Just over five years ago on January 7, 2019, a motivated group of 32 students became the inaugural cohort of JDinteractive (JDi) at a residency in Dineen Hall (Adam Katz G’04, L’04 served as the opening convocation speaker). The students arrived from all corners of the U.S. and abroad to become legal education pioneers alongside the College of Law’s faculty and staff.

From this modest beginning, JDi has rapidly grown to become the standard for online legal education. JDi faculty and administrators were called upon frequently by other law schools during the COVID-19 Pandemic to learn how to effectively conduct online legal education.

“We launched JDinteractive with the goal of expanding access to a legal education, recognizing that many talented people could not pursue a traditional, residential program due to their circumstances,” says Professor Nina Kohn, who led the design and launch of the program and served as the College of Law’s first Associate Dean for Online Education. “It’s incredibly rewarding to see how this program is changing the lives of its graduates. And how its graduates are, in turn, bringing the benefits of a legal education back to the communities that they serve and which they are embedded.”

110 students have now graduated from JDi, with 250 currently enrolled in the program. With the fifth year upon us, we wanted to catch up with students from the first two cohorts to see how their Syracuse Law degree has impacted their lives and communities.

College Of Law JDi Class at Opening Convocation in 2019

Many Paths, One Destination

Ramsey Hilton headshot, smiling at the camera and wearing a plaid shirt

Ramsey Hilton L’22

Patent Attorney, Cooley LLP

The main reasons for me were flexibility and convenience. Going into the program, I was working full-time as a patent agent at a law firm, which already had a demanding workload. Adding coursework to that is intimidating, and I was starting to question whether there were enough hours in a week to get everything done. On top of that, in a traditional night school setting a lot of time is lost commuting from work to school and then back home, settling into class when you arrive, all of which can cost you a couple of hours each week. While in the JDi setting, we log in and get down to business right away. As a working professional, this was exactly the efficiency I needed in a law school program.

headshot of Ahimsa Hodari with a checkered shirt on in front of a dark gray wall

Ahimsa Hodari L’22

Associate Attorney, DLA Piper

I had a full-time job and wanted a law degree. I wanted a program that would accommodate my schedule and allow me to pursue my degree in a non-traditional way as I didn’t think I could quit my job and become a full-time student. I looked for a program that understood and embraced that and could work around my very busy schedule.

headshot of Andrew Lloyd wearing a black suit smiling at the camera in front of a white background

Andrew Lloyd L’22

Curriculum Leader, Hampton, VA City Schools

I chose the program for the flexible, online schedule. It allowed me to continue working while obtaining my law degree. Also, I’m from Rochester, NY so getting a degree from Syracuse University made it even more appealing.

headshot of Sarah Roberts smiling in a black turtleneck in front of an abstract outdoor background

Sarah Roberts L’22

Assistant Public Advocate, Office of Public Advocacy, AK

When I was applying to law school, I was living in Alaska where there are no law schools. I was trying to find something I could do remotely. This was the only program that enabled me to sit for the bar in my state and still be remote.

Meg Steenburgh smiling at the camera in front of a gray background wearing a gray suit and pink shirt

Meghan Steenburgh G’97, L’22
Assistant General Counsel within the Department of Defense

Syracuse University College of Law JDi was the only program of its kind involving a university with a stellar reputation. The unique program allowed me to continue to be present with my kids, help my parents and attend law school while providing the flexibility to move across the nation and live in three different states; the Syracuse University College of Law name provided legitimacy and access.

Making Dreams and Plans Come True

Hilton: All my previous education and professional experiences were in engineering. I was working as a pipeline engineer until 2018 when a legal recruiter contacted me and asked if I ever thought of working in patent law for a law firm. It had never crossed my mind but was open to it. While I was not required to go to law school to work at the firm, earning my law degree is definitely an advantage in my career.

Hodari: Law school was a thought in the back of my mind, off and on. I graduated college in 2005 with a degree in public policy and pursued a master’s in public policy as I started working. As I began working closer to the law but also in a private sector operation capacity, I started thinking more deeply about this. After talking with my family, I started looking at law schools in 2017 and started the Syracuse program in 2019.

Lloyd: I had wanted to go to law school for a very long time. It was a career idea I had in high school, but ultimately, I didn’t pursue it right away and went into education. After years in public education, the itch to go to law school wouldn’t let up. So in 2018 I started to look at law schools and am very thankful that Syracuse had the JDi program that allowed me to continue working professionally while working toward my J.D.

