'It Felt Like a Community'

Molly R. Hamlin
Molly R. Hamlin

Molly R. Hamlin, RWU Class of 2018

Juris Doctor

Molly Hamlin was born and raised in Oregon, and that’s where she’ll be putting her law degree to work – starting as a judicial clerk to the Honorable Debra K. Vogt, Presiding Judge of the Lane County Circuit Court in Eugene. (According to a 2018 preLaw Magazine survey, RWU Law has the nation’s sixth highest percentage of graduates entering clerkships – the “royal road” to the legal profession.)

“Judge Vogt has a lot of history in the field,” Hamlin says. “She told me, ‘When I’m in the courtroom, you’ll be in the courtroom.’ So the clerkship should provide a lot of good experience, watching the proceedings; seeing attorneys at work.”

How did this daughter of the West Coast find herself in faraway Rhode Island? Her husband was stationed in Newport during his stint in the Navy, and the couple loved the area. “We had no family here; we didn’t know anybody, really,” Hamlin says. “But I thought, I’m ready to experience something different. I’m going to go on an adventure!”

She applied to an array of law schools but loved Roger Williams’ beautiful seaside campus in Bristol – and the people made her feel at home.

“Whenever I’d visit, call or email anyone at RWU Law, they were so friendly and supportive and genuinely interested,” Hamlin recalls. “I immediately felt like they were going to support and partner with me in doing this. It felt like a community.”

That level of support became essential when family tragedy stuck – Hamlin’s mother and brother both passed away unexpectedly. “RWU Law’s reaction is a testament to the school,” she said. “They adjusted my schedule when I needed to go home. The administration had my back on everything. I received multiple sympathy cards from my professors. Everyone was wonderful.”

While excelling in her class work – she is in the top 10 of her class and was a member of Law Review and Vice President of the Moot Court Board – Hamlin also immersed herself in practical training. She worked as a student attorney in RWU Law’s Veteran Disability Appeals Clinic and an intern with the Rhode Island Public Defender, did an Alternative Spring Break gig with the Committee for Public Counsel Services in Fall River, Mass., and – the crown jewel of her experiential résumé – scored a public interest externship in the Office of Governor Gina Raimondo, where she worked closely with one of the most respected lawyers in state government, executive counsel Claire Richards, who has served under four Rhode Island governors.

“She was wonderful,” Hamlin enthuses. “The way she interacted with people was fascinating to watch. She was just such a great advocate in everything she did.”

The work was equally fascinating.

“Every day was different,” Hamlin says. “You never knew what you’d walk into!  One day I’d be doing policy research, the next day cataloguing what certain committees looked like in different surrounding states. Then there was a First Amendment issue, then a privilege issue; looking up statutes …”

For Hamlin, it was something close to a dream job.

“I’ve always enjoyed research and writing,” she says. “I like both the logic of the law, and its humanity; both the discipline and the creativity involved. Besides, I kind of grew up around judges and lawyers. My mom worked at the courthouse in my hometown, and during college I worked summers as a file clerk at the Crook County Circuit Court. I used to see firsthand how people without an attorney were just completely confused and uninformed about their rights or the resources available to them.

And I thought, ‘You know? I think I can really help people in this way.’”