Harpist/law student aims for a career in public defense


A rising 3L at Wayne Law, Natalie Pate also is a professional harpist, and holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Harp Performance from Michigan State University.

Photo courtesy of Natalie Pate

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

According to Natalie Pate, her initial draw to the law can be summed up with a line from comedian Jerry Seinfeld: “Lawyers are the people who read the instructions to the board game of society.”
“I enjoy knowing how things are set up and how they work,” Pate says. “However, even before I started law school, I was not exactly pleased with the way the board game of our society was set up.
“I decided entering the field of law would give me an opportunity to make some sort of microscopic difference, even if only in one person's life.”

A first-generation law student, Pate is now a rising 3L at Wayne State University Law School.

“Funnily enough, the first lawyer I ever met was at an admitted students' event a couple months before law school started,” she says. “My dad is an electrician, and my mom homeschooled me and my three younger siblings. Both encouraged and showed me solid work ethics and told me to do my best at whatever I chose to do. I’d like to say I’m an electrician by osmosis thanks to my dad, but he’s the guy you would want to call.”

With a career goal of becoming a public defender, Pate also aims to run for President of the United States one day.

“People laugh when I tell them, but hey, one can dream big! My goals have remained the same, but in addition to public defense I’m now also interested in possibly working for community legal aid,” she says.

A recent intern with the Bajoka Law Group in Detroit, Pate currently is interning, remotely, for a second term in felonies at the Washtenaw County Office of Public Defender in Ann Arbor.

“I can't say enough positive things about my experience,” she says. “I was very set on my goal of being a public defender, and the work not only gave me a ton of pertinent experience, it also validated my interest in this area.

“My favorite part is communicating with the clients and speaking on their behalf on the court record. I also do other case preparation, legal writing, and some motion practice. I owe a ton of thanks to Mr. Ken Overwater, my supervising attorney who gave me great assignments and was willing to answer my random questions about criminal law practice even when it was solely for my own edification.”

One of her favorite Wayne Law experiences has been Mock Trial, where she currently serves as the Vice Commissioner.

“Not only is this valuable experience because I want to be a trial attorney, but it’s also a lot of fun, and I’m thrilled about getting to know the new junior members over the course of this coming year,” she says.

Pate is on Wayne Law's American Association of Justice National Mock Trial Team. “It’s lots of work, lots of fun, and is led by an awesome coach, Mr. Paul O'Neill,” she says. “Each year the AAJ National Team competes against law schools in different states. Last year was virtual, and I’m hoping we get to travel next year.”

A member of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) Detroit Chapter, Pate has worked with NLG attorneys on discovery review for pro bono Black Lives Matter protest felony arrest cases.

She is immensely grateful for her scholarship to attend Wayne Law.

“Pursuing law wouldn’t have been possible without the generous scholarship I received,” she says. “I’m not exaggerating when I say this has changed my life, and I’m beyond lucky to be able to pursue my dream of getting a J.D. and doing a little bit of good through the law.”

Originally from Lapeer County, Pate moved to Detroit two years ago for law school.

“The pandemic experience aside, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being in the city,” she says. “I’m fond of a couple local bars and restaurants—a shout-out to Tony of Tony V's and Campus Diner.”

Her interests include reading for fun, anything to do with the Muppets, and the rather unusual hobby of playing with pet cockroaches.

“I’ve regularly had pet cockroaches for the past several years,” she says. “Unfortunately Gunther and Otis died last year, but I’m getting some new ones this summer.”

She has been reading Tarot cards for over 5 years.

“My hobby of reading for fun led me to explore the world of Tarot, and I quickly discovered I easily connected with the cards and started conducting readings,” she says. “My favorite part of Tarot reading is the connections I make when meeting different people and reading for them.”

Pate also is a professional harpist, and earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Harp Performance at Michigan State University.

“I was extremely lucky to live near the Flint Institute of Music in junior high and high school, where I received merit scholarships for harp lessons, rented an instrument, played in the Flint Youth Symphony Orchestra and made many contacts for gigging at corporate gatherings, weddings, and other events.

“ I was a top pizza kit seller and sold many candy bars while playing a harp at a grocery store, earning my way to France and Ireland to tour with FYSO. I also made great friends, starting a chamber group with two of them years later during college, called ‘the ______ experiment.’ We released an album in 2020 called Conversations, available on most streaming platforms.

“Many of the skills needed for music were transferrable to law school, mainly discipline and the ability to lock oneself in a room and focus on a tedious task for hours,” she says. “I rarely would say practicing the harp relaxes me—I would probably be doing something wrong if it was during a practice session—but it certainly does provide my soul with joy. I intend to continue making music an important part of my life, even as I enter the legal field.”

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