John Cappel

Hometown: Rockville, MD

Education:

  • Princeton University; B.A. Public and International Affairs
  • American University; M.A. International Affairs

Job: Associate, Drinker Biddle & Reath

Program: Full-Time Day

Temple Law Community

I was on the Trial Team and involved in the Christian Legal Society and Voices for the Vulnerable. Being on the trial team was a tremendous learning experience. The trial skills classes like ITAP are very good at teaching basic trial skills, but trial team makes you refine and practice them again, and again, and again. By the time you get to a competition, you might have a dozen drafts of a witness exam or a speech. I think the skills I developed on trial team are really going to be helpful when I’m in the courtroom as an attorney.

Commitment to Service

Temple’s Christian Legal Society chapter partners with the Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia to help staff their clinics, and I volunteered at several clinics during my 1L and 2L years. That experience showed me the importance of listening and truly being a “counselor” who’s able to connect with clients on a human level. I remember one particular client who had already filed everything she needed to file in a custody dispute, so there wasn’t really any legal help the lawyers could provide. But the lawyers still took the whole appointment to listen to her and reassure her that she was doing the best she could for her family. Even though there wasn’t much legal advice dispensed, I could see how valuable it was to the client to get that emotional support in the middle of a tough situation. I also realized that these lawyers were the kind of lawyer I wanted to be and to work with, which ultimately led to my applying to and getting a job at their firm.

Favorite Memory

I have fond memories of Professor Strazzella’s antics in my Criminal Law class. Whenever someone answered a question with “It depends,” he would always come back with “On what, counselor?” He had a little mannequin head like you’d see in a department store display that he’d bring in, dress up, and call “Ray Man”–which was a play on the legal term mens rea–to talk about the role of mental state in criminal law. He’d get us into conversations about the legal meaning of “knowledge” or “intent” by doing things like tossing coins on the floor and saying something like, “They’ve always fallen before when I toss them, but do I intend to have them end up on the floor when I toss them?” He definitely lived up to his legendary reputation, and I consider myself fortunate to have been in one of his last classes before he passed away.

Temple Law Lessons

Remember that you’re probably doing better than you think you are. Law school can be an incredibly tough experience, even in the best of circumstances. There will be times when the workload is going to seem like too much or where a concept in class–or maybe even the whole class–seems impossible to understand. Realize when things get tough that it’s not a personal failing, it’s just what happens in law school. Your classmates are all going through the same thing at some point, and if you keep working at it you will get through it and get your law degree.