When Henry Zomerfeld, ’11, was only in the first grade, he understood the power of advocacy and leadership. As the date approached for his class’s performance of The Wizard of Oz, he noticed that some of his peers weren’t putting in the effort or caring about the production’s quality. So Zomerfeld asked his teacher if he could make an announcement. He stood up and told his classmates why they needed to take their responsibility seriously and do a good job. They must have listened, because the play went off without a hitch.
His teacher was so impressed with Zomerfeld’s oratory skills that she encouraged him to enter a schoolwide competition to write and present an antiracism speech. Seven-year-old Zomerfeld won. He went on to compete in a regional competition, and his future as a trial lawyer was set in motion.
“Despite all the lawyer jokes, lawyers can actually do so much to help people,” said Zomerfeld, a political science graduate. “And that is what I wanted to do.”
In contrast to his youthful appearance, Zomerfeld’s demeanor is that of someone much older. This can be partially attributed to his Brooklyn, New York, childhood. As an only child of divorced parents—a retail manager mother and plumber father—Zomerfeld spent plenty of time with adults, and his parents encouraged his independence. But it also reflects Zomerfeld’s innate ability to assume leadership roles.
After participating in his high school’s mock trial and moot court teams, he helped launch Buffalo State’s current mock trial team, serving as team captain for four years.
“Henry is the kind of person who takes charge and runs things,” said Jon Lines, lecturer of political science who was the team adviser at the time. “His maturity was definitely one of his biggest strengths, along with his work ethic. He carried the team during his time at Buffalo State.”
The experience allowed Zomerfeld to examine witnesses and argue in hundreds of fictional court cases, building the skills that led to his law career today. At the University at Buffalo Law School, Zomerfeld was also heavily involved in the Moot Court Team. In 2014, he emerged among the top 10 oralists in the world in the prestigious Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, focusing on international appellate advocacy in a hypothetical case that is set before the International Court of Justice.
Zomerfeld was officially admitted to the New York Bar in January 2015 and in May was hired as a full-time associate at Wolfgang & Weinmann. In November, he began a new position as an associate with Kenney Shelton Liptak Nowak LLP in the workers’ compensation defense group.
“The position is with a larger firm with multiple practice areas, which will give me more responsibilities and expose me to new areas of law,” he said.
Throughout the academic year, Zomerfeld continues to volunteer as a coach for Buffalo State’s mock trial team, along with Jessica Noto, with whom he began coaching during their first year of law school.
“It’s exciting to see students evolve, to see them analyze a case and make it their own,” Zomerfeld said.
Like his dedication to the long-ago production of a fictional girl searching for home, Zomerfeld’s success is steeped in a commitment to finding the right path and following it.
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