By Nikki Datta • November 11, 2016•Law School, Pre-Law, Internships and Clerkships
The path of a pre-law student is always a bit ambiguous. Add in being a woman, and your place in the field becomes blurry as well. To really compound the issue, pick a major that doesn’t relate directly to any field of law, and you can call yourself a student on the pre-clarity track.
Without undergraduate internship programs or, at most institutions, majors specific to our field of interest, pre-law students are left to join pre-professional organizations and do research on their own. But with demanding coursework, it is difficult to justify attending a firm visit when you know you can’t be hired, and it is similarly frustrating to motivate yourself to research the field, especially when the barrier of vocabulary is so incredibly high.
I’ve personally found that when it comes to making my ambition more concrete, there are a few things that are particularly helpful. I’ll share them with you here, in the hopes that they are similarly effective for you:
- Working on or submitting to a law journal, law-related blog, or another legal writing related team.
First, constantly reading and writing about legal issues opens the door to understanding some of the most complicated and contentious legal questions of your law education. Research will provide a multifaceted approach to difficult legal problems, and you will sound more educated when discussing the law with professionals. Second, contributing to a community of writers will also build a network of mentors and comrades who are supportive and knowledgeable. And finally, reading your fellow writers’ work will introduce you to questions you never even considered. Three birds with one stone.
- Building a professional network of people who “have seen it all before” when it comes to pre-law.
Speaking to lawyers who are alumni of your college will clarify the path to law school. Many times, they will be more than happy to share their journey to law school as well as the academic and extracurricular work they had to do along the way. Ask a lot of questions, visit their office, and maintain the relationship. If your school doesn’t have a database of alumni, try reaching out via LinkedIn.
- Interning, even when it means hauling boxes and answering phones.
Obviously, spending time around law offices, even if you aren’t writing briefs and drafting contracts, can help inform what type of law you want to practice. More importantly, heading out with the work rush and receiving staff email updates can be inspiring and will remind you why you are pursuing law school!
The pre-law track is a tough one to navigate because there aren’t any hyper-specific rules or requirements for law school. This ambiguity, however, can also become freedom – the freedom to learn! Start off with these three steps, share the great pre-law advice you come across, and most importantly, carve an academic and professional track that matches your goals, personality, and aspirations.
Nikki Datta is a second-year at Columbia University in the City of New York. She serves as a lead editor for the Fall 2016 Columbia Undergraduate Law Review and is currently an intern at Lambda Legal's New York City office. She is also the founder and President of Columbia University Women in Law and Politics (cuwilp.weebly.org).
Connect with Nikki at: www.linkedin.com/in/nikkidatta