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.
The Weekend JD program is now about half-way through its second successful year, and with two classes having gone through the admissions process, with a third in the works, I thought it would be a good time to reflect back at the questions I’ve received during this time. Here is a list of the most frequently asked questions I’ve received in the last 2 years.
Prospective law students have always been interested in the bar passage success rates of schools they’re considering attending. After all, while a law degree is a prerequisite to taking the bar almost everywhere, passing the bar is a prerequisite to actually practicing law in almost all states.
What a fun night I had last week with a One L study group from section A. For those who don’t know, the first year class is always divided into sections that stay intact for the entire first year for every class – so essential that everyone gets along! Most One L students join four or five others for a “study group” that helps each other with outlines, exam prep, and general morale. So, this particular group is one of the nicest, most interesting, and eclectic group of people I have had dinner with in some time.
One student is originally from Syria, though his father currently lives in Oman and his mother in Maryland – since the war in Syria he has become a libertarian – skeptical of government, seeking to protect his freedom from government interference. And yet, he is open-minded enough to be close friends with his study partner who is a self-described socialist who majored in Economics at the University of Vermont and served as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer – we had a great conversation about whether Medicaid should pay for housing. This section A study group is rounded out by a woman from South Carolina (who took her Syrian classmate home to experience his first US Thanksgiving) and a New Jersey native with a Master’s Degree in Political Science who works for his father’s construction company during summers.
Law school is one of the most demanding academic challenges that a student can face. Reading dozens of pages to prepare for class, learning a new way of critically thinking and carefully writing, searching for valuable work experience, and establishing relationships with fellow students and professors require lots of time and attention. When thinking about my own law school experience, as well as my experiences with students to date, there are a few key themes that seem crucial to success:
I loved law school. I had great teachers, I made great friends, I was challenged daily with the material we learned in class, and (most importantly) I met my wife. It was a glorious time. And to all of the 1Ls, you’re in for the time of your life.
To help you through your journey over the next three or four years, I’d like to share some tips and words of wisdom that I wish I had when I was I was a law student.