Delgado to receive law school’s top honor

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Jose Delgado
Jose Delgado, nicknamed “Robo” by many of his classmates for his robotic adherence to schedule, organization and hard work, will graduate first in his class from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, with a 4.06 grade point average. 

At the College of Law Convocation, he will receive the John S. Armstrong Award, the law school’s top honor, established by the Armstrong family to honor the Arizona legislator who introduced the bill that established Arizona's first institution of higher learning, the Tempe Normal School.

"Jose is an amazing student with all the academic gifts of intellect, reason and clear articulation," said Dean Douglas Sylvester. "He also has a friendly, engaging personality that makes him an instant colleague. We're very proud of his accomplishments here at the College of Law."

Just because Delgado’s a robot, don’t think he’s an isolated, antisocial, bookworm.

“Jose is the person everyone wants to be: brilliant, hard-working, outgoing, and one of the nicest and most thoughtful people I have ever met,” said Judy Stinson, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Clinical Professor of Law. “He is a natural leader, one people are drawn to, and he leads by example. We are lucky to have him as our graduate.”

He works hard to be well rounded, playing in a regular pick-up basketball game, spending time with friends, and traveling the globe. In the past three years he has visited Costa Rica, Belize, Spain, Italy, Brazil and London, taking full advantage of the breaks provided during the school year.

“I love being out of my comfort zone,” Delgado said. “You meet the most incredible people that way.”

Delgado grew up in Whitefish, Mont., where his mother taught fourth grade and his father was the high school physical education and health teacher, coaching baseball, basketball and tennis. Delgado was the unofficial team mascot as a child, and played varsity basketball and tennis in high school. He constantly tagged along with his big brother as they enjoyed the Montana wilderness, hiking, water skiing, hunting and fly-fishing.

When he left for college, he thought he might be a sports agent.

“I thought I wanted to be the next Jerry Maguire,” Delgado said, referring to the driven agent in the movie. He spent a summer interning in Cleveland, Ohio, at IMG Worldwide, the global sports, fashion and media business, where he enjoyed his experience and met many incredible people, but eventually decided the competitive treadmill of being a sports agent wasn’t exactly what he wanted.

That job led to another job, in sales, with the Phoenix Suns. And Delgado, who graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and communications from ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business, excelled, moving from inside sales to group sales to premium and suite sales.

He learned that hearing “no” wouldn’t kill him, and he met many of Phoenix’s corporate leaders and decision-makers, who eventually helped convince him a legal education would open multiple doors.

Delgado chose the College of Law because it offered him financial help, he could remain close to his friends and mentors in Phoenix, and he could continue to work part time for the Suns. Since January, he has worked with the Arizona Diamondbacks in their legal department as well.

Jumping into law school wasn’t easy for Delgado.

“It was scary,” Delgado said. “Those first-year courses, like torts, I had to read every case several times before I understood the material. I didn’t know what just about every fifth word meant and spent a lot of time looking up legalese, not wanting to make a fool of myself in class.”

Delgado remembered frequently calling home to say, “I’m pretty sure I just failed that exam.” But, of course, he was wrong.

“You think you’re the only one who doesn’t get it, but later you learn that everyone is in the same boat.”

Success, Delgado said, required setting goals and figuring out how to achieve them.

He did it by planning each day with a hand-drawn grid on a yellow legal pad, personal tasks on one side, school and work on the other, a little trick he picked up from one of his mentors at IMG.

“You have to allot enough time to get everything done,” he said. “Then you have to put your head down and do the job. That’s what you learn to do in a coach’s house.”

He never missed a class (“There’s too much to learn.”), always did the readings, and put together a small study group “with people way smarter than me.”

He loved his first-year legal method and writing course.

“I made lifelong friends in that class, friends who will likely speak at my wedding someday,” he said. “It’s like you’re all in the bunker together that first semester. I think I spent more time on the brief I wrote in that class, getting it right, than on anything else I did in law school.”

He also loved federal income tax, legal advocacy and contract drafting, among many other subjects. He served as a staff writer, fundraising chair and associate editor for the Arizona State Law Journal, a mentor with the Hispanic National Bar Association’s mentoring program, and as a research assistant for Professor Michael Berch.

“Jose assisted Herb Ely and his legal team in the preparation of the opening and reply briefs that were submitted to the Ninth Circuit in a case involving the sentence of a man to 200 years for possession of 20 photographs of child pornography,” Berch said. “His research was enormously helpful. In conferences among counsel he participated in the discussions and offered insightful suggestions. Any outside observer would not know, except for his youthful appearance, that he was a law student and not a practitioner with years of experience. I would be pleased to have him on my team, anytime.”

He also was a teaching assistant for constitutional law, legal method and writing and the academic support program. His student note, “ ‘Chill’ Out Mrs. Robinson: First Amendment Implications of Limiting Private Teacher-Student Electronic Communication,” recently was published in the Journal’s spring edition.

He worked with the Sports and Entertainment Law Students’ Association and the Chicano/Latino Law Student Association.

He did summer internships at two major law firms, Perkins Coie, which solidified his focus on transactional work with a healthy dose of pro bono, and Osborn Maledon, where he has accepted a position starting after graduation, and will work in the corporate/business group and “focus on becoming a good attorney.”


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