Ms. Pre-JD: Lessons from the MCCA Pathways Conference

I had been planning for this month’s post to be about getting organized, because that’s what I’ve been working on in my personal life. In the last few days, though, I was inspired to rewrite. I spent the early part of this week volunteering at the MCCA Pathways Conference, and although I didn’t have much time to sit into sessions, I was able to learn quite a lot.

  1. Make success inevitable. Almost everyone is intimated by the prospect of networking, including myself. As a volunteer at Pathways, though, I was joined by a friend of mine who introduced herself to conference attendees whenever possible, while I tried to target my connections by talking to people with whom I knew I shared interests. By the time we had left, she had made significantly more connections than I had, and her stack of business cards included a lot of the people I had spoken with! My nervousness to talk to professionals with whom conversation may stall had kept me from having the chance to develop a larger network. She pointed out to me that the real connection must be made after the conference, anyway, and that a lot of people did not offer her a business card despite their conversation. Failure, of course, is inevitable. But when given the opportunity, it is up to you to make success inevitable.
  2. Pay attention. This seems so obvious, but I promise that you don’t do it unless you are consciously aware of your surroundings. When you look around the room, don’t look for your boss (or in my case, the volunteer coordinator). Instead, look for things that need to get done. Anyone can ask for directions and then follow them. The difference between you and everyone else is that you can predict those directions, making your help invaluable and remembered.
  3. Have what works for you. The conversation I seem to have with female professionals all the time centers around ‘Having it All’. Listening to one of the panels at the Pathways conference, though, it occurred to me that the reality looks more like having what works for you. Not everyone can balance a marriage, a family, personal wellness, and an ambitious career. Working to figure out what works for me and my priorities and planning out how I can achieve my personal goals is more important than trying to have it all for the sake of having it all.
  4. Set goals, regardless of the event. Even though I was going to the conference as a volunteer rather than as an attendee, I made it a priority to secure at least 2 contacts by the time the conference was over. This pushed me to have conversations I may not have had otherwise, even if only for the sake of meeting my goals, and I was able to feel good about the experience afterwards.

Have you been somewhere recently where you learned skills that you didn’t expect to gain? If so, share them with the broader pre-JD community in the comments below, and let me know if any of my conference takeaways resonated with you.


Nikki Datta is a junior at Columbia University in the City of New York. She serves as Executive Editor of the Columbia Undergraduate Law Review and is currently an intern at the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY). She is also the founder and President of Columbia University Women in Law and Politics (cuwilp.weebly.com). Connect with Nikki at: www.linkedin.com/in/nikkidatta

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