Going into my Princeternship over Intersession with alum Professor Elizabeth Corwin ’89 of Pace Law School (White Plains, New York), I thought I had an idea of what law school might entail. Coming out of the experience, however, I am just beginning to realize the differences in the thought process and rhetoric that go into being a law student. Upon reflection, I would be nowhere near as driven to explore the field of law further if it were not for this awesome 3-day experience with Prof. Corwin.
Day 1 – Monday, January 28, 2013
Day 1 was spent fully immersed in the life of a law student. I met Prof. Corwin and my fellow Princetern Anya Lewis Meeks at 9:00 to attend our first class simply called “Evidence.” My first observation once the class had started was the professor’s difference in teaching style from anything I had experienced before. When talking with Prof. Corwin, she explained to us that law schools use a “Socratic” teaching method that seeks to fully engage the student through active participation. I paid attention, then, to how each professor in the classes we attended would call out students to respond to the lecture, even in the biggest class we sat in on of 50 students. All though a challenging environment, it was successful in making sure every student was focused.
Right after “Evidence” class we made our way next door (literally – Pace is a very small school) to sit in on a Family Law class. This class was more philosophical than the evidence class and quite a bit easier to follow. From class, we went downstairs to eat lunch in their cafeteria and had the chance to talk with a couple of 2nd year law students. Both of them were very enthusiastic and helpful in explaining to us the differences between undergraduate and law school. I discovered that law writing is far less “fluffy” and more technical, forcing attorneys to use a different thought process. They were also very helpful in giving us an idea of what we should be doing in preparation for the LSAT. We would have loved to pick their brains for hours, but let them go study while we headed off to our next class “Sexuality, Gender, and the Law.” Taught by the same professor who teaches the family law class, we explored in more detail the theories of feminism and how they pertain to law. I was not expecting to hear an analysis of feminism in a law class and it was interesting to see how the professor applied them to various cases.
After a long first day filled with new information, there was much to reflect on.
Day 2 – Tuesday, January 29, 2013
The second day provided an excellent opportunity to see some of the things we had heard in class the previous day put into practice. We all arrived at Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains at 9:30 to spend the morning sitting in on family court. It was fascinating to witness all the types of people there. Some were attorneys, some were there to testify, some were from various government agencies, but everyone was there to petition solutions to family problems. We sat in on a few different proceedings, but the majority of the morning we witnessed a case where a women, who already had a large number children taken by the state, was in the process of losing another. The majority of that morning’s proceedings were devoted to questioning the two caseworkers from Child Protective Services. It was interesting to see all of the technicalities of the trial, from the swearing in to the judge’s rhetoric to use of evident. What I took away most from the morning was the length of time for these family cases with the majority of court appearances devoted to setting a date for other court appearances. The judge was constantly checking his calendar and telling people dates and times to come back for various hearings.
That afternoon we had the privilege of sitting in on a couple of activities for students and a Constitutional law class. Our first activity was a meeting for students interested in spending time in internships abroad. From the two students who explained a little about their experiences, working abroad is something I’ll be sure to keep on my radar. From there we went to a Constitutional Law class (a class I was especially excited about). It was a first year law class and a bit more what I imagined a law school class would be like. With the use of various cases, the professor spent the class examining the uses of the commerce clause. After class, we went next door and watched part of the film “Ghandi” and spent a few minutes discussing civil disobedience.
All in all, it was a very eventful day full of great firsthand experiences.
Day 3 – Wednesday, January 30, 2013
The third day opened with a “Contracts” class. That day, the professor was analyzing the various offers and acceptances that go into forming contractual agreements. It was quite surprising to learn how precise the timing is in determining the exact moment when a contract goes into effect. Later that afternoon, we had the chance to talk with the Director of Law Admissions, Ms. Lisa Lancia. She was extremely helpful in illustrating the law school application process and what we should be doing in the next couple of years in preparation for potentially going to law school. It was encouraging to hear that law school does not need to directly follow undergraduate studies and it’s often helpful to work for a couple of years to gain real life experience.
After our meeting with Ms. Lancia, we dropped in on our final class, a seminar on externships. This final class was a perfect ending to our own “externship” because it covered very practical ways to behave when interning in a firm. The students in the class were spending a few hours a week working in a law firm and would come back this seminar to report on their experiences. I took away a lot of important tidbits on what to do when your supervisor is unclear or not helpful in giving feedback. It was an interactive and reflective way to end a wonderful three days full of information and immersion.
Upon reflection, my Princeternship at Pace Law School enhanced my interest in investigating the various careers and uses for a law degree. I have walked away with a greater realization of how fast my undergraduate career has and will go by and the world that lies beyond Princeton. It is so easy to fall prey to the “Princeton bubble” that I found myself feeling the same way I did when I started to investigate undergraduate universities. I realize now how life is full of phases that come and go quickly.
I would like to thank Professor Corwin for her constant attention to our needs in making sure we were able to experience everything we were hoping to. Her love of justice and excitement about learning made the Princeternship all the more enjoyable and educational.