Q. Tell me about your path to choosing a legal career.
I wanted be a lawyer since I was a child. Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, there was a lawyer named Theodore Guerra who was one of the most intelligent and dedicated lawyers in our country. He took on some of the highest profile criminal cases in the country and was considered the people’s lawyer. There seemed to be something very profound about what he did and how he successfully advocated for his clients although they were marginalized and often poor.
Because of my personal experiences as a sexual minority confronting injustice, I wanted to explore how religion, politics and philosophy influence the behavior and codes of conduct of communities. At the same time, I was interested in exploring how the law buttresses an unjust social code and prohibits people from living their authentic self. It was paradoxical that I could not be myself because the law described my way of being as wrong.
How does the Skadden Program fit in with your goals?
The first thing I did when I was granted asylum to stay in the U.S. was apply to school. Given my interests and perspective, the president of John Jay College suggested that I apply to the CUNY BA program. The CUNY BA advisors encouraged me apply to the Skadden Program. I reached out to Jen Light and she explained how the program would fit with my other academic goals.
Having mentors and staff from the Skadden program support me and tell me that it would be possible for me to become a lawyer was my greatest motivation. The academic resources and advising provided by Skadden allowed me to flourish as a student while preparing me for law school.
The financial assistance and the support for the LSAT preparation was extremely attractive. Without the Skadden program it would have taken me much longer to achieve law school. It might have been impossible for me to do it on my own.
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?
We were told during the summer institute not to take things personally, be professional and take things seriously. Working as a group and supporting each other is extremely important. Sharing your experiences and your strengths with colleagues is important.
Did you ever feel self-doubt or think you might not be able to succeed, and if so, how did you overcome these feelings?
Taking the advice that I received was helpful. Not being thin skinned and learning to roll with the punches helped me develop personally and academically. Accepting the criticism from professors and trusting that the Skadden staff has the best interest of students in mind is essential to your success in the program.
Obviously, the Skadden program itself cannot guarantee success. Beyond what the Skadden program offers, what is necessary on the part of students?
Students need to be committed to this process. They need to understand that this will be a challenging process, but the staff is incredibly helpful and supportive.
I will be attending George Washington University Law School in August. Although, I am still taking summer classes at CCNY to finish my bachelor’s, I’m excited at the prospect of starting law school. I am also looking forward to having a break before I start my orientation.