Pre-Law Senior Katherine Sauser
The IE Pre-Graduate Internship Program is the most interesting and helpful class I could have hoped to take as a senior graduating from UT. This class has provided a smooth transition from undergraduate school to law school, and I feel so much more confident and excited about my decision to enter law school this fall. The experiences I had through this course will stay with me throughout law school, and I know they will help me to be a more successful student and eventually in my future career. My mentor's assistance was incredibly valuable, and I hope that she and I will remain friends so that I can continue to rely on her advice and guidance as I navigate the next three years through law school.
When I first walked into a law classroom at the University of Texas Law School, I didn't know what to expect. All of the students in the room seemed so mature, so self-possessed. I thought that everyone could tell I am an undergraduate student. Walking through the halls of the law school, it was amazing to picture myself there in three years. At that point, I had just applied to law school and hadn't gotten many decisions back from schools. All I knew was that I was pretty sure I wanted to go to UT Law, and I figured that spending some time at the school would be a perfect way to figure out how to do it.
My mentor, Nicole Clark, was very helpful throughout the process of this internship. I was able to arrange to attend a weekly class with her, which was extremely lucky, given that both of our schedules are so busy. I attended her Secured Credit class, which is mostly filled with second- and third-year law students. Nicole is in her third year of law school, so she knows a lot about law school and being a successful law student. Though I was nervous about going to class, she reassured me that it would be fine.
The first day of class, I was struck by how at-ease all of the students seemed. The professor was visiting from the University of Houston, and every day he would get the class laughing with a joke or two. Even though Secured Credit is an area of the law that's pretty foreign to me, he made it understandable by explaining things in very real-life terms. I was surprised. If an undergraduate like me could come into a law class and sort of understand what was going on, maybe being an actual law student was something I could really do.
Visiting Law Schools:
Though it wasn't a formal part of my internship, visiting law schools was one of the most important things I did during my spring semester to prepare for law school. Of course, I visited The University of Texas Law School every week as part of my internship, to attend class with Nicole. Outside of attending class, I would often go to the Law Library, just to get the feel of walking into a library as a student. The more I did it, the more comfortable I felt, as with anything in life.
Aside from my experiences at UT Law, I also visited The University of Virginia Law School, Duke University Law School, Georgetown University Law Center and NYU Law. The visits to each of these schools provided a unique and distinct perspective on the law school experience. Virginia was more laid back. Its students prided themselves on having fun and still working hard. Georgetown was very politically oriented and focused on the unique opportunities of its location in Washington, DC. Duke was proud of its small class size and its private university status, as well as its very personal career services office. NYU touted its location in New York City and its excellent public interest clinics as well as its Loan Repayment Assistance Program. All of these schools had something wonderful to offer me; I didn't know how I would ever choose.
Visiting law schools taught me that there is no "better" law school than any other--only what's better for me and my goals. This is something that students at every school kept emphasizing. They would say things like, "We think our school is the best, but it may not be the best for you." Professors at the schools were remarkably open and seemed very involved in their students' lives, both academically and personally. Professors in law school are not just your teachers; they're your friends and eventually your colleagues.
Throughout the process of trying to decide where I would go to law school, Nicole was very helpful. When I expressed anxiety about not having received some of my decisions yet, she reassured me that she didn't hear from UT until Valentine's Day when she applied. Knowing that Nicole had gone through exactly what I was going through and seeing that she was doing well in law school three years later was very reassuring for me. One of the best things about the Pre-Graduate Internship is that it shows you the human side of graduate school. It's not just a big lumbering building with labs and libraries; it's the people inside the building, the students just like me who are there to learn and to make a better future for themselves.
Another great part of my mentorship was attending non-academic law school activities. Law students work hard, as my parents constantly caution me, but going out with law students allowed me to realize that entering law school won't be the end of my social life. It also enabled me to see that law students truly love what they are studying. Even outside of the walls of the law school, the students I went out to bars with or ate barbeque with had law on their minds. It was so fun listening to them debate the finer points of criminal law or the pros and cons of different law careers in a totally informal atmosphere. At that point, I really began to be able to picture myself as a law student.
Finally, the seminar and conference component of my internship was an incredible learning experience. I had the opportunity to go to seminars on tax law, intellectual property law, and many others. I attended a conference at UT on homosexual legal issues, organized by OUTlaw. These sessions allowed me to think about the law in new and interesting ways. I was glad that the internship gave me an excuse to attend, since they dealt with issues that I wanted to learn more about anyway.
As the culmination of my internship, I wrote a 10-page research paper on the issue of minority enrollment in law school. I'd learned that UT has a dedication to minority enrollment, but not all law schools elucidate this dedication like UT does. Throughout the course of the semester, I did lots of research on the Internet and through person-to-person interviews on the issue of racial diversity in law school. I learned a lot and even changed my views on a few issues that I hadn't thought carefully about before. I was surprised by some of what I learned about the inequality that still pervades most law schools and law firms, and I was convinced of the need to improve minority enrollment. Had it not been for this internship, I might never have become familiar with this important issue. Now I have the knowledge to go out and spread it to others and to try to make a positive difference.
This mentorship also helped convince me that going to law school is the right decision for me. There is a stereotype that many students enter law school just because they don't want to get a job or don't know what else to do. After participating in this internship, I can say with confidence that that's not the case for me. I have put in the time and gotten the experience to know what law school is really going to be like, or to know as best I can without actually being a law student, that is. This fall, I will enter the Columbia Law School Class of 2010, and I will do it with full confidence, knowing what I am getting into, and knowing that I have my mentor, Nicole, supporting me and ready to help me out if I need her.
I would like to offer my most heartfelt thanks to Professor Rick Cherwitz and Johanna Hartlieus, without whom this internship never would have happened. I extend my thanks to Student Leaders Pursuing Law and the Thurgood Marshall Law Society, through which I found my mentor. And finally, I sincerely thank my mentor, Nicole Clark, who has guided me through this semester and truly been an inspiration. Nicole, you're the best.