Dean's Fellow Darrin Robinson: Moving Beyond Information Technology to a Career in the Law
If you were to ask Darrin Robinson at age 14 where he saw himself professionally, he would have said firmly that it would be in the field of medicine. But that plan got derailed when he accepted a position in the U.S. Department of Defense as a Student Mechanical Engineer serving at the U.S. Navy’s Naval Underwater Warfare Center.
“Over the next 25 years, I worked for the Navy, AT&T, Cap Gemini America Ernst & Young and IBM,” said Robinson. “As much as I enjoyed information technology, I never lost my fascination with the application of law.”
That fascination with the law started when his late brother, Karl, attended law school at Boston College School of Law after his employer California Equity Funds not only encouraged, but was willing to pay for Karl to get a law degree.
At that time, Robinson was 15 years into a successful career in information technology. He started by spending two years at Brown University working on NASA/JPL projects, then worked at MIT as part of Project Athena—a multi-year computing research project funded by IBM and Digital Equipment Corporation.
“While I was in Cambridge working at MIT, I was right across the river from my brother at BC Law. It was his first year in law school and he would invite me over to help him study. It was fascinating, and I found the law to be very interesting. Although I wish I would have taken Latin in high school – I didn’t know the difference between quare clausum fregit and collateral estoppel,” chuckled Robinson.
It got Robinson thinking about the different ways he could tie his information technology expertise into a legal career. The legal field of intellectual property rose to the surface.
“A unique legal issue arose at MIT that involved a novel intellectual property dispute with AT&T, who had created the Unix operating system,” explained Robinson. “AT&T claimed that anyone who ‘viewed’ the source code for their system could not work for any other operating system company. It was an interesting time!”
Yet, with the unexpected and tragic passing of his brother Karl in 2006, Robinson not only lost his fire for the law, he lost his debate partner, business partner, and friend. It would take until 2019 for Robinson to rekindle his spark for the law.
"In 2019 I started to think about what I wanted to do as a career beyond information technology. I chose the law.”
FINDING THE RIGHT LAW SCHOOL
Robinson looked at several law schools, which included Roger Williams (Bristol, Rhode Island), Barry (Orlando), and Stetson.
“Believe it or not, my first choice was Barry because I wanted to be in Orlando,” explained Robinson. “I also considered Stetson, but their campus is split between Tampa and Pinellas Park, and because I’m visually impaired and don’t drive, that wasn’t going to work for me. While Roger Williams is in my home State of Rhode Island and close to my aging mother, the logistics of dealing with moving back to Rhode Island from Florida was, at the time, unfathomable.”
Then Robinson learned that Cooley Law School had a campus in Tampa Bay.
“I never realized that Cooley had a Tampa campus. Back in 2001-2011, I worked on the State of Michigan’s ‘e-Michigan’ project. I initially worked out of Gov. John Engler’s office in 2001 when we launched michigan.gov, I worked in the George Romney Building on S. Capitol Ave. I remember always walking by Cooley Law School when I would go out for lunch. We even had a few Cooley grads too in the governor’s office, so I knew all about Cooley.”
With Cooley now in Florida, the decision was made easier, especially with the unconditional merit scholarship and his ability to switch campuses for any semester.
When Robinson started at Cooley in September 2021, he knew that he was responsible for learning about the law beyond what you learned in the classroom. That’s where the Academic Resource Center came into play for him.
“The ARC helped me immensely,” said Robinson. “I struggled the first semester because I did not use the resources available to me. The ARC resources proved vital to my continued success as a first-year student. I would attend workshops, practice essays, learn multiple-choice question strategies, and develop my skills. After my third semester of using the ARC, I realized that it was a necessary component to succeed in law school. That was my lightbulb moment. My grades dramatically improved after that.”
Robinson is the type of person who not only wants to give back, but wants to pay it forward.
“If it weren’t for the ARC and Dean’s Fellows, I don’t know if I would be as successful in law school as I am now. I have come a long way, and I knew I wanted to help other students learn how to be successful too."
He especially enjoys being a Dean’s Fellow when he can show a student a different way to attack a problem. It's rewarding when they take that new approach and then apply the new methodology. Robinson believes Cooley’s peer-teaching model works well because Dean’s Fellows can relate to students who are seeking assistance.
Robinson is looking forward to a new career in law, wherever that takes him. In addition to possibly connecting a new career with his expertise in information technology in the field of Intellectual Property, he has also considered working in criminal law.
Cooley Law School Professor Renalia DuBose knows that whatever Robison decides to do he will have the skills and determination to succeed.
"Darrin is an exceptional person who has led an exceptional life," stated DuBose. "His academic accomplishments are a result of his lifelong commitment to excellence."