Passionate Public Defender

During his first few years at Temple, Joshua Dean, CLA ’16, LAW ’20, had a packed schedule, but it wasn’t filled with clubs and hobbies. While in college, this first-generation Pakistani-American and Northeast Philly native was caring for a parent with cancer, confronting his own mental health struggles and holding down multiple jobs. But his unconventional journey to earning his juris doctor degree was well worth it.

Photo credit: Joseph V. Labolito

An uphill battle 

Id take my mom to chemo in the morning, go to classes and then work as a valet in Center City at night, he remembers. When you’re the oldest in an immigrant family, youre expected to do a lot.

Deans perseverance was fueled by the example set by his family. His dad took community college classes to earn a certificate in accounting and his mom continued to work even after she was diagnosed with cancer. 

Tragically, she passed away during Deans junior year, but just weeks later he sat for his exams—and passed. Despite everything, Dean still managed to graduate in four years.

“I know a lot of people who don’t go to college, so for me, graduating was a big deal, he says. If you push yourself, you’ll be surprised how many things you can do.

Josh at a Glance

Letter of the law

Something else that surprised Dean was his acceptance into Temple Law, an institution he’d long admired. 

But during his first year, his grades faltered. Dean also began to confront mental health struggles that he’d struggled with for years. He leaned on Temple’s Tuttleman Counseling Services, which he says changed his life, and credits Jennifer Bretschneider, assistant dean of students at the law school, for helping him right the ship.

“She took the time to meet one-on-one, and connected me with people and resources that made me a better student,” he said. 

With this guidance, by Dean’s last semester in law school he’d secured internships with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Montgomery County Public Defender, and pulled his GPA up enough to make the Dean’s List.

Compassion in the court

Dean says that his experiences at Tuttleman illuminated his innate gift for empathy. He brings that sensibility, along with the desire to understand different perspectives, to his burgeoning legal career. He’s currently studying for the bar exam and works for the ACLU of Pennsylvania as a recipient of Temple’s Postgraduate Public Interest Fellowship. 

His research there focuses on criminal and poverty law, and he hopes to become a criminal defense lawyer to fight for equal rights for people navigating America’s legal system. 

“I want to make sure people get the best defense they deserve,” Dean said. “Regardless of income, everyone deserves to have their constitutional rights upheld in court.”