Just months after graduating from FIU, Daniel Simon ’22 packed his bags and headed to Harvard for a top-notch program that will prepare him for his future: law school.
Simon was selected as one of 20 students nationwide to join the Training and Recruitment Initiative for Admissions to Leading Law Schools (TRIALS) law preparation program – a partnership between Harvard Law School, New York University School of Law, and the nonprofit Advantage Testing Foundation.
The prestigious summer program is aimed at students with limited economic resources and whose backgrounds are underrepresented in the best law schools in the country. Students receive full LSAT tutoring; take practical LSATs under simulated test conditions; attend lectures by leading lawyers and scholars, as well as Harvard and NYU professors; and forge connections with peers and instructors.
“It’s a life-changing experience,” says Simon. “This program [has given] advice to overcome difficulties and tools to seize opportunities. By meeting unique individuals, I discovered freedom in authenticity and a passion for defying the odds and building a future to uplift others.
A few years ago, law school didn’t even seem like an option for Simon. He came to the United States from Cuba as a teenager. A violinist, he worked on various gigs to help his mother – who worked three jobs – make ends meet. Simon also worked hard at school, taking dual-enrollment classes and logging hours upon hours of study. He has been accepted to many universities including FIU, NYU, University of California-Berkley, University of Miami, University of Florida, and Florida State University. He chose the CRF.
As a musical performance major, he immersed himself in his art as a violinist. During his first semester, he also took an FIU Honors College course on the foundations of law. It changed his life. He connected the content to his experiences as a musician – seeing how friends unknowingly signed their copyrights to the music they created. He found his calling.
“The course taught me all the good you can do with a law degree,” he says. “I have this knowledge of the arts as a musician, the vulnerability to turn the soul into a melody. And there’s so much unknown to artists about protecting it. [their music and talent], on navigating rough waters in the legal world. So, I decided to change that. I decided to pursue the legal profession.
He added political science as another major to his studies. He joined FIU’s Panther Mock Trial team, a student organization housed at Honors College that competes in tournaments run by the American Mock Trial Association. He also became a student assistant for Kristen Corpion, who at the time was an instructor at Honors College and taught the introductory legal course that impacted her career.
Eventually, Corpion offered him an internship at his firm, CORPlaw, which later turned into a job offer. Since 2020, Simon has been working as a paralegal in his firm. In his role, he drafts documents, conducts research and attends meetings with clients under the supervision of legal counsel. He also participates in the FIU Law Path Journey program, which helps students prepare to enter law school.
“What sets Daniel apart is his reluctance to give up,” Corpion says. “He’s the kind of person who constantly challenges himself and sets the bar high, with no excuses. He has 100% responsibility.
The fact that he has secured a place in the TRIALS program, she adds, speaks volumes about his talent and commitment – and will help set him up for even greater achievements.
“The type of student who comes into TRIALS is phenomenal,” adds Corpion, a former TRIALS student herself. “The program is great. He gives you that boost to get you into one of those T-14s [top fourteen] law schools. You get tutoring, you can network with admissions departments and alumni. I’m confident that whatever doors Daniel wants to open, he’ll blow them open one way or another, but a program like this gives him extra support to do so.
Simon completed the in-person portion of the TRIALS program at Harvard and led virtual sessions through the fall. He hopes to attend law school at a top school, potentially Harvard. In the long term, he plans to continue making music and doing law.
In fact, throughout his time at FIU, he never left music. He was the concertmaster (first chair violinist, a leadership position) of the FIU Symphony Orchestra. He taught violin, piano and music theory to children every semester. After graduating in the spring of 2022, he joins a South American musical tour in partnership with the FIU School of Music to perform at the International Festival of American Renaissance and Baroque Music “Misiones de Chiquitos”.
He says the mentorship of Corpion and his CRF family has been crucial to his success.
“The value of CRF is in its community and its faculty,” says Simon. “There is an underlying mission of hope, knowledge and opportunity that unites us all. The things I have accomplished are in one way or another related to support, guidance and guidance I received from CRF and Honors College.”
One of his goals is to give back in the same way he received: return to the CRF and help the next generation of Panthers succeed as well.