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Scott Burnett and Tamara Hoflejzer
Cornell Law School

JD Class of 2013

“We flew on the red eye,” she begins.

“. . . And we got here with just our suitcase,” he finishes.

“It was the middle of a heat wave, and they were sold out of air conditioners,” she says with a shake of her head.

“And remember you bumped your head?” he asks.

She touches her head.

The couple laughs.

Scott Burnett and Tamara Hoflejzer met when they were in high school, through mutual friends at a Los Angeles Angels baseball game. Hoflejzer—an Argentinian—had just moved to the United States, and Burnett, a native of Southern California, was Anaheim born and bred.

“I was being Americanized,” Hoflejzer recalls.

Years later, they are married, are both graduates of the University of California, Los Angeles, and have successfully completed law school together.

“We’ve been very lucky,” Burnett says.

After they graduated from UCLA in 2009, the hunt for law schools within the same geographic area began in earnest. They both applied to more than 15 schools, Hoflejzer remembers. As law school candidates, they were comparable, but they could not find a solution to their dilemma. After Burnett was admitted to Cornell, the couple spoke with admissions.

“Cornell was very responsive,” Burnett says. “The dean sent me a handwritten note and expedited Tami’s application.”

She was accepted, and the couple made the decision to move cross-country to Ithaca, New York.

“It seemed like Cornell might be a smaller, tighter community—and our perception was true,” Burnett says.

Cornell days

The first year of law school anywhere is always filled with long and intense hours of study, they say. Cornell Law School was not an exception.

“I look back, and I don’t even know how I survived,” Burnett says, with a still face and solemn eyes.

Hoflejzer turns to him, laughs, and shakes her head.

“I’m prone to hyperbole,” Burnett confesses.

But the lighthearted pair is serious about their study of law.

“It’s hard working people put through the hunger games,” Burnett says.

Although their three years have been filled with intense study, the two believed it was important to get involved in their communities: Cornell and Ithaca. They volunteered with the Latino American Law Students Association, or LALSA, and the Public Interest Law Union. Hoflejzer was involved with the DREAMer Pro Bono Project, and Burnett taught a law class with the Cornell Prison Education Program. Both served on the Cornell Law Review—Burnett as an articles editor, and Hoflejzer as a general editor.

The couple also held positions on the Public Interest Law Union: Hoflejzer as president, and Burnett as treasurer. Both plan to pursue public interest work, so it made sense to support Cornell’s public interest law community, Hoflejzer explains.

Before coming to Cornell, Hoflejzer was inspired to practice law after working for firms focusing on immigration law, tenants’ rights, and environmental law.

“In our second and third years, we got involved in public interest law by participating in several clinics, which allowed us to develop legal skills and learn substantive law in various fields,” Hoflejezer says. “For instance, I participated in the Labor Law Clinic this semester. Through the clinic, I had the opportunity to do in-country research and interview workers and representatives from government agencies and civil society in Peru.”

Public interest partners

These Cornell experiences and more enriched their understanding of public interest law. After graduation, the two will begin public interest positions in Washington, D.C. Burnett will work at the Comptroller of Currency, and Hoflejzer will work for the Office of the Solicitor in the U.S. Department of Labor.

“Generally speaking, the federal government does not hire people right out of law school,” Burnett says. “Most people work at firms, and a few years later the government will consider hiring you.”

“With our new positions, we may now have run out of our luck,” he says with a laugh.

D.C. will see their faces for a while, but they don’t know what the future holds, Burnett says. For now, they’re excited about starting the next chapter of their lives. And, of course, wherever they go next, they’ll go together.

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