Patrick Newman, Class of 2012
Patrick Newman has let nothing deter him from his dream of being a lawyer since he was a middle school student – even being an amputee with additional limb deficiencies.
His determination led him to receive his Juris Doctor from Campbell Law School in Raleigh, N.C. at the May 11 commencement ceremony.
The honors student held externships with Prisoner Legal Services of North Carolina while studying at Campbell Law. Newman achieved all this despite the challenges of lacking arms and having to use his feet to do the bulk of his work, including driving a motorized wheelchair for transportation.
“I want a job in prosecuting criminal and constitutional law, hopefully here in Raleigh,” he said of his post-collegiate plans.
Born in Greenville, N.C., in 1985, Newman grew up in Beaufort, N.C., with his parents and older sister. By the age of two, he moved with a wheelchair and became accustomed to using his feet as needed to do work when he could not receive assistance from his family or others.
When Newman was a teenager, he had discovered his calling to be a lawyer as an adult.
“I love to analyze issues and discuss them. I have a prosecutorial bent,” he said with a laugh.
Following high school graduation, Newman attended St. Andrews Presbyterian University in Laurinburg, N.C., which appealed to him because it offered critical care for physically challenged students. The period marked Newman’s first time living away from home for an extended period, and he loved it.
“I’m free,” he said to himself.
At St. Andrews, Newman became more independent. He relied on his motorized wheelchair more often, and he noticed the positive difference it made in his life.
“The difference between being pushed in a wheelchair and driving yourself is infinite,” he said.
After graduating from the university, Newman successfully applied to Campbell Law, whose reputation as both a Christian-based institution and its consistently high bar exam passage rate appealed to him. For the past 25 years, Campbell Law has ranked in first place among North Carolina law schools for passage rates on the North Carolina Bar Exam.
Newman enjoyed the academic atmosphere when he arrived on campus.
“It’s not cutthroat competition here, but friendly competition,” he said. “They only accept those candidates they know who will be good law students, and they only graduate those that they know will be good lawyers.”
He appreciated the features for the physically challenged which Campbell Law incorporated into its offices when it moved to downtown Raleigh in 2009, such as wide doors for easy entry and access. “It’s far more accessible here than it is at Buies Creek,” Newman said, referring to the school’s previous location. “It is much more open and designed to be workable for me.” He likes the community support as well, where people open the door for him in the rare instances when no automatic opening device exists.
Newman honed his learning skills at the law school by reading PDF books and Word documents on computers during his studies. He can use an onscreen keyboard to write and click the keys with his toes. For bigger writing projects, he contacts others to type materials for him as needed.
His toughest challenge for studying was getting voice-activated programs to type exactly what he meant when he talked into them. “It sometimes puts what I said into a text box rather than on the page, and it can be frustrating if it does not understand what I am saying and writes it down incorrectly and forces me to make changes,” Newman said.
A normal study day for Newman had him leaving his residence near the Cameron Village neighborhood where he lived with his mother to take three classes at school for his final semester. He preferred to learn in class rather than online.
“This gives me a chance to ask questions and make comments to the professors, and it’s a good learning experience for me,” he said.
Newman spends his casual time reading, studying the Bible, watching television, listening to music and playing video games with his feet. He attends the Raleigh First Assembly of God Church.
Now that his four and a half years at Campbell have ended, Newman wants to stay in Raleigh to pursue his career on his own.
“I want to be independent,” he said.
Newman hopes to be a prosecutor in the future. Given how successfully he has followed his dream so far, it appears he has an excellent shot of making that goal a reality.