Turning Chance into Opportunity

Tyler Martin

Some career paths aren’t always easy to trace, and some come by chance. Even the most significant opportunities can come from something as simple as a phone call — and that is how Tyler Martin ’19 started his path to Roger Williams University School of Law.

With both parents disabled, Martin worked full-time while attending Johnson & Wales as an undergraduate studying Criminal Justice. “It’s just life,” he says when questioned about the workload. “I learned a lot of good things from it. Those three years were really setting me up — the things that I learned were invaluable. It set me up for what I’m doing now.”

By “now,” he means not only landing a place in JWU’s unique 3+3 program — which is open to students studying Criminal Justice, Political Science, and Liberal Studies — with RWU Law, but also earning a spot in the top five out of a class of 170 law school students.

While he’s not certain what type of law he’d like to pursue, Martin is leaning toward corporate or contract law — a decision aided by his experience as a research assistant for his contracts professor, Tanya Monestier.

Although he came to JWU with thoughts of law enforcement, one class during Martin’s first year changed his mind. Professor Paul Sylvestre’s criminal court class opened the doors to law for Martin, and he knew immediately that law was the avenue he wanted to pursue.

What he didn’t know, however, was how to go about it or what any of it entailed. So he enlisted the help of his advisers and College of Arts & Sciences Dean Michael Fein, who opened Martin’s eyes to the groundbreaking 3+3 program.

“At the time, the program was only open to Liberal Studies and Political Science majors,” Martin recalls. “I was a little stubborn — I didn’t want to change my major.”

Rather than call it quits, the young first-year student did something that he now laughs about — he called the Dean of RWU Law, Michael Yelnosky, to see if they could make an exception. To his total surprise, he received an email that summer from Yelnosky indicating that the program would open to JWU’s Criminal Justice majors. “I still can’t believe I called him,” Martin laughs. “If I didn’t do that, who knows if I would be in law school.”

Now in his second year, Martin is still at times in disbelief that he is actually in law school. “Law school is its own little world — words don’t do it justice,” he says. “It changes the way you think. It teaches you to think quick on your feet.” He adds that the 3+3 program was a gift, not only saving him a year of tuition, but forcing him to work and stay focused. “If all goes as planned, I’ll be graduating with my law degree at 23,” he says. “I never thought I would be in this situation.”

Some of the quick-thinking credit, Martin is quick to clarify, comes from his experiences at JWU — particularly from two professors. “Joe Delaney and Dan Driscoll are fantastic,” he says. “They helped me so much with the law school process and even making the decision itself. They were both there for me academically and personally. They were a big part of my success at Johnson & Wales.”

“It was a pleasure to have Tyler in multiple classes,” says Professor Joe Delaney. “From Day 1 his dedication and hard work were apparent, leaving no doubt that he was destined for success. It’s gratifying to know that his commitment continues to this day.”

Associate Professor Dan Driscoll agrees, citing Martin’s work ethic as a contributing factor to his success. “Tyler is a confident and self-directed individual,” he says. “He knew what his goal was and pursued it while at JWU, maintaining good grades here.”

Looking back on the process, Martin recalls that the toughest part was taking the LSAT. Besides the amount of preparation, he says, everything is so up in the air until those scores come through. “You always have in the back of your head these little things that might bump you out of the program,” he says. “But if you can use it to motivate you, then it works.”

Motivation is not something Martin lacks – evident from his first year at JWU, to the determination to get into the program, to now, where he remains near the top of the class.

“I have had tremendous success here,” Martin says. “I know that this situation wouldn’t have come in this way if it wasn’t for JWU. JWU gave me this opportunity. They helped me save a year of tuition.”

Martin’s story is not over — in fact, it’s likely just beginning — but his path from JWU to RWU Law is a true example of perseverance and hard work.

“JWU prepared me academically for law school, and I’m doing things now that I didn’t think I was going to be able to do,” he says. “JWU really gave me everything that I needed – and then some – and set me up for success.”