Mackenzie Saunders has served as SPINALpedia’s Director of Operations and as Paralegal for The Spinal Cord Injury Law Firm. since May 2019. Sadly, this is Mackenzie’s last week with us. Mackenzie is a walking paraplegic and recent graduate from Arizona State University who will be transitioning to a full-time role as the Deputy Campaign Manager and Finance Director for a local campaign. We wanted to highlight Mackenzie for all of the hard work she’s done, and we wanted to see what she enjoyed most about her time with the firm. Read our Q&A with Mackenzie below!
What was your favorite part about working with The Spinal Cord Injury Law Firm?
I loved conducting legal research and making in-depth timelines out of medical records! I’m a huge nerd, so looking through medical records and putting together a brief on what happened, how it happened, and what information was missing is really exciting for me. I’m so grateful to have been given such a hands-on legal role so early in my legal career.
What have you learned from working at The Spinal Cord Injury Law Firm?
At The Spinal Cord Injury Law Firm, I learned more than I ever thought I would this early on in my career. I learned how to conduct legal research, I learned how to create administrative systems to ensure team accountability, and I learned the benefits of working at a small law firm. Working at a small law firm is the best, and I think that’s my biggest takeaway from my role here — my Paralegal work was genuinely valued and appreciated at this firm, and that’s very different from a lot of other Paralegal positions at larger firms.
How did you become interested in disability law?
I was paralyzed from the waist down during a soccer game in 2009 when I was just 11 years old. It was an incomplete injury at the S-5 level, and I was fortunate enough to eventually make a strong recovery and learn how to walk again without support. Even though I can walk now, I still have a lot of medical issues relating to my spinal cord injury: I can’t walk for more than 50 yards at a time, I can’t stand for longer than 5 minutes, and I have a drop foot on my right foot. Having an invisible disability that affects my everyday life has fueled my passion for disability law and advocacy; I’ve had to learn how to be my own best advocate and fight for the accommodations I need in the workplace, at home, and at school. Fighting for myself has led to my urge to fight for others in the disability community. I’m so fortunate to have played such a big role in the disability community by working at this firm for the past year.
What’s next for you?
I’ll be working full-time on a local campaign for Phoenix City Council as the Deputy Campaign Manager and Finance Director. I was accepted to Harvard Law School in June 2019, but deferred my attendance until fall 2022 so I can spend my time getting community leaders elected to local office in my hometown. A mantra of mine is “Leave your community better than how you found it.” I’ve lived in Phoenix, Arizona for my entire life, and I want to make sure I leave this city better than how I found it when I move to Massachusetts for law school.
What does your dream career path in law look like?
I’m a huge planner, so I have a very specific plan as to how I want my legal career to play out. I want to graduate from law school and become a Law Clerk for a federal judge, and then later land a Law Clerk role at the Supreme Court. I then want to practice law for 5 to 10 years (civil rights or disability law) before I become a federal judge. My dream is to make it on the Supreme Court someday — but if I don’t land a Supreme Court Justice nomination, I want to spend my career later in life reforming campaign finance laws and term limits in politics. I believe our political system is broken, because so many elected officials are focused on re-election and raising money; if we change this system, we can ensure that our elected officials are spending their time fighting for our communities and making substantial, needed change.
We are so lucky to have worked with Mackenzie for the past year. Thanks, Mackenzie, and good luck!