09.26.16 | Alumni Spotlight

Interview with Skadden Alumna: Laura Taveras Lantigua ’16

Interview with Skadden Alumna: Laura Taveras Lantigua ’16

Tell me about your path to choosing a legal career.

When I first came to the US, at age 9, the local school wanted to hold me back two grades because they assumed that as an English Language Learner and new immigrant I would not be able to keep up academically with peers my age. Although my mother insisted that I would be able to perform well, the school’s administration would not place me in third grade until she threatened legal action. This experience influenced me in two important ways: I was inspired to work in schools to advocate for children and realized the power of the law and legal advocacy to address bias.

Over the last year, I worked at a K-8 charter school with 600 students. I was part of the operations team at this school, considered a ‘turnaround school’ by the DOE, meaning that the school was in danger of failing and had been given additional resources to help support its work to raise the level of students’ academic achievement. I chose to work at this school for that reason. I wanted to help create an environment where students feel supported and safe.

One of our main projects was the acquisition of ‘science carts.’ These are mobile carts with supplies and equipment students can use to conduct science projects. We were able to secure over 1 million in funding to develop a science curriculum and acquire the science carts. It was gratifying to see a school come together and achieve so much.

How does the Skadden Program fit in with your goals?

I found out about the Skadden Program through a friend who was applying. Although I was interested in a legal career, I was initially insecure about applying to Skadden. The program has a reputation for accepting only the brightest students and having a challenging curriculum. I was afraid that I would not be a competitive applicant although I had a high GPA. As I completed the application, wrote my personal statement and compiled the various pieces of the application, I became more confident and excited about my aspiration to pursue a legal career.

The Skadden program expanded my knowledge of the legal field and the possible career options available for someone like me interested in education and working with children. I interned at the Bronx District Attorney’s Office in the child abuse and sex crimes unit. I was able to witness the life of a case from jury selection to closing arguments. The internship changed my perspective in some important ways. I realized that I could not do that type of work, but I gained a profound respect for the attorneys who gave a voice to the children who were victimized. I was able to develop mentoring relationships with the attorneys and gain insight from both newly minted and seasoned lawyers.

Looking back, what do you wish someone had told you when you started in the Skadden program? And, what is your advice for current and future Skadden students?

The most challenging aspect of the program was giving it the time required to do well.  The Skadden seminars require a deeper commitment than other courses. I came to the program thinking I was a good writer, but one meeting with Matt (our writing instructor) quickly dispelled this notion. I grew as a writer by learning to revise my work and be more critical of it.

LSAT prep was super helpful. The instruction made a tremendous difference in my preparation.

It was great to have a group of peers working with me at the same time.

Did you ever feel self-doubt or think you might not be able to succeed, and if so, how did you overcome these feelings?

Because English is my second language, I always struggled with my writing. The program’s writing instruction helped me gain a better understanding of the mechanics of argumentation and how to approach my writing process more strategically. Learning to become a better writer boosted my confidence as a student.

Obviously, the Skadden program itself cannot guarantee success. Beyond what the Skadden program offers, what is necessary on the part of students?

The Skadden program can guarantee success only if you are willing and dedicated to do the work and follow-through on the instructions and advice of the program staff.

The program made my dream a possibility; I made great friends in my cohort; and it helped me grow intellectually. I am very thankful to the program.

This fall, I will be moving out of my hometown, NYC. Although, I am a bit nervous about moving, I am excited and eager to begin at George Washington University Law School.