Dana Fabe, L’76, H’98

When Dana Fabe was on her first co-op at a law firm in Bozeman, Montana, she had the extraordinary opportunity to write a petition for writ of certiorari, requesting the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an equal protection case. “The thread that is woven throughout my co-op experiences is the tremendous responsibility I was given as a co-op student,” she said. “I had a great deal of responsibility as a first-year law student, and it was one of the first co-op assignments I was given during the summer after my first year,” said Fabe, who is today a justice on the Alaska Supreme Court and the president of the National Association of Women Judges. Fabe points to her first co-op, and subsequent co-op jobs in Boston, Kentucky, and Alaska, as critical experiences that helped to pave the way for a successful 33-year career in the Alaskan judicial system.

In the 49th state, Fabe rose through the ranks to ultimately become the first woman to ever serve as both associate and chief justice for Alaska’s highest court. Her hard work paid off with a significant recommendation from one of her state’s senators. In May 2009, U.S. Senator Mark Begich of Alaska recommended to President Barack Obama that Fabe be considered for the U. S. Supreme Court position about to be vacated by then Associate Justice David Souter.

“As you prepare to fill the upcoming opening on the United States Supreme Court, I urge you to consider one of the finest judges my state has produced in 50 years of statehood ― Alaska Supreme Court Justice Dana Fabe,” Begich wrote to the president. In response, Fabe said that she was deeply honored to be recommended for consideration to the highest court in the land and pointed to her integration of classroom studies with real-world experience as the initial springboard of her successful career.

“The co-op program is the reason I chose Northeastern over many other law school programs. Participating in four co-ops, three of them outside of Boston, empowered me to have the courage to say ‘yes’ when a Supreme Court Justice of Alaska offered me a clerkship,” said Fabe, who accepted the position to clerk for Justice Edmond W. Burke immediately after graduation. Today, things have come full circle. Fabe is on the same court that Justice Burke served on and, like her mentor from three decades ago, she is taking an interest in aspiring young lawyers. She visits campus to interview law students for post-graduate clerkships with the Alaska Court System. She credits word of mouth about the co-op program for bringing her to Northeastern. “I had friends, including Phil Dunn, who were enrolled at Northeastern and were raving about the program.”

“Phil, who was a year ahead of me, thought that the co-op program made it the best clinical law program in the country,” recalled Fabe, who chose both criminal and civil rights co-ops and who went on to become the chief public defender for Alaska before being appointed to the trial bench in 1988.