Rachael PalmerNovember 30, 2021
After graduating from the Communication Department at Truman in 2017, Rachael Palmer attended Saint Louis University School of Law, passed the bar exam, and is now a licensed civil defense attorney practicing in St. Louis, MO. Rachael’s experiences in the Journalism concentration developed her skills in writing and interviewing witnesses and clients.
What year did you graduate and what was your concentration?
I graduated in 2017 with Bachelors of Arts in both Communication and Political Science, with concentrations in Journalism and Pre-Law, respectively.
What extra-/co-curricular activities did you do?
I served as the Lambda Pi Eta President and National Communication Association Student Club Treasurer. In these positions, I helped organize Communication Week (2016) and assisted the Adair Public Library at its book sales. I was also President of Pi Sigma Alpha and Political Science Student Association and was actively involved in the Student Government. I also worked in the Public Relations office during my senior year, and it was the most fun!
Did you go to grad school? If so, where? Was it immediately after you left Truman or did you wait? Why?
I started at St. Louis University School of Law in the fall after I graduated from Truman. I’ve always dreamed of being an attorney, and I was accepted into law school during my senior year at Truman, so the timing was perfect. Starting law school immediately after undergraduate studies allowed me to begin my career sooner and was the right choice for me.
What was your first job after graduation?
I worked at a small employment law firm in St. Louis as a summer law clerk. It was a great place to learn and grow, and I developed an interest in employment law. As a result, I added a concentration in employment law, in addition to my health law concentration. Prior to graduating, I wrote a published comment involving the intersection of the two concentrations for the St. Louis University School of Law Journal of Health Law & Public Policy. (Editor’s note: You can read that comment here.)
What work do you do / what are you doing now?
I graduated from law school in May 2020 (well, technically August 2021 because of COVID delays) and passed the bar in September 2020. I am now licensed in Missouri and Illinois and practice civil defense litigation.
How has your Liberal Arts / COMM education helped you?
My liberal arts education helped me become more curious about learning and more inquisitive of the world around me. The Communication Department at Truman is focused on how to question and improve society, which is very applicable to legal practice. We are consistently looking for more equitable and just systems.
Which class did you dislike at the time you took it, but now you’re grateful you took it?
There was a class called News Reporting and Writing, which I had at a really inconvenient time for me, and I had to run to Barnett Hall before every class. Plus, there were a lot of moving parts, including writing a blog, writing news stories, and preparing for class itself. I am grateful that I took News Reporting and Writing because it improved my interview skills, and I gained a lot of confidence from the level of responsibility.
Dr. Yaquinto said that training in journalism would help me as an attorney because I would ask better questions, and now, I understand what she meant. As an attorney, part of my job is to ask questions in court and interview witnesses, so I am thankful for my investigative journalism training! I also enjoy telling people I had a blog in college!
What was your greatest accomplishment at Truman?
Graduating as a valedictorian! (Editor’s note: Woot! Woot!) Truman has an outstanding reputation for being academically challenging, and to have graduated with a 4.0 GPA is an accomplishment I will always be proud of! I still cannot believe I did that!
Why is Truman a good place for a student to study?
Truman has an excellent reputation for quality academics, especially in terms of writing and speaking. When I was touring law schools, admission counselors would always say how they loved giving tours to students from Truman because they tend to excel. In fact, the majority of the Truman students I know who went to SLU Law graduated with honors and are now successful lawyers! In addition, the professors are really invested in the students and what they are teaching.
What would you say a COMM student should absolutely do while at Truman?
First, I would suggest to get involved in one of the COMM extra-curricular groups, such as Lambda Pi Eta, the Truman Media Network, or speech and debate. In my experience, part of the Communication major is embracing what you learn in the classroom in a practical sense and making connections with others outside of the classroom. My advice would be to put your learning into action and explore everything you find interesting.
Second, take Persuasion Theory with Dr. James Cianciola! I learned so much in that class! We had a group project, where we critiqued Little Miss Sunshine, and we all wore yellow to match the presentation slides. I am still very proud of that and love talking about it!
I would also add Dr. Self’s Principles of Communication / Rhetoric and Civic Life classes, but if you are already a COMM major, you’re probably already in it. I enjoyed them so much. I took both because the department was in the middle of transitioning them!
What do you miss most about campus/Kirksville?
As far as my time at Truman, I miss having all of my friends nearby and the great professors. I was lucky enough to go to Truman with my sister for two years while I was there, and I miss going to the Student Activities Board concerts and speakers with her. We saw David Garibaldi choreograph-paint the Harry S. Truman painting that is hanging on the second floor of the Student Union Building! We also met Frank Abagnale, Jr., who inspired the movie Catch Me if You Can, starring Leonardo DiCaprio! I really miss Kirksville, especially the special events, like Movies in the Park and Red Barn, and the food, like Sebree’s and Rosie’s Diner. Sometimes, I think about driving up just for a To Die For muffin!
What advice would you give someone who wants to go into the same line of work as you?
For those interested in becoming an attorney, I would advise getting involved in leadership positions and taking classes where you can develop writing and interviewing skills. One of the biggest factors of success in law is the ability to write, which is why such a large component of law school is writing. In my experience, concise journalistic writing improved my legal writing skills because it is easier to hone in on persuasive, relevant facts.
Also, it is never too early to start networking! The other Typical Truman Students around you will also transition into successful careers; so many of my friends are now lawyers, journalists, government strategists, doctors, teachers, etc. As an attorney, you never know who could be a great expert, witness, colleague, or friend.
What tag line would you create for the COMM department at Truman?
“Find your hub.”
When I was at Truman, Dr. Self compared Communication as the hub of the liberal arts wheel. Communication is connected to all other disciplines. In my experience, there is such a diversity of areas where students use their Communication studies, but there are always the fundamental principles of the discipline that tie it together.
If you could come back to Truman and teach a class for a semester, what would be its title and what would it be about?
I would want to teach a practicum class called Interviewing Techniques and Practices, regarding the art of different interview styles. It would cover interviewing for depositions, prepared/improv interviewing, testimonial interviewing, journalistic interviewing, etc.
What did we not ask that you think is important for people to know?
There are so many opportunities that can come from your Communication studies, and Truman is a great place to explore those opportunities. Get involved with extracurricular activities or an internship!