I saw through a different lens,” he explains, “how important our profession and field of study are to people and our country.”
Once Parks takes the Alaska bar exam, he will join the Seattle-based international law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP as an associate in its Anchorage office. He’s looking forward to a return to good fishing waters, although it’s likely that the ideal trip he enjoyed for several summers – a month on a 34-foot vessel fishing commercially for sockeye salmon – is a thing of the past. Explaining the allure, he says: “Fishing is like any passion . . . It’s addictive! I really enjoy being on the sea, meeting people from very different walks of life and having a month each year to get away and reflect on where I am and where I want to go. It’s a sort of therapy for adventurers.”
Asked whether his commercial fishing experiences involved the perilous conditions shown on the Discovery Channel show Deadliest Catch, Parks replies: “I love to joke with people that commercial salmon fishing is ‘exactly like Deadliest Catch,’ which it is . . . sort of. I was on the boat during the summer months, when temperatures could creep up into the 60s, the water at times was much calmer, and I was usually within a few miles of land. Those conditions were slightly different than conditions faced by the Deadliest Catch crab fishermen, who bear freezing winter temperatures, snow and ice, and much rougher seas.” Still, the work in both types of fishing is equally difficult, he says, and both types of crews spend roughly the same amount of time at sea.
“I am very excited about returning to Alaska,” Parks says, “albeit not as a commercial fisherman, and beginning my legal career on the doorstep of the final frontier.” His plan is eventually to participate in and develop a maritime and admiralty practice while at DWT in Anchorage. And to those in the Class of 2010 who have never traveled out of the lower 48, he says: “I would like to extend to my classmates and now colleagues an open invitation to visit anytime after the bar exam in July!”