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May 2011 Archives

May 20, 2011

The Twenty-First Century Law Student

As my entering fall 2011 class at New York Law School begins to take shape, an electric mixture of older and younger, part timers and full-timers and west coasters and east coasters begins to emerge.

Past law school student classifications would say that I, a soon to be thirty something, settled in a stable career and relationship, am donning the cap of a "non traditional student". A minority saddled with responsibility yet propped up by additional years of work and life experience.

I am wondering if this title has become outdated. It is true that in a random sampling of my entering class it appears I still fall above the median age and clock in a few more years in the professional world than most. But aside from these conventional variables, a new twenty-first century definition of a law student seems to be taking shape in which rather than sticking out of, I blend right into.

On the entering roster I am hard pressed to find a "traditional student" ---a fresh-faced youth straight out of undergrad, who has never traveled the world, held down a job and relies on Mom and Dad for his livelihood. Instead I find newly minted undergraduates biking across Europe, part time workers and full time parents, active community leaders and polished professionals.

Perhaps it is better to update our image of a law student. Students are entering with a wide variety of life experiences, backgrounds and characteristics. I myself, raised in Walla Walla, a small city in southeastern Washington, grew up in the theater, studied languages, worked my way through Europe, Asia and Africa and settled in New York City almost 5 years ago working in a profession that involves cross cultural relations. I suspect that once orientation rolls around and stories of the paths we have taken emerge, other interesting tales will surface. The twenty-first century law student's path is not always cut and dry.

In the summer before law school as we begin to reach out to each other via email, Facebook and informal happy hours, a sense of camaraderie exists. Regardless of where we come from, the years under our belt or the variety of ways in which we plan to spend our last summer before law school, a common identity protrudes--that of the twenty-first century law student.

If my observations of New York Law School are representative of the entering classes across America, it will be interesting to see in 3 years time after we sit our bar exams how the influx of diverse JD holders integrates into the current legal field.

Joanna Lehmann
New York Law School 2014

About May 2011

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