I am currently in my 3rd year of law school at the University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law in Washington, DC. After graduating from MC I stayed in Maryville for a year working for the Tennessee Valley Coalition to End Homelessness (TVCEH), a federal program that provides temporary rental and utility assistance to families and individuals in immediate danger of eviction. Taking a year off after college was very beneficial to my experience in law school because it helped me figure out what I wanted out of a legal program.
UDC is a public interest law school which means that we focus a lot on social change and advocating for the unrepresented. Most of our students go to work for the public defender, government agencies, or serve as pro bono attorneys for large firms. My first summer internship was at a non-profit housing organization called Manna, Inc. which provides low-risk mortgages to first-time home buyers here in DC. I thought I would love this job because of my previous experience with housing issues--turned out I was wrong. I absolutely HATE property law. It does not make any sense and is completely illogical, mostly due to common law which we inherited from England (THANKS HISTORY MAJOR!). So, I found out pretty early on that I was not “called” to do housing law. My second year I took the Low Income Tax Clinic at my school which I absolutely loved (this coming from someone who has never filed her own taxes, mind you). We worked to help low-income DC, VA, and MD residents with active tax disputes solve the issues with the IRS. Mostly this meant that we would call the IRS, concede that our client does owe the tax but that they will never be able to pay the $5,000 liability and so instead we are going to offer $200 and then tell them to take it or leave it. Most of the time, they took it. It was a great clinic.
This past summer I interned for a new non-profit called Consumers for a Responsive Legal System where I am still currently interning. This group works to make legal services more affordable, accessible, and accountable to users. We write a lot of testimony to state bar associations and state courts commenting on proposed legal rules. I have recently been offered a job post-graduation with this organization as the manager of their Small Claims Assistance Service (SCAS) Program.
Finally, I highly recommend that one of your main considerations for law school be whether or not the school you are applying to has a clinical program, how difficult it is to get into, and whether or not you can get some real court experience. I have been to tax court to argue on clients’ behalf and I actually have a hearing next week to argue a paternity issue at the DC Superior Court. It is extremely scary but an awesome experience. No law student should come out of law school without court and client experience.
The main way MC prepared me was through instilling in me that life is too short to have a “job”; instead you should have a “calling” that you get paid for. I have always kept this thought in the back of my mind when applying for internships. I also feel as if MC prepared me for the rigors of law school. On any given night there are 75 pages to read and I felt like some courses I took at MC, it was the exact same. It wasn’t as much of a culture shock for me to have 5 hours of homework after having spent 4 years at MC. Maryville also prepared me for the extensive writing that law school requires. Thesis is no joke (but, if you love the topic it can lead to great conversations during job interviews). However, once it is done and you have a physical manifestation of the effort that you have put into your education the past 4 years and the late nights of that last year, it will all feel worth it.
On a personal level, MC prepared me by teaching me early on that professors are people too and can be approach and asked questions. Although my law professors intimidate me (and yes, they do call on you randomly and do the Socratic method still) I can easily remind myself that they are people and that they are more than willing to help you along if you get stuck. MC also taught me to accept other people as they come and to remember that everyone has their own story. I think that is extremely important in effective lawyering (at least from what I have seen in the clinic) because a lot of it is relating to your client and making sure that you are listening to them carefully and understand where they are coming from and what their goals in their legal matter is. Everyone wants to tell you a story; you just have to be willing to listen to them.
After being choosing to come to DC for law school starting August 2010, I got in touch with a fellow classmate of mine to ask her if she knew anyone looking for a roommate. She said that her roommate was moving out in July 2010. We have been roomies ever since!