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Opening Doors with a Dual Degree

Phillip Harrinarine

Phillip Harrinarine ’17 JD/MPA, a native of Trinidad, immigrated to the United States with his family when he was two-years-old. He began law school with a passion for immigration law, but soon found himself interested in pursuing other opportunities outside of the traditional law firm practice. Through his extracurricular activities, he realized a lot of his skills lay in relationship building, counseling and engaging with individuals, and he wanted to find a career where he could pursue these strengths.

Harrinarine grew up in South Florida and graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in just two years. When it was time to decide which law school to attend, he chose Villanova Law for its proximity to Philadelphia and for its mission.

“I felt a connection to the values of the university and the law school,” said Harrinarine. “With Villanova, I knew I would have choices and flexible career options after graduation—I could stay in Philadelphia, or I could move back to Florida.”

Once at Villanova Law, Harrinarine was an active member of the Villanova Law community. He was a member of the Student Bar Association for three years, including serving as president during his 3L year. He was on the board for the Walter Lucas Public Interest Fellowship Program, which provides financial support to students who commit their summers to public service legal work, and he worked in the Clinic for Asylum, Refugee & Emigrant Services (CARES) during his 2L year.

“My case with CARES was lifechanging,” said Harrinarine. “We advocated for a family from Central America in a dire situation to receive asylum, and as an immigrant myself, it was a very personal and emotional experience.”

During his 2L year, Harrinarine decided to enroll in the JD/Master of Public Administration (MPA) to further explore his passions. The JD/MPA, one of four dual degree programs offered at Villanova Law, can be completed in three years and is designed for students who are interested in careers in public service and an interdisciplinary education that examines the relationship between law, public administration and management.

“The JD is such a versatile degree and I wanted to pair it with the MPA to open up doors and give me a competitive advantage when pursuing career opportunities,” said Harrinarine. “I really enjoyed the small, collaborative classes, group projects and discussions in the MPA program. The curriculum taught me that by using my strengths and various approaches to leadership, I could develop myself into an ethical, creative leader that could encourage others to commit to the mission, values, and work of the organization I represent.”

Harrinarine worked closely with the Office of Career Strategy & Advancement at Villanova Law to help him identify and conceptualize non-traditional legal career opportunities that would allow him to utilize both his JD and MPA degrees. “I believe in the work of the career development office, and encourage all students to seek out their advice,” said Harrinarine. “The more you can share with them, the better they are able to specifically assist and counsel you.”

Following graduation in 2017, Harrinarine landed a role with Cozen O’Connor as a Legal Recruiting Specialist where he recruited out of the Philadelphia office for the international firm. His particular focus was the summer associate program which allowed him to work with law students.

When an Associate Director of Admissions and Diversity Initiatives position at Yale Law School opened during the summer of 2019, Harrinarine jumped at the opportunity. “I had always contemplated working in higher education and being a person of color, a first-generation high school, college and professional school graduate, it is inspiring for me to share my story with other individuals coming from underrepresented groups and similar backgrounds. The experiences I had as a law student directly impact my work now—it’s really neat to have that connection.”

In August 2020, Harrinarine returned to Villanova Law as the Associate Director of Admissions.

“The lessons I learned in the JD/MPA program stuck with me wholeheartedly and no matter where I end up, it is a worthwhile complementary degree to law school that I will always have,” he added.