Name: Amy K. Olfene
Class of 2014
Hometown: Minot, Maine
Undergraduate Institution: University of Southern Maine, summa cum laude
"...the school really tries to encourage students to engage in a holistic educational experience."
Why did you choose to attend the University of Maine School of Law?
During my career prior to law school, I had the opportunity to work with a number of talented advocates, many of whom are attorneys. Their knowledge and skills, in a large way, were drawn from their law school education and legal practice. I had always considered going to law school, but it was the desire to be a stronger, well-rounded advocate that finally prompted me to apply to the University of Maine School of Law.
Moreover, while I wouldn’t trade my experiences prior to law school for anything, I have never regretted my decision to improve my education. Whenever someone asks me about law school, I can’t help but respond, “It was the best decision I ever made for myself.” The skills I have acquired, the opportunities I’ve been provided, and the amazing friends I have made make attending Maine Law one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences of my life.
What has been most helpful to you in making the adjustment to the life of a Maine Law student?
The people. You hear horror stories about how cut-throat law school can be, but the environment at Maine Law could not be more collegial. Some of my best friends are folks I met in the 1L classroom, and I’ve had a wonderful experience working with my classmates in a number of different capacities. The administration and faculty have proven to be overwhelmingly supportive, and everyone here wants you to succeed.
Amy, you are very active, both on and off campus. You’re a volunteer for the Volunteer Lawyer’s Project, co-chair of the Maine Association for Public Interest Law, and staff member of the Maine Law Review. What are your specific strategies in balancing school work with the extracurricular activities?
It’s a challenge! This semester I took on two jobs in addition to my extracurricular activities and schooling, and I would be lying if I told you I had much of a social life left at the end of the week. But, the way I see it, law school is only three years. It is a major investment in my future, and thus I have to prioritize certain things to ensure I am getting a quality return on that investment. My volunteer work and extracurriculars supplement my education by providing a place to apply what I am learning, while also allowing me to network and connect with my community. Success in law school, like anything, correlates with the amount of time and energy you put into it. I try to make time for my friends and family, but they understand why I’m here and support my commitment.
How did your prior work experience [Senior Policy Analyst/Lobbyist Associate with the American Lung Association of New England; Program Director for Breathe Easy Coalition of Maine] prepare you for your position as the Linda Smith Dyer Fellow for the Maine Women’s Policy Center?
My prior work experience was a huge benefit when I joined the Maine Women’s Policy Center. Much of my work as the Linda Smith Dyer Fellow was policy focused, and required me to analyze, discern, and summarize a variety of laws and policy options, which was the focus of much of my work at the American Lung Association. In addition to my policy work, I was also responsible for organizing coordinated events and developing educational materials, a dual-focus of my work with the Breathe Easy Coalition.
Portland has a reputation for its vast array of food options. Do you have any favorite restaurants or grocery stores?
The Great Lost Bear. Is it any wonder Matt McClellan (’14; a long-time GLB employee) and I became fast friends? When I moved to Portland in 2006, I lived in the Woodlands neighborhood, and my roommate and I would head there every Thursday night after the gym for grilled chicken salads with GLB’s AMAZING ranch dressing and a beer (negating all that working out, I suppose). I missed the tradition when I left the neighborhood. So, when I came back to Portland to attend law school, my coworkers gave me the best going away present ever: a substantial gift card to GLB. Back in town, it is my go-to spot for everything: dinners, drinks, meetings, or a just a quick bite on my way to the library.
What are some things that have surprised you about living in Portland?
The most surprising thing to me about Portland is its ability to be lively and full of new discoveries, while maintaining its small town charm. I am never bored here; there is always somewhere to go, or something to see and do.
For someone who is considering attending Maine Law, how would you describe the student community here?
Amazing. I can’t stress how collegial and supportive the student body is at Maine Law. For example, if you are out sick, chances are five people are emailing you their notes and asking if there is anything they can do to help. If you are struggling with an assignment or case, there is always someone willing to sit down and talk it through with you. In many ways, my classmates have become like family, and we do our best to support and reassure each other along the way.
In addition, the school really tries to encourage students to engage in a holistic educational experience. Maine Law hosts a vast array of student-run organizations, with many opportunities to take on leadership roles and network with the community. Quiet days are very few and far between, with lectures, panel presentations, and events happening all the time.