Skip to main content area Skip to main content area Skip to institutional navigation Skip to search Skip to section navigation

Thomas Wheeler


San Diego, CA

Class Year:


Prior Education:

University of California at Irvine, B.A., Business Economics with Specialization in International Issues, Minor: Management

Professional Experience Prior to Law School:

I graduated from UC Irvine in 2012 and began Penn Law that fall. Thus, I have no non-academic work experience.

What I Am Hoping to Do with My Law Degree:

While it sounds obvious, I want to practice law back in California. I am particularly interested in bankruptcy and real estate due to their split litigation and transactional practice, but am still trying to figure out what area most appeals to me.

My Best Experience at Penn Law:

My 1L Summer (2013), I worked as a Research Assistant in the Biddle Law Library. I really enjoyed the experience as both a chance to get to know and work with many of the faculty at Penn Law as well as experience Philadelphia during the summer. As one of my many assignments, I worked directly with Dean Fitts to help him prepare for the Aspen Symposium. I am really close with all the Biddle Librarians from the experience too which is great as a support network. In standard fashion for me, I also played on the “Bad News Billy Goats” – the Penn Law Softball team – with a bunch of the professional staff and other students which was an amazing time.

Professor Who Influenced Me Most:

Shanin Specter because he taught  me a lot of useful, practical advice about advocacy that will help me in any kind of legal practice. I took “Trial Advocacy” with Professor Specter in Fall 2013 in which you both learn about the psychology and practice of being a trial lawyer as well as conduct a mock trial in class. I will be taking Professor Specter’s “Practice of Law” class in Spring 2014 and am looking forward to getting even more practice.

My Favorite Course:

Patent Law taught by Polk Wagner because of its engaging nature through his use of extensive in class group discussions and exercises. As a 4 unit course, it is very work intensive but I felt like I got a great understanding of how patents work practically as well as theoretically. Polk is also a fantastic teacher.

An Example of How the Law School’s Cross-disciplinary Approach Influences My Legal Education:

I look forward to continuing my management education from undergrad with Wharton’s new executive certificate course. The pass-fail course provides a great chance to learn to examine businesses from the actual management side instead of just the legal aspects.

Meaningful Cross-disciplinary Experience at Penn:

While I’m not 100% sure it’s “cross-disciplinary,” I really enjoy the time I get to spend with the LLMs who are at Penn Law for only one year. They are a great group of people from all over the world who have interesting experiences to share.

Penn Law is known for its collegial environment Why is collegiality important to a legal education?  How has it affected your legal education?

Collegiality is important during law school because law school is a stressful time. It would be potentially insurmountable and in general a lot less fun without the support and friendship of your peers. Everyone at Penn Law has made me feel like a part of their community and Philadelphia.

Collegiality is important in the legal practice because law is a service profession. We exist to satisfy our clients which is impossible if you cannot communicate problems and advice effectively. I feel that Penn Law does a great job of providing an environment where people connect with each other and communicate.

My Favorite Philadelphia Moment:

It is really hard to choose just one. The Schuykill (schoo-kill) River Foundation hosted a fishing tournament on the banks of the river in the Fall. I – with all my expertise in of having never fished - succeeded in catching a rock, a stick, and a rag; but it was still a great memory of the city for me.

What I’m Most Proud Of:

Two life goals achieved in Fall 2013: I won my heat in the EJF Pie Eating Contest (15 pies), I won a category in the Penn Law pumpkin carving contest. These are the important things that really matter, obviously.

My Extracurricular Activities at Penn Law:

Federalist Society Board, Penn Law Women in Sports Board, Associate Editor - Journal of Business Law, Penn Law Bowling League, Penn Law Board Gaming Club, Y’Allsa, Energy Law Project.

What I Did For Public Interest:

I worked for the Criminal Record Expungement Project which involves helping people remove non-conviction data from their criminal records. I also worked for the James Wilson Project in which I went to an underprivileged school in West Philadelphia and taught high school students constitutional law every week.

My Favorite Place or Activity on the University Campus:

The quad or deck when it’s sunny (so, ~5 months of the school year). While all the rooms are very nice, it’s great to be able to go kick-back and study outside, especially in the Quad where you’ll run into a lot of fellow students.

How is going to Penn Law & the East Coast if I am from the West Coast and plan to return after my degree?

While you will have to update your wardrobe extensively and buy close toed shoes, coming to Penn Law is one of the best choices you can make. The degree will travel anywhere. It gives you a chance to gain perspective, meet new friends and mentors, greatly expand your network, and get experiences you can only get from living in the North-East by connecting you to Boston, NYC, and DC. The West Coast will be there when you want to go back.