Life Before Law School
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
- Columbia University, 2015 | Urban Studies, Sustainable Development
Job: Law Clerk to the Honorable Juan R. Sánchez, Chief Judge of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
Program: Full-Time Day
Before law school I was a corps member with Teach for America in New Orleans, and then worked on staff at City Year New Orleans. I taught middle school social studies and science, and later did curriculum and instructional work at a K-8 school. My experience working in schools made me uniquely prepared for law school. As a teacher, you always need to be on your “A game,” ready for anything that kids might throw your way. The work is hard, but rewarding. I found law school to be much the same.
Working with students, families, and AmeriCorps members set me up for success in the numerous experiential learning opportunities provided by Temple Law. I felt comfortable communicating with and supporting clients through difficult experiences. Through teaching and service, I gained critical insight into the way that identity impacts experience and access. This systemic perspective was crucial for my work in public interest practicums and internships in law school.
The summer after my 1L year, I worked as an intern for the Honorable Cynthia M. Rufe, Judge for the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. I gained imperative insight into the workings of federal chambers, and developed my research and writing skills. My 2L fall, I interned at the Education Law Center. This was a highlight of law school for me; coming from a teaching background, I was eager to apply my experiences in schools to my newfound legal know-how. I staffed an intake hotline, connecting parents and guardians with resources to support their legal issues surrounding, for example, access to special education services or challenging a disciplinary decision. I also had the privilege of working on ongoing impact litigation, including a historic school funding case that is currently at trial in the Commonwealth Court.
My 2L spring, I took advantage of the continued virtual atmosphere and interned at Advancement Project, a civil rights organization located in DC. I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about how lawyers can support social change as allies and advocates for grassroots organizers. Being able to intern for an organization based elsewhere was a silver lining of the shift to virtual learning wrought by COVID-19. Both of these semester practicums during my 2L year were supported by excellent Temple Law faculty, who encouraged me to reflect, make connections with my other coursework, and really get the most out of the experiences.
The summer after my 2L year, I worked with the SSI Unit at Community Legal Services. I had an amazing supervisor and mentor who taught me loads and challenged me constantly. At CLS, I had the privilege of representing clients in front of Administrative Law Judges to appeal their denial of benefits. Through this experience, I learned about the wider field of civil legal services, and found a great balance between direct client work and more systemic advocacy.
Finally, during my 3L year, I participated in the Federal Appellate Litigation Clinic with Professor Mary Levy. My team of four law students wrote a brief to the Third Circuit appealing an order of removal from the Board of Immigration Appeals. I had never even taken immigration law, but I think I learned more than I ever could have in a classroom simply by engaging in the work directly. Briefing a case in front of the Third Circuit was a difficult but rewarding experience; it sharpened both my writing skills and my ability to work closely with others, central features of almost any lawyer’s job.
Life at Temple Law
I served on Temple Law Review as a Staff Editor and then as the Note/Comment/Symposium Editor. Hands-down, my favorite part of Law Review was writing my Comment. I had always felt comfortable writing papers in undergrad, but legal writing is a different beast entirely, so I had a lot to learn. What I most appreciated was the opportunity to research and write about something that I really care about. It was a unique experience to dive incredibly deep into one topic, such that you can actually contribute to the academic scholarship on the issue. I felt incredibly proud of the work that I produced. The experience also helped me professionally outside of Law Review, strengthening my research and writing skills more generally.
I served as the Program Director of the School Discipline Advocacy Service (SDAS). SDAS is a citywide organization of law students who advocate for students and their families at disciplinary hearings at the School District of Philadelphia. This was an amazing way to connect my teaching experience with the legal world, and to give back to the community of Philadelphia. Supporting students at hearings also helped me develop my trial advocacy skills, putting into practice some of the techniques that I learned in the classroom.
Advice from a Temple Law Grad
- Law school taught me how to manage my time. Especially after 1L, you don’t have a ton of required time on campus, so it’s really up to you to figure out how to schedule your days. As much as I could, I tried to treat law school as a 9-5 job. I worked hard during the day so that I could mostly relax in the evening and do other things that fulfilled me.
- I feel really lucky to have been able to be a part of the Integrated Trial Advocacy Program (ITAP). Working with students from other law schools at practicums and internships, I’ve realized just how unique the trial advocacy education that Temple offers truly is. Learning Evidence alongside Trial Advocacy was a great way to see how the Rules of Evidence manifest in practice. Developing oral advocacy skills like cross-examination within a space where I felt comfortable making mistakes and getting feedback was a gift.
- Going from teaching to law school, I really missed directly engaging with kids and their families; the lecture halls of Klein felt far away from the people who I wanted to be working with and supporting. I knew I needed to become rooted in my community in order to stay true to the reasons why I went to law school in the first place. Joining SDAS helped me with this. I also became a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and really enjoyed the opportunity to step away from law school and just do kid things. The Student Public Interest Network (SPIN) also offered a bunch of great opportunities to engage in the city.
- I definitely recommend spending time with family or friends who aren’t in law school– the experience can become a little echo-chamber-y, and it’s nice to forget about Torts or Crim Pro for a while and simply enjoy others’ company. I also got into reality television (most recently, Selling Sunset, and yes I’m Team Christine!!!) during law school, which really helped me turn my brain off after long days of studying.
- Spending time outside was also really important for me during school. I love biking around FDR Park in South Philly, going to the farmers’ market in Rittenhouse, and walking my dog in the Wissahickon.