Where Are They Now?

Collin College Graduate Works In U.S. District Court

Nicholas Palmer, lawyer

Nicholas Palmer, lawyer

Nicholas Palmer was planning to become a professional musician, but his path from oboe player to lawyer intercepted a particular class at Collin College. After that class, Palmer chose law and never turned back. Today he is an attorney clerking for the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, in the chambers of Judge Jane Boyle.

“Collin College caused law school for me. I was going to be a music major. Professors Tracey McKenzie and Wendy Gunderson helped me to think differently. Collin College was the turning point at which I began to think analytically,” Palmer said.

Palmer took a learning communities class that integrated sociology, history and government. He recalls discussing Roe v. Wade and the Supreme Court ruling.

“In law school people were afraid of the Socratic Method, but I was
comfortable because of the debate at Collin College.”

“It was an open forum with lots of diverse opinions, and it got heated, but that excited me and reaffirmed that law was the direction I wanted to go into. Professor McKenzie taught me to have Collin College graduate works in U.S. district court an opinion, know why and be able to back it up. In law school people were afraid of the Socratic Method, but I was comfortable because of the debate at Collin College,” Palmer said.

Palmer graduated cum laude with an Associate of Arts degree from Collin College, magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from the University of North Texas, and he was a member of the Woolsack Honor Society upon graduation from Penn State University.

Palmer says he became a different type of student at Collin College, and he took his new skills with him as he continued to earn degrees and work in the court system. According to Palmer, a federal clerkship is a coveted position for law school graduates.

“I consider myself lucky to have received one. Three of us from my graduating class received federal clerkships. We had nearly 200 graduates, just from my school, and many more students applied for the clerkships. This job opens a lot of doors in the legal community. I love it; I apply analytical skills on a daily basis,” Palmer said.

According to Palmer, law clerks read briefs, assist judges in research and write the initial draft of court orders. All district judges preside over criminal and civil cases. Palmer has seen a variety of cases ranging from drug trafficking and illegal reentry to copyright, trademarks and patent infringements.

Palmer refers to himself as a Supreme Court and a Constitution junkie.

“Federal judges are selected by the president and appointed for life, unless they are impeached which is rare. It is nice for me to get to work with one of those judges. Congress makes the law on a broad policy basis, the executive branch enforces the law, but the judiciary is where people go when they feel wronged under the law. It is personal. As a lawyer, I want to be a public servant, and I feel most fulfilled in the judiciary. I know that I am serving not just the government but the public that the government stands for,” said Palmer who hopes to become a federal judge and a law school professor.