A Model Student
Muriel Rott was living the glamorous life of a fashion model when she swapped the catwalk for the courtroom.
Muriel Rott, third-year law student at the University of North Dakota (UND) School of Law is focused, driven, and enthusiastic about her legal education and forthcoming career. She has completed all the required courses and will graduate with her Juris Doctorate on Saturday, May 6th with the other members of the UND School of Law Class of 2023. Her journey through law school is significant, but her path to getting here is truly unique.
When Rott was 12 years old growing up in Burnsville, Minnesota, she decided she wanted to go to law school. Around this same time, she met Richard Dusterhoft, family friend and then prosecutor for Ramsey County in MN. On many occasions, he would tell her exciting stories about his career in prosecution. “He talked to me like I was an adult and I always appreciated it,” said Rott, “I was in aww of him.” She started telling her parents, “I want to do what Rick does.”
In 2015, a friend of her mother’s asked if Rott had ever considered modeling. She hadn’t, but the opportunity was exciting for a sixteen-year-old Minnesotan. She began modeling locally in Minneapolis and then shortly after, at the age of 17, she signed with Wilhelmina Models in New York City —one of the most prominent agencies in the fashion industry worldwide. Rott modeled while participating in Minnesota’s Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) throughout her Senior year of high school in St. Paul.
Modeling took her around the world to photoshoots in Seoul, South Korea and Milan, Italy. She was living a life that many young women dream of, but what she really wanted to do was become a lawyer. So, she made the decision to leave modeling behind, not move to New York City, and start over at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks to pursue her educational goals.
“I was convinced after undergrad that I was going back home,” laughed Rott, “I was dead set on it.” She graduated in December 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology, a minor in Chinese studies, and a certificate in Mandarin Chinese. She was determined to move back to the Twin Cities and pursue a law degree.
After learning about all the opportunities available to UND Law students such as small class sizes, visits from the North Dakota Supreme Court, and networking with the local bench and bar, she realized she couldn’t guarantee that she’d get the same experience anywhere else. After realizing what awaited Rott at UND School of Law, she decided it was the sole law school she would apply to.
It didn’t take Rott long to become a model UND Law student. In January of her second year, she began working as a legal extern for the State’s Attorney’s Office in Grand Forks. In her role, she participated in the litigation of criminal defendants, including performing a direct examination of a witness at a bench trial, resulting in a guilty verdict. She participated in various hearings, and drafted legal documents for both the civil and criminal departments of the State’s Attorney’s office. Rott was so successful, that they asked her to stay on as a Senior Legal Intern through graduation.
Her experience as a Senior Legal Intern proved that she came to UND School of Law for the right reasons —opportunities unparallel anywhere else. She provided oral arguments at the North Dakota Supreme Court on two occasions, on behalf of the State. She also co-chaired two jury trials, various bench trials, and wrote many appellate and distinct court briefs. She took the lead on prosecution for all traffic-related matters. “Very cool because you don’t need an attorney with you,” Rott said looking back on the traffic court experience.
Rott has been heavily involved in moot court throughout law school. Moot court provides students with the opportunity to write a brief and argue a case before an appellate court. This past March, Rott and her teammate, 3L Haley Finch, competed in the Giles Rich Intellectual Property Lawyers Moot Court Southern Region Competition in Houston, Texas. After a strong showing in the preliminary rounds and excellent arguments throughout, they finished the competition as semi-finalists.
Rott is currently the President of the UND Moot Court Board. The board is responsible for coordinating all aspects of both the internal and external moot court competitions including selecting a problem, selecting teams, and securing judges. “I can’t speak highly enough about moot court,” says Rott, “I think you absolutely should do it as a law student.”
“Every single thing leads you to be the person you are,” reflected Rott on her life journey thus far. Her mother returned to college in her 40’s to obtain both a bachelor’s degree and her MBA, which Rott described as, “Super inspirational.” Rott’s father, a UND alum, had her tour the school which she ultimately decided to spend the next six years of her life and will soon hold two degrees from. Her modeling career took her around the world and introduced her to new people and experiences. She had a spiritual awakening led by her aunt and finally, her mentor Rick, opened her eyes to the profession of law and her true passion.
After graduation, Rott plans to relocate to Phoenix, Arizona. She will sit for the Arizona Bar Exam this July and will begin working for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor alongside her mentor, Rick.
“I look back on the last three years of my life and frequently wonder where the time went,” says Rott, “Of course, I am excited for the next adventure, but as I reflect on how I got here, I have so much thankfulness inside of me to everyone that helped me along the way.”
By Beth Moe