By Kiyanna Noel
The Reality of Law School: A Virtual Alumni Panel seminar was an online seminar hosted by the Political Science Department March 1. Dr. Raymond Carmen opened the Zoom by acknowledging the work put in to make this happen by Christine Landry and Quin Lee.
The four alumni on the panel were Claudia Theagene, Danica McBain, Austin Burke and Cole Fahrenkopf. Theagene graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh in 2021 and is now attending Seton Hall Law School. Burke graduated in 2020 and is now attending Albany Law School. McBain graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh in 2019 and graduated from Baylor University School of Law. Fahrenkopf graduated in 2018 before graduating from Boston University School of Law in 2022.
Assistant Professor John McMahon asked questions about the process of transitioning from undergraduate to law school. Each panelist had the opportunity to answer the questions before students were allowed to ask questions at the end.
McMahon started the discussion by asking panelists what questions they believe students should ask themselves when considering if law school is the right path for them. Theagene responded by explaining how research played a big role in her decision to pursue a law career.
“I would suggest that students who are interested in going to law school would be doing your research on the career path that you would want to take. I’m trying to see if obtaining a Juris Doctor would be something that would be beneficial or if there’s some other type of pathway without getting a JD because I will say like, you know, there’s pride for me personally, I’m a first generation law student,” Theagene said. “So literally applying and everything was completely done on my own. I had no idea that all the information that I was gaining was solely based off me asking questions, nobody’s been doing research. So distinguishing, you know, becoming an attorney, even as a lawyer if you do get a JD you don’t absolutely need to practice. There’s so many different careers and areas that you can end up with a Juris Doctor.”
Burke followed next by asking himself why he wanted to go to law school.
“The ability to determine why you want to go to law school is the most important step in actually starting the process and applying to law school. I still constantly ask myself why I’m in law school. You will continually ask yourself until you graduate and you will have that degree and then eventually determine was it for the money or was it for the prestige?” Burke said.
McMahon then introduced the topic of how to navigate the application process and determining where to apply to school.
McBain responded by explaining her process and going from a tier two school to a tier one. After knowing the location where you want to go to school, McBain suggests being a risk taker and challenging what you think you can achieve.
“I think I applied to eight or nine schools. Why are the lowest [applications] usually one to three? Anything over 10 starts to be a lot in my opinion, but I think my biggest tip when applying to law school is to be a little bit delusional,” McBain said. “Reach for the things that are above what you think you can attain. I was the perfect high tier two student with a scholarship and I ended up going to a tier one school only because I risked outside of my score range. I think you can reach more than you might have thought in the beginning of the process.”
Fahrenkopf acknowledges getting applications completed early and explained how scholarships and spots are easier to come by in an institution because chances are higher.
The discussion was then returned to Carmen and opened the floor for students to ask questions about different topics when it comes to taking gap semesters or a break before pursuing law school, as well as get advice on what to look for in internships and scholarships.