Roberts: I needed to change careers as my youngest child had started school. I opted to become a lawyer as a profession to meet my personal and family goals.

Steenburgh: I dreamt of going to law school for about 30 years. My dad was an attorney, and it was always in the back of my mind; however, other opportunities presented themselves so the dream just stayed there—in the back of my mind. When the opportunity was ripe, this program allowed that dream to come true.

Allowing for Growth and Impact

Hilton: Having a law degree and having passed the bar exam significantly broadens the scope of what I can do professionally. While being a patent agent is a great career, the scope of the matters I can advise on and the scope of my practice grows significantly now that I am a patent attorney.

Hodari: This degree means a lot to me. It has been a dream of mine and something I wanted to do. When you layer on being an older student, a non-traditional student, it meant a lot of sacrifice in family time, work time, and community time. There were a lot of personal things I had to wrestle with, such as: can I do this, do I have time to do this, can I do this well, can I thrive? My degree is now one of the things I am most proud of. It really takes a village and am very grateful to everyone who came alongside me to help me achieve this goal.

Lloyd: Having a law degree opens many doors. I am very excited about what the future will bring.

Roberts: My J.D. means freedom and independence. While in law school my husband had some serious health complications, and we weren’t sure if he would be able to continue working. I was so grateful to be in the program and knew no matter what happened, I would be able to work and support our family.

Next Stop: Many Destinations

Hilton: After graduating and passing the Massachusetts bar exam, I transitioned from being a patent agent to a patent attorney at Cooley LLP in their Boston office.

Hodari: I am a patent litigation associate. I typically support defendants who are accused of patent infringement and support their efforts to litigate matters in federal court. Coupling my law degree and educational experiences allows me to better fight for educational equity. I am excited about what the future holds.

Lloyd: I am currently the Curriculum Leader for the World Languages and English Language Learners department and Title III Coordinator for the Hampton City Schools in Hampton, VA. I oversee two program staffs and work closely with students, parents, staff, administrators, and district leadership to ensure we have robust programming for our students and to ensure that our English language learners have equal and equitable access to our educational programming.

Roberts: I am currently working for the state of Alaska as a public advocate for the Department of Public Advocacy. I represent respondents in guardianship cases and parents in cases where the state has stepped in and taken custody of children.

Steenburgh: I am currently an assistant general counsel in the Office of the General Counsel for an agency within the Department of Defense. I so enjoy national security lawyering that I cannot express my excitement and love for lawyering in words. The strength of College of Law professors (with an extra dose of gratitude for my National Security professor, Judge Jamie Baker) enabled me to conduct impactful legal reviews from day one.

The Importance of the Residencies

Hilton: Our class had a bit of an unusual situation. For our first residency in August 2020, we had to meet remotely due to COVID restrictions. Our second residency in August 2021 was our first time meeting in person for most of us. We knew each other from an academic setting quite well, but did not know each other personally. At the second residency, I finally got some good face time with some of my classmates and really developed a great kinship with these folks. I’ve gone through three different degree programs at three different universities, and the kinship I have with the folks I met during the JDi program is the best level of connectivity I’ve had with a cohort. It’s ironic because it’s a program that is a majority online. That second residency was a great week where we got a lot done academically and had a great time with our colleagues.

Hodari: Even though the program was fantastic from a remote perspective, I had a great time being in person as well. I enjoyed attending the in-person residencies and getting to know my classmates in a casual setting, even renting a house together for residencies, and creating study groups when we were not in person. The residencies and friendships are the hallmark of the program. The cherry on top at the end is the law degree.

Lloyd: My favorite part was the residencies. From meeting my cohort to hands-on experiences to discovering Syracuse, the residencies provided us with a lot of wonderful experiences that forged lasting relationships that helped us as we went through the classes and in study groups where we relied on each other when things got rough.

Roberts: My favorite times were Zoom study sessions with my study group and study partner for three years straight, multiple times a week. These people knew me the best and commiserated with me and knew what I was going through. Lou Lou Delmarsh introduced me to my study partner night one and she’s become my lifelong bestie. I would never have made it through law school without that connection.

Steenburgh: My favorite time during JDi was during a residency when I was staying up late working on a project in the law library and my study buddy was with me, entertaining herself as I worked. We left at probably three in the morning and there was a snowstorm. We were crossing campus and were just silly kids in the storm heading back to the hotel from the library knowing we had a presentation to make in just a few hours. I think that the beauty of this program is that you create such strong connections, and you have these moments and memories that mean so much. It has nothing to do with the law but everything to do with this program.