Alumna Profile: April Merrill

Friday, October 01, 2010

April MerrillA career in law is a traditional outcome from a legal education, but many students – such as recent alumna April Merrill (JD ’10) – are using legal training to pursue non-traditional career paths.

Merrill began her studies at the TU College of Law knowing it would not likely lead her into the courtroom, even though legal roots run deep within her family tree. Her father, Steve Merrill, is an attorney specializing in oil and gas law. Her mother, Lori Pettus (JD ’83), practiced law part-time for eight years while raising April and her two younger brothers, and April’s aunt is Tulsa County District Judge Linda Morrissey. April saw enough of the work of a traditional attorney to know it wasn’t for her. However, she wanted to continue her education and obtain the critical thinking and analytical skills one acquires at law school. She said her decision to attend the TU College of Law has now led her to her dream job.

Merrill currently serves as the Senior Fellow for the Tulsa office of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation (CLSFF). This is a post-graduate position that can span up to two years that places her among a team of people who plan and implement the full range of activities for the foundation. Merrill assists in developing internal policies and monitoring compliance issues for CLSFF and its sister entities in Jerusalem. Her portfolio is focused on the foundation’s mission as it relates to child advocacy – prevention, intervention, and treatment of child abuse and neglect.

In addition to supporting programs that empower and enhance Jewish communities, including in Israel, part of the Schusterman Foundation’s mission is to provide assistance to charitable organizations dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in Tulsa.

“The foundation has the reputation of generously funding projects to enhance education, child advocacy, and youth development in Tulsa,” Merrill said. “Each of those areas are of great interest to me and ones for which I have a strong passion. I have always been drawn to the non-profit field because of my passion for children, families, and animals. I have been able to work on several grant proposals for local projects having a direct impact on abused and neglected children. It is satisfying to go home every night knowing that what I worked on that day might just be the program or project that made a difference in the lives of at-risk children.”

She believes her legal training at TU has established a foundation that will serve her well in any career she pursues.

“The wonderful thing about a law degree, unlike other graduate degrees, is its versatility,” Merrill said. “A law degree prepares you for a variety of careers. Legal education is more than just learning the material. It is about critical thinking and analytical skills that carry over into anything you do.”

While Merrill is not working at a law firm, there has been legal work for Merrill to do at the foundation.

“I may not be practicing at a traditional law firm, but I am doing legal work such as reviewing and drafting contracts,” Merrill said. “During my first weeks at the Schusterman Foundation, I had the opportunity to participate in complex contract negotiations with a large university’s legal team. I used all of the knowledge and skills honed in my alternative dispute resolution, mediation, and contract classes at TU to come to a mutually agreeable solution. I felt confident in representing my client’s best interests because of my superior legal education at TU.”

Merrill treasures her time in law school, both for the training she received and the people she met. She recently learned that she passed the Oklahoma Bar exam, and credited Lauren Allison (JD '06), Coordinator of Academic Resources and Bar Support at TU, for her tireless dedication to providing both academic and emotional support during the stressful summer spent studying for the bar.

“I loved my experience at the TU College of Law,” Merrill said. “TU is small enough to allow a student to get to know almost everyone but large enough to offer you incredible opportunities like judicial internships. I made lifelong friends at TU, and I was fortunate to have wonderful mentors who guided me in my legal career including attorney Joel Wohlegmuth, Professor Tamara Piety, Professor Vicki Limas, Professor Ray Yasser, and Dean Janet Levit.”

Scott Been