Law Pre-Grad Intern Aisha Heath
This semester has presented me with the opportunity to dive straight into the life of a law student. The IE pre-graduate school internship has opened my eyes to several different aspects of what it takes to get into law school, succeed there, graduate and practice in the field. My mentor was Wintta Woldermariam and she made it very easy to be a mentee. I am thankful to this internship experience because I was able to meet several different people in the field who may be able to help me with employment opportunities in the field, as well as develop a life-long relationship with my mentor.
The first thing I learned that is important in the life of a law student is to pick law courses that you are actually interested in. Much the same is true for undergrad, except for the required courses needed for your degree. In law school, there are certain courses one must take that follow a certain curriculum, in order to obtain a law degree, usually those classes have to be taken within the first one or two years of law school, thus the third and last year of law school the student has a lot of freedom. This was true for my mentor, as this semester I went to her Constitution law class, with an emphasis on how civil rights and minorities were regarded in the document, if at all. In the class, the professor had each student write a paper about a topic dealing with the law that they were passionate about. Thus, I learned that if you pick courses you really are interested in pursuing after you graduate, you are more likely to do well in that course. Also, I learned that in law school the structure is quite different that in undergrad. There is no attendance taken, quite frankly you are not required to show up to class the entire semester (although that is not recommended at all), this is because the law classes are based off of one exam or one major term paper at the end of the semester. Your entire grade in the class is based on how you do on that one exam or paper. When I found that out, I was quite shocked and I it really made me take a second look at the mechanics of law school. On the one hand, you are not bothered with multiple tests/papers and other work throughout the semester, but on the other you had better do really well on the one paper/exam and take detailed notes on all aspects of the law that are being covered in the class; your grade literally depends on it.
When getting to know my mentor this semester I was able to ask her several questions. One of them was whether she thought it was a good idea to postpone law school right after undergrad, and work or do something else, as I am seriously considering doing just that. She told me that she personally did not do that, but that she had several friends who had went to work for a few years, gotten married and had families before going to law school. She told me that if I want to take time off, then I should because she said that in her opinion families and work made those law students more grounded and focused to get through law school successfully, perhaps because they had already been in the "real world" for a minute. She also expressed to me that in this current economic climate, it is probably best do delay law school because no one is really hiring lawyers at this point, especially people who have no experience and just graduated from law school, she suggested I give the market a while to settle and start rising again. I also found out that I should be very careful in which law school I pick and make sure it is the right one for me in regards to price, quality of education, availability of jobs when I graduate, how much I want to be making in income, location, and the faculty that a law school has that are willing to help their law students be successful.
The highlight of my internship was when I was able to get a travel grant that allowed me to attend a law student conference in March for black law students. I was very impressed with how many black students there were, and how many wanted to get into the law field. I got to see black men and women who were top lawyers in their field and at their firms; there were also distinguished judges who were African-American also. Attending the conference in California gave me an opportunity to see another region of the United States, and it also put some ideas in my mind as to which areas of law I may want to study that I had not previously thought of.
My mentor happened to be the President of the national organization that put on the conference and I was proud to have known her because I realized that she was not only a law student, but she was literally involved with several issues that black students face in law school, as well as issues that happen nationally and internationally with people of color. I was inspired by my mentor. She made me realize that the sky is literally the limit when it comes to being involved with the community, and having a family, even while attending law school.
In conclusion, when I came into this internship, I thought that I had my life after undergrad planned out completely. However, after completing this journey I realize that I have several options even if I still choose to study law. I now think that I will in fact take a break from school, and go teach for awhile before I go to law school. Although, I am choosing to take a few years off, after seeing first-hand some of the issues, trials, failures and successes that law student's face, I am more convinced than ever before that law school is where I ultimately want to be. Law is the career for me at this point, but the great thing about it, is that I have several options to choose from, like working in public policy with a masters' or Ph. D if I choose not to pursue law. I am grateful for the opportunities that this internship brought to me. I would highly recommend it to any student considering a graduate degree or a professional school after they complete their undergrad degree.