Connor Porzig: Build Good Habits and Put in the Work
Growing up, the only thing WMU-Cooley graduate Connor Porzig cared about was basketball. “I like to think of it as my first love. Whether I was watching it on TV or playing outside, it was something that I understood and had a passion for from the beginning,” says Porzig.
Professional basketball players were his role models, but there was one player in particular that he admired – Tracy McGrady.
“I saw a lot of myself in him,” explained Porzig. “He had a quiet and laidback demeanor, and he let his talent and skills on the court do the talking. And I thought of myself in a similar way; I was quiet like McGrady – but nonetheless a serious competitor and passionate about the game.”
That passion for basketball didn’t leave much time for anything else though, including schoolwork. "I didn’t see the value in applying myself educationally because playing in the NBA was my dream. There was no bigger picture or end-goal in my mind when it came to school, so I didn’t see the point,” he explains.
"I made the basketball team my freshman year in high school, but that was it,” he shared. “I tried out again my sophomore year, didn’t make it, then tried out one more time the following year, and got cut again."
While these events may have closed the door on his hopes of playing professional basketball, they opened up new paths for him to explore.
Porzig knew he had to find a new identity, but he didn’t know what to do or how to go about it; that is until one day in his English Honors class.
“We were all getting called up one-by-one at the end of class to look at our grades, and my professor eventually called me up to show me mine. As soon as I walked up, I noticed this look on his face. It’s funny because the look he gave me and the words that came out of his mouth said the exact same thing. He said, “You’re so much better than this.” I guess he saw what I was capable of when I actually tried."
Porzig was taken aback. No one had ever told him that they believed in his abilities, and that he wasn’t doing enough. That was the kickstart he needed. He began stepping up his efforts in school by building better study habits and getting rid of bad ones.
“Once I got it into my head that I really could excel in anything I wanted to do, so long as I worked hard and gave it my all, my life changed. I believed in myself, and I believed I could achieve amazing things.”
Porzig channeled every effort on those things that mattered to him when he realized that basketball wasn’t the route for him. He knew he needed to be more realistic, but he also knew that he wanted to make a difference in the lives of others, which later inspired him to study Political Science at the University of South Florida.
After graduating from USF, he thought about doing social work, teaching, or anything that was inherently serving others, but he eventually concluded that the law was a powerful tool that he could use in order to help others. He later discovered, surprisingly, that a lot of the things he learned through basketball and studying politics translated to the law.
FINDING LAW SCHOOL SUCCESS
After graduating from the University of South Florida, Porzig turned his attention to law school, which ended up being a winding path to WMU-Cooley Law School’s Tampa Bay campus. Then he discovered that learning the law was no slam dunk.
As much as he knew he was putting in the work, he also knew there had to be a better way. By reaching out to his professors and taking advantage of the law school’s Academic Resource Center, Porzig was able to work smarter and more efficiently to improve his case briefing, his exam-taking skills, and the skills he would need as a litigator.
“At first, it was really hard,” acknowledged Porzig. “And it’s also different going from the classroom to the courtroom. You’re not just answering multiple choice questions or briefing cases. You are applying everything you’ve learned on the spot, and you’re doing it with a whole bunch of eyes on you at the same time.”
But it’s exactly these kinds of challenges that Porzig found so rewarding. He went on to participate and succeed two semesters in a row in the Melissa Mitchell Moot Court Competition and competed in other national and state-wide mock trial and moot court competitions. He achieved being appointed as the Chief Justice of the Tampa Bay Moot Court Board and was chosen for many other leadership roles during his time at WMU-Cooley.
“The more work I put into things, the more confident I became,” stated Porzig. “I knew I was preparing myself for what was ahead and started feeling really good about my future.”
SUCCESS MEANS IMPACTING LIVES
A legal education not only showed Porzig how working hard means working smarter and more efficiently, but it also taught him how to better work with, and for, others. He appreciated how every setback or perceived failure was a built-in learning experience, allowing him to adjust to different environments, but also empathize with those who haven’t been given the same opportunities or been shown a different path in life.
His plan, following the Florida Bar Exam, is to make his start as an Assistant Public Defender in the Tampa Bay area, where he will represent indigent clients, helping those who need it the most.
“When I first came to law school, my goal was to become a public defender,” declared Porzig. “I knew that I wanted to help those that were less fortunate than myself, so working as a public defender was the perfect fit. Given everything that I ended up accomplishing in law school, I could’ve pursued more lucrative opportunities, but my primary motivation was, and still is, rooted in helping those who are less fortunate and ensuring that everyone’s voice in our society is heard."