To Law School or Not to Law School – John Stratakis ’86

To Law School or Not to Law School – John Stratakis ’86

Interviewed by Sophia Gourley ’19

SG: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. My first question is, what have you done since leaving Trinity?

JS: I went to law school at American University Washington College of Law; I did a summer course at Oxford too, which was a fun, fascinating experience. I took the bar exam in 1989 and accepted an unpaid or minimally paid position in London with a maritime law firm for about three months. It was a tremendous experience. It was towards the end of the Thatcher years and there was a lot of excitement in the air. It was great to experience another culture; I had spent six months in London as a Trinity student too. When I came back to the states, I had a two-year clerkship lined up with the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York. Then I worked for a big law firm for about a year, but I didn’t really like the big firm life. I had contemplated taking the Foreign Service exam, but I never did. Instead, I took a six-month sabbatical to work on a novel, a kind of a political thriller story mixed with a coming of age. But I never finished it, it’s still sitting in the bottom drawer. Not long after, I joined Poles Tublin, which my father and his partners established in the 1960s. And I’ve been there ever since.

Personally, I met my wife in ’96. We were married in ’98; we have two kids, the oldest of which is in college.

SG: What was the transition like going straight to law school from Trinity? I know a lot of students here debate whether or not they should go straight through to law school or take a gap year. What was the transition like for you?

JS: Great question. It depends on where you are mentally. It’s often recommended to work before going to go to law school because it focuses you on whether that’s really what you want. I and a number of my friends at Trinity were taking the LSATs; in many ways, it was sort of a natural next move, postponing serious decisions about life. Serious thought should be given about jumping right into graduate school after college. There’s a lot of benefit to trying out different things and really thinking deeply about what satisfies you, what interests you. You know what other things are out there.

SG: That’s good advice. That seems to be the consensus among other political science alumni whom I’ve talked to. Was there anything you learned while at Trinity that helped shape your career?

JS: There were certainly professors who were very influential to me, like Renny Fulco. She was terrific. It was early in her tenure at Trinity. She was very inspiring and sought to extract a lot of thought from us, thinking on all sides of issues and contemplating your positions on things, and that’s why I found her very inspiring. Another professor was Paul Smith, an English professor. I was in a four-person class and we had a T.A. as well, so there were four students and two instructors. It was a terrific time in my life. I encouraged my son to apply, but Trinity wasn’t the right place for him. He was accepted and very much embraced by the school, but he wanted to go out on his own.

I was also a DJ at WRTC doing the jazz program. I still love jazz and I got to see and interact with people other than those in political science. And that’s part of what I love about my life, interacting with people all over the world.

SG: Are there hobbies or passions or projects that you would like Trinity to be aware of? You mentioned you really liked jazz, and it seems like you might like to write since you took the time to start a novel.

JS: I still like to write, and I like to speak on different topics, mostly international-related. I love travelling with my wife and family and seeing the world. It’s eye-opening. It’s helpful to us since so many Americans are not aware of the world outside our borders.