Published in the Graduate Report, Spring/Summer 2012
It took Michael Lynch ’12 four-and-half years to earn his J.D. from UConn Law – and for good reason. While his classmates were finishing their course work and preparing for the bar exam, Lynch, a captain in the Connecticut Army National Guard, was in Laghman Provence, Afghanistan commanding a 180-person infantry company in support of Operation Enduring Freedom X, an assignment for which he was awarded a Bronze Star. “I’m not sure who was in the tougher situation, my classmates or me,” says Lynch, chuckling.
For Lynch, serving his country thousands of miles from his hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts was hardly a new experience. Since beginning active duty in the United States Army after graduating from Fordham University in 2001, he led soldiers in support of a NATO peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina; assisted in the command of a 134-man rifle company deployed in combat in Iraq for fourteen months (for which he won a second Bronze Star); and commanded a specialized infantry training team that traveled throughout the U.S. instructing and certifying soldiers, sailors, airmen and Department of State personnel for deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lynch’s interest in the military has its roots in London, where he spent a postgraduate year at Dulwich College before heading off to Fordham. “Because I was the only American out of a thousand or so students, my house master encouraged me to join this junior cadet program so I could make friends outside of the twenty or thirty boarders in my house,” he recalls. “I was a Grateful Dead kind of guy in high school, but I gave it a whirl. I absolutely fell in love with it.”
Lynch’s love for the military blossomed at Fordham, which he attended on an Army ROTC academic scholarship. As graduation approached in the spring of 2001, he looked forward to active duty. “When I started my training at Fort Benning (GA), I was young and headed to Hawaii for my first assignment, which I thought was really awesome,” he says. “Then September 11 happened. That changed everything.”
According to Lynch, it was during his six years (2001-2007) on active duty with the 25th Infantry Division and the 306th Infantry that he first had serious thoughts of being an attorney. “My initial experience in Bosnia and later in Iraq really opened my eyes to the importance of the rule of law and just how lucky we are to live in a country where corruption is the exception rather than the rule, and where violence is swiftly punished, not condoned,” he says. “Those two experiences are really what shaped my interest in law school.”
Within a month after completing his stint in the Army in July 2007, Lynch started classes at UConn Law – and signed on with the Connecticut Army National Guard. While he fully recognized the possibility of being redeployed “somewhere dangerous,” he didn’t think it would happen before he had his J.D. firmly in hand. That’s not how it turned out. Soon after completing his second year at the Law School, Uncle Sam called him up for another tour. “I would have graduated in the spring of 2010 had I not gone back on active duty,” says Lynch. “Instead, I graduated in January 2012.”
Lynch notes that he found the transition from the deserts of Afghanistan back to law school as difficult as his transition from law school to the Army, where he had made many life-long friends. “I had a hard time adjusting to the fact that my Law School classmates were already lawyers – and I wasn’t,” he says, pausing. “I eventually had to let it go…Looking back, I wouldn’t have done anything any differently.”
Lynch is quick to point out that the Law School faculty and staff were highly supportive with regard to helping him make the difficult transition back to the classroom. “Lisa Rodino (UConn Law’s registrar) helped sign me up for all of my classes while I was still in Afghanistan, and Jane Brown (director of student affairs) made the whole leave-of-absence process absolutely seamless. They were simply amazing.”
Today, approximately eighteen months after returning to the beauty – and safety – of the Law School campus, Lynch has joined his classmates in the practice of law. In March 2012 he began work as an associate at Garcia & Milas, P.C., where he focuses primarily on construction litigation work. When not putting in long days at his New Haven office, he and his “absolutely amazing” wife, Eleana, whom he starting dating only three weeks before they graduated from Fordham, are busy caring for their two 95-pound rescue dogs, Casey and Damon, at their West Hartford home.
Keeping with his love of country and the military, Lynch continues to serve in the Connecticut Army National Guard, a commitment that requires him to be on duty one weekend per month and for a two-week hitch every summer. Does that mean he can be ordered back in harm’s way in the midst of his budding legal career? “Absolutely,” says Lynch, who has no plans to retire from the service. “It comes with the job.”