A pre-law undergraduate student a decade ago was extolled for his/her ambition and drive. Today, with a flooded job market and the recent economic recession, eager pre-law undergrads are met with skepticism, ominous tidings, and suggestions to pursue a career elsewhere.
Still, here at Yeshiva University, there are a significant number of students determined to pursue a career in law. To help accommodate and encourage pre-law students, Yeshiva University is launching a new undergraduate enrichment program hosted by Cardozo School of Law, “Law, Dispute Resolution, and Justice.” Under the direction of Dr. Edward Stein, Vice-Dean of Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, the program, which will host six Friday seminar classes at Cardozo, explores selected issues related to constitutional law, civil rights, international law, and public policy. Taught by prominent members of the Cardozo faculty, the program launches this fall.
“This new program will provide undergraduate students interested in law a ‘sampler’ of what it means to study law, and what it actually means to go to law school,” said Dean Stein. “When it came to selecting professors for this program, our focus was on both quality and variety, in terms of subject matter and approach. Undergraduate students at YU will be exposed to the best Cardozo has to offer.”
The program is modeled after the “highly successful” undergraduate initiative hosted at Einstein School of Medicine beginning in the 2011 fall semester. Explained Dean Bacon, “Working through Einstein, students began to feel comfortable at the medical school. In addition to the faculty on our immediate campus, students felt they could reach out to the medical school staff for mentoring or advice. Our goal with the new Cardozo program is to encourage this same connection.”
With the recent departure of Dr. John Fousek, pre-law advisor at Stern, and a budget that’s “growing tighter,” Dean Bacon continued, “There’s no need to re-invent the wheel. Cardozo is part of the Yeshiva University community. It is an incredibly valuable resource. This new program takes advantage of the rich resources already available to us.”
While the program at Einstein consisted only of first-time-on-campus students who had received Dean Scholarships, the Cardozo program chose to include upperclassmen as well. Twenty students from both YC and Stern have been selected to participate in the program. Students were selected by the pre-law advisement at YU based on past involvement, expressed interest and demonstration of academic excellence. After being selected, students sent in applications expressing their interest in the program.
Samuel Rosenblatt, upper junior double majoring in Philosophy and Economics with a Judaic Studies minor, will be participating in the pilot program. “My particular fascination with the law revolves around this sense of pervasiveness,” said Rosenblatt. “While I certainly keep a watchful eye on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act and and status of Tal Law, my appreciation for law goes beyond these formal legal forums.” For Rosenblatt, pursuing a career in law is definitely a consideration.
What he hopes to gain from the program? “The program offers unique exposure to some great legal scholars, as well as a forum for issues not typically discussed by undergraduate students,” said Rosenblatt.
Sarah King, junior at Stern pursuing a double Graphic Design and Music major, is also participating in the program. She hopes to pursue a career in international law. “This opportunity to see what goes on inside a real law school is a great chance for me, and other students who share my interest, to get a peek,” said Sarah.
The program directors have worked hard to select some of Yeshiva University’s best and brightest. But, with budget cuts, loss of significant personnel (Dr. Fousek, mentioned previously), and an uphill battle against a job market spitting out lawyers faster than job positions can be created, is YU doing enough to prepare its undergraduates for an already challenging career path? Sophie Felder, super senior at Stern planning to attend law school, answers with an unapologetic “No.”
“There was no indication of when to take the LSATS or how, there were no courses offered on LSAT prep. A pre Law student at Stern has to be extremely self motivated,” continued Felder.
Speaking from an YC perspective, Rosenblatt seems to have had a different experience. “The YU pre law society definitely make an effort to have programs and extracurricular activities for students interested in law,” said Rosenblatt. “In the past they’ve had the CJL program through Cardozo, which dealt with the interrelationship between Jewish law and legal theory. They’ve also offered internships with judges in court. The pre-law office has a presence on campus and encourages students to come and speak to them about law school preparation.” While he “never felt that they’re not doing a good enough job in the law school prep department,” Rosenblatt did qualify, “then again I have no reference point.”
Whether this reflects a disparity between the men’s and women’s colleges is a question that must be confronted, especially with the loss of Stern’s on-location law-advisor.
Responding to the concern, Dean Bacon explained, “One-on-one advising at Beren will be handled by Michelle Filorimo. Group activities (public lectures, panel discussions) and notices (internships) will continue to be in Ms. Ariella Hellman’s domain which she will handle from her uptown office on the Wilf Campus.” Speaking with Michelle Filorimo herself, program director of academic affairs at Cardozo and 04’ graduate of Cardozo, Filorimo confirmed plans to spend “a couple evenings a month on the Stern campus.” Students will be informed of when she’s available and how to set up meetings through academic advisement. “This is a new experience for me, but I’m going to do everything I can to help the pre-law students at Stern,” said Filorimo. “I have been incredibly impressed with the caliber of Stern students I’ve met in the past, and I can’t wait to work with them!”
Despite the difficult job market and the harsh realities of recent budget cuts, both Ms. Filorimo’s new post at Stern College and Cardozo’s undergraduate enrichment program take important steps towards providing pre-law students with the exposure they need and the attention they deserve.
“Law is a difficult field to break in to right now,” concluded Dean Stein. “I would give undergraduates at YC and Stern the same advice I give to accepted students at Cardozo. Nothing can replace real-world experience. Before you choose this a career, get your feet wet. See what it really means to be a lawyer.”