Pre-Law Intern Jose Torres
Reflection: Intellectual Entrepreneurial Program
When I started my college career I was very excited to have gotten into a good school that was to prepare me for a good job. My first couple of years in college I was filled with certainty that what I was doing was enough to prepare for what was ahead. I had always heard about the importance of going to college but not too often did my counselors in high school mention what was beyond the traditional four-year college route. It was not until I began to talk to a few graduate students about what they studied and why, that I realized I was missing the point on something.
It was a fall afternoon on the UT campus and like many other days I was studying on the Mezez porch overlooking the traveling crowds that marched back and forth as signaled by the UT-bell. On this particular day, however, there were conversations going on next to me that captured my attention. I heard students talk about the politics in Latin America and their solutions to change one nation after another. I thought to myself that their plans to do so needed more than just a want of change. To my surprise, as I started a conversation with them, I found that their plans were not just mere idealistic hopes. Rather, these students possessed the skills to critically and strategically think beyond the confines of traditional thought. Their approaches to the issues of for example, Colombia were different and varied. If in the abstract at least, they were very convincing and this was not only because they could understand complex ideas and coherently speak about them, it was because they spoke with a passion driven by reason that empowered them to be certain. I thought about how great it was that these students could believe in something so much that their whole college years were based on that. I quickly understood that they were graduate students in the Government department.
As an undergrad, I appreciated hearing them because my undergraduate peers rarely showed the determination to put their ideas into actual plans to be executed in the near future. After this moment I understood that what I needed was to strive for the unconventional. I wanted to know and experience more than just four years of college. I needed more than a diploma that I partially agreed was dependable. While I was enthusiastic about graduate school, I was now with the problem of figuring it all out in terms of what I wanted to do and how I was to get there.
Beyond this, I needed to convince my parents that it was a good idea. As a first generation college student I've needed to convince my family that today more than just a four-year college experience is needed. I understand them because it can seem like I am stagnant for years after high school with no sign of moving forward. However, as other first generation students may understand, convincing the incredulous and unhopeful is something that I have been made accustomed to and learned to do effectively. To my rescue came the IE program that I happened to hear about during an organization's meeting. I knew that this was exactly the program that I needed in order to make my plans of going to grad school effective.
As I have now gone through the IE program, I feel as certain as ever that I not only need but also want to pursue an education in law. The IE mentorship has made me realize the possibilities that exist after earning a legitimacy that comes with a law degree. I do consider my mentor as an instrumental part of the program. I have been able to learn so much from her. I was able to get my questions answered as to what can best prepare me for law school and what will make me a better applicant. I got the opportunity to sit in on one of her classes and this was great because I was able to formulate a sense of how a law class works and its differences to an undergraduate course.
I think, though, that the best parts of the mentorship were the times I got to see my mentor outside the context of her studies and just have conversations about where each one of us was in our academic goals and where we want to be in the near future. We would talk about the difficulties of minority students in law school and how hard it is to maintain a good sense of your identity and integrity as you are faced with seeing the society that you are going into for what it is and outside what you have grown up with.
My mentor opened a window into her experience as a law student. Upon talking with her I knew exactly why she was chosen to be at UT-Law. Having such a complete mentor is very inspiring. She is someone who is dependable and resourceful. I have learned that going into law will not be an easy task but that it is possible. More importantly, I admire my mentor's promise to herself of staying true to her beliefs and not being sidetracked by the pressure to go into a field of law for the mere economic benefits. During our conversations I felt as though we could both sit and take a break from everything else we had going on and dream about what we would do with good law degrees. Beyond this, we could be ambitious and put forth a plan of strategy to conquer those dreams. I really identified with my mentor because we both come from a background where less is expected of us. We shared with each other the fears and limits we felt about our education in general. We talked about the importance to fulfill our goals. We remembered those who helped us get to where we are today and analyzed the importance and commitment we owe to our community to bring someone else along and help them achieve their goals. Through these conversations we pinpointed the necessity for self-reliance but also the effectiveness of working together to break barriers for our communities. To have the chance to sit and speak to another student who is leading the way in the direction that I want to go is nothing less than a great opportunity. In the future, I am sure to look back at this experience and know that much of my growth was facilitated by these conversations.
Another aspect of the IE program that I really enjoyed was the interview I did with law professor Norma Cantu. She was an amazing person to interview with impressive experience and great advice. Through the interview assignment I was able to speak to her about her own experience as a law student at Harvard. I was inspired by the fact that despite her great accomplishments, she is a person who is very down to earth and generous with her time. When I first arrived at her office she was looking at Halloween costumes and for the first few minutes we sat there browsing the good scary ones and the ones that needed more work. This was very unexpected but made my anxiety about interviewing her go away. The stories she told me about her first few jobs as a lawyer were great because they pointed to a non-traditional route to take as a lawyer. She also emphasized the importance of networking and told me that one lawyer cannot do much but that one lawyer in collaboration with professionals in interdisciplinary fields can accomplish even the impossible. Without a doubt, meeting Professor Cantu was very beneficial and I am grateful for the advice and help she offered me as I embark in this journey to find my place in the study of law.
A final aspect of my experience in the IE program was the opportunity I had to intern at the Martinez Jones Law Firm. This was the part of the program that took most of my time. I interned on Mondays and Wednesdays for three hours each day. I was very excited as I started this internship but at the same time very scared because I had no idea what to expect. Everything was new and almost foreign to me. I wanted to do a good job and not let myself or anyone else down. What I found at the law firm was a great young team that was inspiring and that was more than willing to open up and be mentors to me as well. Under their instruction, I learned the practical skills that lawyers need. I was able to work on cases by doing research and helping draft petitions. Getting hands on experience with these kinds of things has made me more knowledgeable about what the discipline requires and the kind of confidence and integrity that is needed. Aside from the office work that I did, such as speaking to clients and reading the law books, I also got to go to court. This was beyond what I could have wished for. It was definitely exciting and I knew, as I walked into court, that this was what it was all about for me. Never before had I the opportunity to observe and soak in so much good information. I got a good sense of the culture of the court system and Mrs. Jones was very helpful in explaining how everything worked. I definitely understood that the practice of law was different from theory and that it is important to have a balance of the two.
I would classify my experience as an intern as indispensable because of the real world contact I received and the practical skills I cultivated along with the confidence it instilled in me. In general, this semester has been one of my busiest but also the best because of all that I have gotten a chance to explore. As I continue to seek a law degree, I feel as if now I stand on a much stronger platform and that I am ready to further define my goals in terms of what I want to do with a law degree. The IE program has been a great tool that has provided me with the best experiences I could have asked for and allowed me to meet professionals who further than that, are great people and mentors that I have been greatly inspired by and am indebted to.