When Michael C. Martinez ’10 graduated from Stanford University in 2005, he took a job in San Jose, Calif., teaching middle school children how to speak English. Martinez, the son of Mexican immigrants and a native Spanish speaker, had been in his students’ position once, struggling to master a language starkly different from the one he had known since birth.
But Martinez sought to impart more than new words and phrases. He enlisted the employees of nearby companies like Google to teach the children marketable technology skills.
At Columbia Law School, that Silicon Valley influence translated into a voracious interest in intellectual property law. He loaded his schedule with IP and copyright courses and spent his first- and second-year summers at law firms in California, where his work involved IP litigation, copyright matters, and patents. “That tech part of me is still holding strong,” notes Martinez, who also served as president of the Law School’s Latino/a Law Students Association and worked on staff at the Columbia Law Review.
This fall, Martinez, will venture away from IP law, beginning a yearlong clerkship with U.S. District Judge Philip R. Martinez (no relation) in El Paso, Texas, an area where illegal entry and drug cases dominate the docket. It’s a far cry from intellectual property work, but Martinez possesses a strong sense of civic responsibility, which is, in part, what drove him to teach. Now it has him considering a future career in public service. “Understanding how a particular judge goes about administering justice and what his beliefs are about the justice system are definitely elements I want to take away from the experience,” he says. “I hope to use the clerkship to become a more effective advocate.”