PHOTOS THIS ARTICLE COURTESY OF JARED BOWLER
by Cynthia Price
Being a lawyer may run in some people’s blood, but it took a while to convince Jared Bowler that he was one of those people.
Young Bowler’s interests tended toward international development work and public policy, despite the aweinspiring example of his father, retired Judge Patrick Bowler.
But following a path into the law grew more appealing to Jared Bowler as he gained more life experience. A brief stay in Portland, Ore., after his graduation from Metro State University in Denver, led to a job at an environmental non-profit where he worked closely with the staff attorney. As a result, he realized, as he states it, “how much further I could take the proactive international work if I had a legal background.”
After returning to Grand Rapids, Bowler took a position as a credit analyst in the mortgage business and enrolled at Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s Grand Rapids campus, which he knew would accommodate his schedule. This month he received his Juris Doctor.
Along the way, his international interest led Bowler to an extraordinary experience that tested his mettle as a person, a test that he passed with flying
Cooley Law School offers the students at all its campuses the opportunity for study abroad, to take an in-depth look at the legal practices of other countries. One program includes two months in Australia followed by two months in New Zealand.
Bowler quit his credit analyst job just as the mortgage industry was undergoing major changes early in 2011, and crossed the globe to Aussie country.
He learned a lot about the Australian legal system, and was looking forward to expanding his knowledge about that of New Zealand when, only four days into the visit there, an earthquake hit the town of Christchurch where the students were staying.
Though many law students were in class, Bowler and a friend were out and about. They were thrown into the road which, he notes, is actually the safest place to be. His friend recalled the warnings they had been given a few days earlier by a local host, and grabbed Bowler’s arm to make him stay in the middle of the street.
This turned out to be an excellent move since another quake rocked the city about 20 minutes later, and the two watched as at least 15 people were crushed. “That aspect of it was traumatic to say the least,” Bowler recalls.
The very old town, founded in the middle 1800s, incurred a great deal of damage. “I was absolutely shocked,” comments Bowler. “Their downtown just completely crumbled.”
The two made their way back to their quarters, which were more modern and better fortified against an earthquake — and the many aftershocks they all experienced. Then Bowler and the other students participating in the program were evacuated to Wellington.
Christchurch is on the eastern end of New Zealand’s southern island, and Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, is in the southern portion of its northern island. But Wellington was newer and much better able to handle earthquakes.
After a while, most students flew home or toured New Zealand on their own. But Bowler heard that, even after a month, Christchurch had not been able to make progress cleaning up the earthquake’s destruction.
He returned to work as a volunteer to help Christchurch dig out.
Bowler’s time working there was rewarding. He heard the stories of those who lost loved ones as well as all their earthly belongings. And he learned a lot about people’s willingness to help others.
“I will say about the New Zealand people, their responsiveness was incredible. Every single person was looking out for the other person,” Bowler comments.
Bowler has now moved to Washington DC as he studies to take the Michigan bar. He feels that his employment prospects will be best there, considering that his passion for international development work has not waned. His preference would be to work for an environmental or human rights organization — Earthjustice and the National Resource Defense Council came to mind.
But he wants to keep his options open, and many advised him to seek bar membership in Michigan.
“I’m definitely not against going back to Grand Rapids,” Bowler says, “but first I’d like to branch out and do some international work.”
He notes that as he was growing up, he would hear others make negative comments about lawyers, but that never aligned with his experience. “Every single time I ran into someone who knew my father I’d hear, oh your dad, he’s such a great judge but he’s also a great person.” He says Patrick Bowler was always an inspiration to him, with his dedication to sobriety and drug courts.
Bowler also has high praise for Cooley Law School and its professors and administrators, particularly in the area of pro bono. “I worked with Professor Sorenson on a project with United Way, helping them write an employee handbook. Seeing how much pro bono work Cooley stresses is awesome. Karen Rowlader makes it easy, and Dean Miller sets a perfect example. I have friends at other law schools and they just don’t get that.”
In addition to graduating a number of other students with out-of-the-way stories, Cooley Law School granted a degree that was truly extraordinary. Officials awarded student Amber Andaloro, who died suddenly in Dec. 2011, a Juris Doctor degree posthumously.
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