Our Summer Series continues! This series highlights different Latina students and law grads as they embark in their summer jobs and/or bar prep all across the country. We hope to provide a variety of work experiences, options for a healthy work-life balance, and general motivation through different guest contributors to help you to take charge of your summer and professional goals! Today we hear from Mariana, a rising 3L from Nebraska (midwest represent!) who has taken a non-traditional route this summer and encourages us to seek new ways to use our law degrees:
Hello, my name is Mariana and I am currently a rising 3L at the University of Nebraska College of Law. I was born in Guadalajara, Mexico but have lived in the United States for almost my entire life and in Nebraska for the last 13 years.
At the end of last summer, I found myself wondering what I really wanted to do with my law degree. I knew I wanted to practice but I wasn’t 100% sure what area of law I wanted to go into. I have a science background, so I gravitated towards patent law but for some reason I hesitated to fully commit. My struggle with patent law is that I do not feel like I would be able be an advocate for the Latinx community.
I found myself about to start my second semester of 2L year still struggling with the decision knowing that what I did the summer before my 3L year would have a large impact on what I would be doing after graduation. Yet, among all of the confusion the only thing I was certain about was that I wanted to leave Nebraska after graduation. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE Nebraska and I will always call it home. But Nebraska is great for raising a family, not so great for young professionals. Since moving was the only thing I was sure about, I decided the only requirement for my summer internship was that it be outside of Nebraska. I knew that if I didn’t start building my network outside of Nebraska it would be infinitely more difficult to find a job down the road. While the careers services office at Nebraska Law is amazing, I was not finding many jobs outside of Nebraska. So I decided to be proactive and use outside resources. That is when my search lead me to the Urban Leaders Fellowship.
Urban Leaders Fellowship (ULF), is a 7-week program in seven different cities across the nation. The fellows work with elected officials in policy, generally education policy but it varies from city to city. Another intriguing aspect of the program was that you got to spend part of your time working in community organizations across the city. This to me made the work more impactful because you were getting to work with organization that could possibly be impacted by the policy you were working on. I looked into the program a little bit further and it seemed like something that would create a great network for me regardless of the city I was placed in and would also help me decide what I wanted to do because the fellowship went beyond policy work. The fellowship also focused on helping you figure out what type of change you are seeking.
The only problem was that it focused on education policy, something I worried I knew nothing about. Additionally, the application process was not simple, one of the application materials was to write a policy memo focusing on a specific area of policy. I debated on whether I should even pursue the fellowship because it seemed so far out of my comfort zone. At the end of the day I decided that I had nothing to loose, and everything to gain. I took the leap of faith and applied. A few weeks later I found out I had been accepted to the program and would be going to Denver, Colorado. I was relieved that I had something to do for the summer and terrified because I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into.
Fast forward to today. I am now three weeks into the fellowship and I can say I made an amazing decision. I have learned so much not only academically, and professionally but I have also gained team working skills, leadership skills, and learned a lot about what my goals and change I seek encompass. These past three weeks have not been easy, if the application process was any indication I should have seen it coming. But even though it has been a lot of work it would not have it any other way.
The community organization that I got partnered with is DSST Public Schools (DSST), a charter school network in Denver. My mornings at DSST consists of visiting their campuses and working in their home office with the Human Capital Team. While the work I do there is not directly related to law, I’m learning a lot about the hiring process. Which can one day be extremely useful when working at a law firm. In the afternoons, I go to the community officer for my elected official. In the community office part of my time is spent in professional development and the rest of the time is spent working on policy research and writing. While spending a large chunk of the summer doing research was not my idea of fun, I can say that there is power in working with individuals that want to make a world a better place not just for themselves but for generations to come.
Being in ULF has been an adjustment, because I am one of two law students in the program. The remaining 30 fellows come from a variety of backgrounds but most of them have been teachers or are currently teaching across the country. In my opinion, being in law school secludes you from the world in many aspects, but one is that law school teaches you to think in a very particular way. Being at ULF and having to work with individuals with different backgrounds has helped me broaden my perspective and way of thinking. Coming into ULF I didn’t really know what direction I wanted to go with my law degree. I thought I had to choose between being a practicing attorney and effectively helping more Latinas become lawyers. But now I know that I don’t have to choose, I will be able to do both. While I may not be 100% certain how I that will look like at this exact moment, I know that by the end of these seven weeks I will have a clear goal for my future.
Stepping out of my comfort zone and looking for a non-traditional summer law school job was scary and filled with uncertainty but I can say for a fact I made the right decision. Whether you choose to work at a law firm, do public interest work, or take the non-traditional route, I want to challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and ask yourself how do I want to change the world. Then go do it.
Click here if you’re interested in learning more or applying to the ULF.