Theresa Concepcion,’04, a native of New Jersey, received a B.A., magna cum laude, in English from Montclair State University. During her time at Montclair, she contributed to the campus community by serving as Secretary for the Latino America Student Organization and by starting two columns for the Montclarion school paper which were the first of their kind. The first was a weekly book review of novels written by Latin American authors; the second was a bi-weekly column addressing issues facing the Latino community.
Raised by a single mom who instilled in her the importance of an education, “My younger brother and I always knew that pursuing a higher education was mandatory.” When she enrolled at Montclair State University, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to be. A classically trained singer, she once dreamed of a life as a performer. She recounts, however, that “I was too shy and didn’t have the temperament for a musician’s lifestyle.” She found her calling when she took Foundations in Legal Research her sophomore year. Concepcion credits that class as the defining moment when she knew she wanted to become a lawyer. She became a pre-law minor and was introduced to topics such as legal research, writing and legal reasoning and was mentored by numerous professors in the department. “That was a defining moment when I knew I wanted to become a lawyer. We’d get legal research assignments and I was always so excited when I finally found the right case!” When the time came to choose a law school, she was hooked from the moment she stepped on Cornell’s campus. “The buildings, the surrounding area, the law school itself – everything was what I always pictured an Ivy League school would be.”
In applying to law schools, Concepcion received tremendous support and encouragement from professors in the pre-law and English departments and she was ultimately accepted into Cornell Law School. While at Cornell, she served as a note editor on the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy, editor of the Cornell Legal Information Institute and was a member of the Moot Court Board. During her second year, she displayed a continuing commitment to the Latino and African American communities by starting a weekly mentoring and tutoring program for Latino and African American first year students. That program continues today.
Concepcion received her Juris Doctor from Cornell in 2007 and went on to clerk for Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto on the Supreme Court of New Jersey. In her role as a law clerk, she attended numerous oral arguments, researched and analyzed cases, wrote memoranda recommending whether the Court should grant or deny certification and also wrote memoranda recommending the ultimate disposition the Court should take in a case. She refers to the clerkship as the best job she ever had, not only because of the great practical experience she gained but also because of the mentoring and guidance she received from Justice Rivera-Soto, who has referred to her as his “single hardest-working and dedicated clerk.”
After her clerkship, Concepcion worked at a large law firm in New York before moving to Philadelphia, where she is currently a litigation associate at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, PC. She focuses her practice on a broad-range of state and federal litigation matters, including general contract disputes, securities litigation, white-collar tax evasion, derivative class actions, and bankruptcy proceedings. Now in private practice, encouraging law students, particularly Latino and African-American law students, to clerk is one of her great passions. One of the many lessons she took away from her clerkship was the importance of having diversity in all forms of government, particularly the judiciary. “I look at Justice Rivera-Soto and Justice Sonia Sotomayor; both are ‘firsts’ and both are ‘trailblazers’ and that’s a wonderful thing. But names like theirs, and names like mine, should be commonplace among our state and federal representatives, not exceptions. The American people aren’t homogeneous and their representatives shouldn’t be either.” She considers increasing diversity amongst judges and clerks an important and necessary step in achieving that diversity.