Prior to law school, I heard rumors about how competitive law school would be – like classmates ripping pages out of books to make sure you do not get ahead of them. As a first generation law student, these rumors terrified me. While law school is competitive, the community at Seton Hall Law School is nowhere near the rumors I heard.
During my second semester of law school, I attended the New York City Bar Association portrait unveiling of Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. As I rode the PATH train into the city, I thought about the slim chance of meeting one of my personal heroes. I thought about what I would ask her, if given the opportunity.
Just over twenty years ago, the Seton Hall family experienced an inconceivable tragedy as three freshmen students, Aaron Karol, John Giunta and Frank Caltabilota, lost their lives in an early morning fire in the North Boland dormitory. Members of the priest community decided then to divide ourselves among the three families, each of us accompanying one family during the days of mourning. I attended the Karol family.
Filled with tests and tasks, the journey to becoming an attorney can feel less like a career path and more like an obstacle course. It takes will-power and intelligence; resilience and determination; strength and patience. Before even entering law school, there are a series of facts to consider and decisions to make. You’re required to disclose your entire life to total strangers. It can be uncomfortable and challenging, yet thousands of students embark on the journey every single year. They throw themselves into their studies and often sacrifice much of their personal lives and relationships, all for the dream of one day placing “Esquire” after their name… Why?
Attending law school gives individuals the opportunity to act selflessly and help others. Being a part of the Seton Hall Law School community and engaging with those in dire need of legal assistance is at the core of the Law School’s mission. As a member of the Seton Hall Law community, I’m proud to have taken the opportunity to help families detained in Karnes, Texas during Spring Break.
I initially did not see the e-mail for the Karnes trip. I will admit there are many e-mails that I delete without reading because I know that most of the opportunities offered do not fit my life. I am part of Seton Hall Law’s first weekend class. I commute from Long Island. I work full-time in a state trial court. I am a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, and take on many other roles throughout the day. My life is hectic.
It’s going to sound cliché, but as I approached the end of my 2L summer I started asking myself what I could do to leave the law school better than I had found it. It had been a bumpy road for me, largely because of my own struggles as a first-generation law student. Although I felt very confident about my own future, having secured a job offer with Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, I realized that others were dealing with similar issues and I decided that founding a First-Generation Law Students Association (FGLSA) at Seton Hall Law School was the way to go. With plenty of help from administration and other students, the group was successfully formed in September of 2018. The mission of the organization is to create a community for all first-generation students to come together to tackle law school and the legal profession with support. FGLSA now has roughly 60 members, with more joining every week.
As a law librarian, I’ve learned to expect the same response from people any time I get asked what I do: polite bafflement. For most people, law and libraries are two separate professions, and I am often the first law librarian they’ve ever met. So I explain a bit and convey the salient point: they may still have quiet reputations, but modern law libraries are actually hubs of activity and support for law students, law faculty, and the legal community. Here’s a quick rundown on some of the ways the law library at Seton Hall helps its law students.
The Leadership Fellows Program at Seton Hall Law provides a unique opportunity for law students to cultivate essential leadership skills through experiential learning, teaching, engaging with select readings, participating in the Leadership Speaks series, and planning and executing a dynamic leadership project. Here is how this year's Leadership Fellows Amy Eng ('20) and Deidre Cooney ('20) describe their experiences in the program:
On the first day of orientation, Dean Boozang approached the podium and announced an obvious, but difficult truth to grasp: “Ninety-percent of you in this room will not be in the top ten-percent of your class.” As future lawyers, we know the profound impact grades can have and can get caught in the trap of constantly checking and calculating GPA. Yet it is a sad and undeniable truth of law school: not everyone can be top of the class. But this in no way means that the other ninety-percent of the class has no hope of success. In Professor Paula Franzese’s Leadership Fellows Program and its attendant Leadership, Ethics and Decision-Making class, students learn that grades are only one aspect of a multidimensional you.
My most recent Dinner with the Dean was incredibly fun and relaxed - the upper-class students and I know each other well by now. The first part of the night we shared about the insecurities caused by the economic divide – the challenges of going to school when you feel you have fewer resources than your classmates. The conversation was actually started because Seton Hall Law is establishing a Food Pantry for students living with food insecurity. And that got us talking about resources for students who don’t have a professional wardrobe, for which we also have sources through the Office of Career Services.