For 2018 alumnus Michal Nowicki, the study of law is a bit of a family tradition. His grandfather was a successful Polish criminal defense attorney, and his mother also studied law before the family immigrated to the United States.
“I never wanted to become a litigator like my relatives. Instead, I wanted to translate legal documents for a living and was hoping that a law degree would facilitate this career path,” he said.
Michal admits that Illinois was not actually his first choice for law school. It was only after he started here that he realized he was in the right place.
“I had the honor to learn from highly-qualified, enthusiastic instructors, and I developed life-long bonds with classmates faster than I ever imagined.”
Because of his strong interest in transactional law, Michal particularly enjoyed Professor Alam’s contract drafting course and Professor Lawless’s secured transactions drafting class. He also has fond memories of former Professor Smith’s 1L property class.
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Like most law students at Illinois, Nowicki also took advantage of a number of extracurricular learning opportunities. He participated in the ABA client counseling and negotiation competitions, and enjoyed serving on the Illinois Business Law Journal, first as a writer, and later as Notes Editor.
“The IBLJ gave me opportunities to explore a wide variety of fascinating commercial issues, including the fight over reauthorizing the United States Export-Import Bank and the debate around the legality of geo-dodging (using a VPN or other tools to spoof ones true location to gain access to geographically restricted online content),” he said.
Today, Michal is an associate attorney at Marashlian & Donahue, the CommLaw Group, a firm that specializes in telecom, data privacy, and technology law. He does primarily transactional and regulatory work – drafting and reviewing non-disclosure agreements and various telecom contracts; preparing filings with state public utility commissions; advising clients on a wide range of regulatory compliance issues, and more.
He is also actively working to build a strong practice at the intersection of accessibility and information and communication technology. This fall, he will be hosting a webinar on the commercial benefits of including people with disabilities, and next year he is scheduled to speak about audio description at the 2021 Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium.
Michal’s strong passion for accessibility and disability rights is personal, and carries over into his life outside of work as well.
“Having been blind from birth, I have encountered numerous access barriers throughout my life: especially inaccessible software and websites.
“As a proud member of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois (NFBI) and the Chair of its Advocacy Committee, I work with the blind community to overcome these obstacles in various ways, including addressing public misconceptions about blindness, educating the blind on available adaptive tools and resources, and watching out for proposed legislation and other initiatives that could harm blind people. I will run for NFBI Treasurer this fall,” he said.
Michal feels very fortunate that the COVID-19 pandemic has had no impact on his work, and did not require an adjustment to working from home, as he already did so.
“Perhaps the most unique thing about Marashlian and Donahue is that nearly half its attorneys work remotely full-time from all over the country. As a result, the firm is built for telework from the ground up and was ready for stay-at-home orders when they took effect. Additionally, as the firm serves an industry that, unlike most others, has been in high demand throughout the pandemic, we have maintained a healthy workload.”
When asked what advice he would give to job-hunting law students, Michal had some wise words.
“Who you know can help you more in your job hunt than what you know. I went through many interviews before I landed my first job. I observed that my chances of getting an initial interview increased exponentially when someone put in a good word for me with the employer. Likewise, when the final decision on who to hire comes down to two equally-qualified candidates, and the employer knows one candidate but not the other, the employer will typically select the candidate it knows.
“Therefore, law school graduates beginning their job search should take advantage of all opportunities to expand their professional network, including attending networking events and working closely with their career counselors,” he said.
Indeed, Michal credits Dean Greg Miarecki with helping him land his position at Marashlian & Donahue.
And when it comes time to put down the books and just take a break, Michal recommends grabbing a bite at Black Dog or Papa Del’s.
“In my view, it is the best deep-dish pizza place at which I have ever eaten - better than even most Chicago restaurants - except Giordano’s,” he said.
We just might have to agree.