By Genevieve Antono • March 04, 2017•Writers in Residence, Careers, Law School, Pre-Law, Choosing a Career and Landing a Job, Internships and Clerkships
Today’s interview is with Ani Torossian, who served as Ms. JD’s Pre-Law Program Director from 2015-2017. Ani is currently a 1L at the Pepperdine University School of Law, and is a graduate of both Columbia University and UCLA. She previously interned at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, CNN and the Foreign Policy Association.
Welcome, Ani! We'll start with a bit of a silly question. You're currently a 1L at Pepperdine University School of Law, in gorgeous Malibu, California. Have you managed to spend any time at the beach at all, or has the notorious 1L year mostly kept you in the library?
Ani: I admire the beach from the library’s windows – does that count?! There is a lot of emotion bundled into the first few months of 1L, but an important piece of advice that’s helped me ride the waves comes from an esteemed professor I met before the semester began. He told me people in law school – and outside of law school – have a habit of mystifying the law school process and it’s important not to get caught up in the crosshairs that then lead to stress, anxiety and so on. Instead, tunnel vision your way into what works best for you. So, I’ve made a habit of visiting the beach right before any exam – the ocean waves have a wonderful way of washing away stress and reminding me that all will be well.
You served as Ms. JD's Pre-Law Program Director for over two years, and you've had a wonderful impact on pre-law students around the country. In fact I first learned about Ms. JD when you emailed me way back in 2015! What's your "Ms. JD story"? What was your initial connection to Ms. JD, and how did that lead to your role as Pre-Law Program Director?
Ani: It was actually serendipity! I had recently wrapped up graduate school and came to a fork in the road – one way would lead to a PhD in international relations and the other to law school. I chose the latter. Enter the hours of independent online research I did to find out what I should be doing to best prepare for law school applications. I tried searching for any pre-law resources I could find online and anyone who would be kind enough to talk to me about the process. I ended up finding the best when I stumbled upon Ms. JD’s website. There was something about the tone of the website that impressed upon me a sense of camaraderie – I felt like I found a gold mine. Here was a group of motivated, talented and intelligent women discussing their drives, passions and curiosities in a setting that felt so welcoming. I quickly tried to find a way to be part of it and build a sense of belonging. Then, when the opportunity came to serve as the pre-law program director, I immediately thought it would be a tremendous delight to pass on some of that enthusiasm and sense of belonging to pre-law students using Ms. JD’s blog as the catapult. And the best part? It’s helped me circulate inspiration and amazing talent – you being a prime example!
As a Ms. JD Pre-Law reader, I loved your "Office Hours" series with law professors around the country. Was there something you learned from your interviewees that surprised you? Or are there any other fun memories from leading Ms. JD's Pre-Law programming that you'd like to share?
Ani: One thing that has been a constant trait in every memorable interviewee – their dedication to something beyond simply themselves. I’ve realized that the people who stand out most are those who have aspirations and goals to be of service to others and those who seek meaningful work – whether it be through the projects they have initiated above and beyond the standard job description or through their involvement with causes such as the immigration clinic. The most fun I’ve had as pre-law program director – apologies for the nerdiness – would have to be each time a contributor sent me an article to review and edit for submission. I adore editing and playing around with language. And that, coupled with the enthusiasm I could detect in the contributor’s pieces, would make my day. My most memorable experience as pre-law program director for which I will always be grateful to Ms. JD would have to be the friendship I built with Howard Franklin, a retired public service attorney whose book I reviewed on Ms. JD and who quickly became a dear friend. Howard passed away last year, but he continues to inspire.
You have a Master's Degree in International Relations from Columbia University. (Roar, Lion, Roar!) Before you wanted to be a lawyer, were there any other career paths that you considered? What inspired you to go to law school?
Ani: Oh, absolutely yes! I actually ended up in law in quite an ironic and roundabout way. During my time at UCLA, everyone around me seemed to be pursuing either law or medicine. This mirrored my own cultural backdrop, which seems to love to pigeonhole its children into becoming either doctors or lawyers. And so, the noble rebel that I was, I planned to – I quote my 20-year-old self – “take not the correct, standard path but the true path.” Whatever that meant. I experimented with journalism and then thought for a very long time that I would remain in academia. So I received my master’s degree in international relations and explored possible media outlets for career routes. But I quickly learned that I wanted to find a balance between poking into deep, challenging societal issues while pursuing a vocation that would help me maintain a practical, observable impact on society. My time at the District Attorney’s Office convinced me that the law route best offered that balance. And so, the leap from there to law school finally looked a lot less daunting and felt a lot more authentic than what it would have been had I jumped straight to law school as an undergraduate. And so, one piece of advice: know the why before you enroll, but also know that things have their own beautiful way of working out.
What's next? Any upcoming projects or plans that you'd like to share with our readers?
Ani: I have enjoyed the research and writing components of my 1L year, and so I am happy to note that I will be continuing to hold pen in hand as I prepare to take on a summer job working in the Chambers of a judge I tremendously admire!