UMass Law Features: Katelyn Fisher, JD ’22: At the intersection of law and science

Katelyn Fisher, JD ’22 graduated from UMass Dartmouth in 2019 with a biology major and has excelled as a UMass Law student. She was a member of the UMass Law Review, serving as Lead Editor this year, and interned for Justice Elspeth B. Cypher at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. She worked as an Academic Fellow, Teaching Assistant, and a Research Assistant for the law school faculty and librarian.

Her law review article, “From Nucleotides to Nuanced Law: The Value of an Incremental Approach to Experimentation in State-Level Genetic Anti-Discrimination Legislation” explored genetic research and law and focused on protecting genetic information. After passing the Massachusetts Bar Exam, Fisher hopes to work in health law.

With a science background, why did you decide to attend law school?

I attended law school because I was fascinated with how the legal system interacts with healthcare. I explored my interest in science during my time as an undergraduate and decided to attend law school to gain the tools required to work in the legal sphere of health law.

The demand for lawyers with a science background will increase as we look to a post-pandemic world. Having a science background and a legal education allows you to see many health law issues from both the science and legal perspectives. This has the potential to be the catalyst for more creative solutions for many health-related legal issues.

Why did you choose to attend UMass Law? How was your experience here?

I decided to attend UMass Law because it was both close to home and has a public interest focus. My experience here was certainly atypical, considering that half of my time as a law student was during the pandemic, so all of my classes during that time were remote. Even considering this, I would say that my experience has been great. I have found great mentors, friends, and legal interests during my time here.

I truly feel that my education here at UMass Law has given me a very solid foundation that I am excited to build on as I begin my career.

We’d like to know more about the topics you explored in your UMass Law Review article.

In my article, I explored the intersection of science, particularly the field of genetic research, and the law. I discussed that, because science is rapidly progressing and scientists are able to extract more information from people’s genetic codes, there needs to be similarly evolving protections against the use of that genetic information.

I also discussed the present protections that exist for genetic anti-discrimination and how the laws should be changed in the future as science progresses. I discussed genetic discrimination from the perspective that a person may be improperly denied various opportunities based on genetic predispositions to disease. Specifically, I argued that the changes to legislation should be done at the state level in an incremental (slow and deliberate) fashion to afford the most comprehensive legal framework of protections.

Can you tell us about your internships while in law school?

I was a judicial intern for Justice Elspeth B. Cypher at the MA Supreme Judicial Court. In my time there, I primarily performed legal research for upcoming cases, as well as drafting a memorandum and other documents which were used within chambers. This experience was absolutely invaluable. What I learned about appellate courts as well as legal research and writing will be incredible assets to me as I begin my legal career. Being able to support a justice in an appellate court was an incredible experience because it helped me to sharpen my legal research and writing skills and understand the process of publishing a judicial opinion.

I was also a legal intern for The Office of the General Counsel Region I, for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). During this internship, I performed legal research and attended remote court proceedings for various matters that were dealt with by HHS. This experience was wonderful because it allowed me to explore the field of health law from an agency perspective.

During law school, I worked as a Criminal Law Teaching Assistant to Professor Hillary Farber, as an Academic Fellow under the guidance of Professor Amy Vaughan-Thomas, and as a Research Assistant for one of our Law Librarians, Emma Wood.

Do you have a favorite class or professor at UMass Law and why?

My favorite class has been Health Law, taught by Professor Elizabeth McCuskey. That class gave me the chance to explore many facets of the complex interaction between the legal system and the healthcare system and opened my eyes to so many intriguing topics that I would not have known about otherwise.

What advice would you give to future UMass Law students?

The biggest piece of advice that I would give to new UMass Law students is to never lose sight of the big picture. It can be all too easy during the chaos of law school to lose sight of why you came to law school and what makes you happy.

Although a big part of law school is deciding how you want to represent yourself as a professional, another equally important part is learning how to manage your work/life balance so you have time to enjoy the benefits of your hard work. Having people around you that keep you grounded and remind you that there is life beyond the textbooks is indispensable.

Date: Year 2022, Degree Type JD, Departments Law School, Features Commencement, School of Law, School of Law – Home