One of my favorite things about the study of the law in general and about Columbia Law School in particular is the variety of things I am able to pursue and master. I feel extremely empowered by all of the options I have for putting a J.D. to use in the future (not to mention all of the mental enrichment I’m getting from my studies in the present). Every time I have gone to a professor’s office hours, it has been a very enlightening and positive experience. All of the professors here have stellar careers, of course, so that can be sort of intimidating, but I have found that my first-year professors have been so open and inviting about their careers and providing a little insight into things I might want to do.
I’ve spoken to two of my professors (Sarah Cleveland, Civil Procedure, and Gillian Metzger, Constitutional Law) about their experiences clerking for Supreme Court Justices and it changed my perspective about clerking from a thing I might consider to something I definitely want to do following graduation. Because of that, I was able to sufficiently plan for such a thing (because clerkship applications are things that, for the most part, you commence your second-year spring at the latest). I consulted with the Director of Judicial Programming, Anne Green, about what I could do now and about the possibility of obtaining a judicial internship for my first summer. Less than a month later, I have an internship with a federal judge, the Honorable Jeffrey Alker Meyer. One of my professors (Sarah Cleveland, with whom I spoke about her SCOTUS clerkship) was my reference. She clerked for the same Justice as the judge for whom I am interning and went to the same law school and spoke to him about me before my interview. These connections are precious and I have truly enjoyed learning how to cultivate them this year.
Speaking of connections and career paths, my Criminal Law professor, Jim Liebman, is a huge name in education and death penalty reform, two topics that are very important to me as well. I have spoken with him about that in his office hours, so I was very excited to find out that he is offering an education policy seminar and practicum next semester. If I am accepted into that program, it would align very well with some immediate plans I have for after I (hopefully) clerk. The opportunity to build relationships with professors over multiple semesters is key.
In addition to all of this, I spent spring break in Ferguson, Missouri, on a service trip with six other CLS students providing support for a defender’s office called ArchCity Defenders. This strengthened my commitment to such public defense work. A few days after I got back, the externships list came out and I saw that Bronx Defenders was one of the options for next year. I say all of this to say that I have spent my first year speaking with professors and getting a feel for what I want to do and realizing I can do it all—I don’t have to pigeonhole or constrain myself. I can clerk, I can do education reform, I can do defense work, and I have here at CLS a supportive network that can help me on those paths while I do meaningful work in the hopes of paying it forward now and in the future.
Princeton Hynes is a 1L from from Little Rock, AR.
Princeton Hynes, 1L