Applying to Law School as a Woman of Color

Ever since I was about six years old, I knew I wanted to go to law school. I grew up learning about a great injustice that happened on my mother’s side of the family and was determined to find out how I could help. Upon discovering that my grandfather was shot by an unknown assailant, I wanted to ensure no other family experienced what mine did. In order to do this, I needed to immerse myself in the field of law. I began in high school by interning at the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department and the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office during summer vacation. I had the amazing opportunity to speak to some of the prisoners in custody, who shared heart-breaking stories. The experience was so eye-opening, as it reminded me that these “criminals” the media so poorly portray are in fact human beings who deserve another chance at life. Some of them wanted to start over—go back to school or be a better father for their kid. A lot of them also had mental health disorders, like schizophrenia, anxiety, and PTSD. Their stories regarding how helpless they feel and how the agents of the criminal justice system make fun of their symptoms inspired me to become an attorney for those with mental health concerns. 

However, now that I am currently enduring the law school application process, I never realized the difficulties of applying as a first-generation college student, a child of immigrants, and a woman. When I first took the LSAT (Law School Admission Test), I felt so out of place. Most of the people around me were much older and seemed reasonably confident in their abilities to thrive on the test. I overheard conversations between students discussing the LSAT preparation company they used to study for the test and the strategies their private tutors taught them. Coming from someone who did not have the means to afford LSAT preparation, I stood there anxiously waiting in line with my gallon sized Ziplock bag and told myself I didn’t belong there. Additionally, I took advantage of the opportunities to network with other lawyers and law school admissions representatives at law school fairs and mixers. Before I could speak with them, I heard from students who shared their background—officers of the debate team and Model United Nations, legal assistants at their parents’ firm, and lobbied at Capitol Hill. While I do have background experience as a legal intern and held a leadership role with a pre-law organization, all my accomplishments meant little compared to others. For weeks, I doubted my capabilities and questioned if I was even making the right decision to apply. 

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Upon some research into my thoughts and feelings throughout the process, I learned of a term called imposter syndrome which tends to negatively impact women of color in academia. While men and women both experience struggles in academia, women of color experience hints of both racism and sexism in the workplace that could take a hit at their self-worth. The legal field has been notoriously stressful for the amount of work lawyers go through on a daily basis. Lawyers must endure the pressure of advocating for someone who might be on death row or will go to prison for the rest of their life. Lives are on the line. In turn, lawyers must read and know the logistics of their case forwards and backwards to best defend their client. However, this pressure could be overwhelming and might interfere with their relationships with their family, especially for lawyers who are also mothers. Right after telling people of my dreams and aspirations of becoming a lawyer, I would hear the same thing: “But it’s going to be so hard for you.” I truly felt like an imposter. 

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As a child of immigrants, I had very little resources going into this process. I could not ask my parents for advice on how to write a personal statement for law school nor could I ask them if they had anyone to connect me with in the legal field that I could possibly intern with. I relied on the resources available to me and went about this process almost entirely on my own. Had it not been for the guidance of my professors and mentors within my pre-law organization, I would have been completely in the dark. The resources provided to me were little to no cost, which helped me tremendously given the accumulation of all the costs and fees of each application. Additionally, thoughts about the potential stressors that the work could have on my mental health did not escape my mind. 

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According to the United States Census Bureau, the legal field consists of only 38% women as of April 2019. Out of 9 Supreme Court justices, only 3 are women. While there were indeed some considerations I needed to make, I decided that nothing should stop me from ever pursuing my goals. To curb the financial burden, I found ways in which to save money on my applications. It was easier said than done, but I stopped trying to listen to the comments made from other people about their concerns about a woman entering the legal field. If anything, the comments served as motivation to show people that even with little resources, I had the capabilities to succeed with my hard work and determination. Turns out, the hard work and persistence pays off. I am now proud to say that I am definitely law school-bound. So far, I've been accepted into University of San Francisco, American University, UC Davis, and Santa Clara University!