My Chicago Law Moment: How Law Review Taught Cheryl Pollak, ’78, the Power of Collaboration

Before she was a federal prosecutor or a US magistrate judge, Cheryl Pollak, ’78, was the articles and book review editor for the University of Chicago Law Review.

And it was there, working with her classmates to get the journal published, that she learned the power of collaboration and discussion.

“The law is not black and white, and there are many times when it's really important to talk about a legal question with other people, to bounce ideas off one another,” said Pollak, who worked in the US attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York from 1986 to 1995 before becoming a US magistrate judge in the Eastern District of New York. “And I started to do that on the Law Review.”

Sometimes, the discussions would focus on particular legal concepts. Other times, she and her classmates would put their heads together to troubleshoot. Pollak can remember turning to her classmates once when she was struggling to edit an article that had been submitted by a professor from a different school—one who didn’t particularly like being edited.

“I remember talking with my fellow articles editor and trying to work out a strategy to edit it so that it would at least read well for the publication,” Pollak said.

Later, when she was an assistant US attorney, Pollak saw how critical it was to team up with her colleagues.

“We’d be hit with legal questions that we didn't have the luxury of researching deeply. And so I would run down the hall, and I would say, ‘Have you ever dealt with this Fifth Amendment issue?’ or ‘What about this Fourth Amendment question?’” she said. “Collaborating with my colleagues in that setting was really important.”

Now, she collaborates with her law clerks—something she says is one of the most enjoyable parts of her job.

“Talking to them about particular legal issues— and obviously talking to my judicial colleagues as well—is what has really helped me become the judge that I am today,” she said.