Patti Burris ’17 wanted to go to law school. But as a community college student in Texas, she wasn’t sure how to prepare – or whether she could afford it.
Burris ended up winning a scholarship to Suffolk University Law School that covered all but $5,000 of her first-year tuition. When she placed first in her section of 100 students that year, she won a full scholarship for her second and third years – and a job as a teaching assistant in the first-year Contracts class.
She has already completed two judicial internships, one at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the other at the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. She will work for a prominent Boston law firm, Goodwin Procter, as an associate this summer, and – “assuming I don’t blow it” – is guaranteed a job in the private equity division after she graduates.
The reverse is true, too, Toomey says: Quite a few criminal justice majors – more than from any other major here – go on to law school, where their comprehensive understanding of the criminal justice system gives them an edge.
“Many legal issues come up in the day-to-day operations of a business, from contracts and hiring to employment discrimination,” Veilleux says. “It’s important for our students to understand basic concepts in business law so that as business professionals, they can make better informed decisions.”
Students from any major can apply to law school. Traditionally, most law students have come from majors like English, philosophy, history and political science that emphasize research, writing and logic. However, law schools increasingly seek students with undergraduate majors in science, engineering and math because they have the technical background to work in the growing field of patent law, Toomey says.
A legal studies minor is not a prerequisite for law school. But taking a few classes can help students figure out if law school is really for them.
“The idea of helping people is great, but sitting down and reading a lot of legal code is daunting. It’s good to get your feet wet first instead of waiting until you’re on the hook for $150,000 in law school debt,” Toomey says. “It’s also our experience that students who take legal studies courses do a lot better adapting to the first year of law school than those who’ve never taken one.”
“That was what really put me over the edge,” Barros says. “We had really insightful, good discussions, and the case briefs we worked on showed us how you could use the law to help others.”
Barros was admitted to every law school to which he applied. He chose New England Law Boston, where King earned his law degree, for its public interest law program – and the full scholarship the school offered. He will move back home with his family in Tewksbury and commute to Boston, so as not to take on debt.
Students who want to go to law school can get help from Toomey and Veilleux finding internships with local law firms or government agencies – another great way to figure out if they enjoy the work. Seniors can also do an independent study of a first-year law school subject with Toomey, while juniors and seniors can take free classes that will prepare them for the LSAT, the law school admissions test.
Toomey offered his legal services for free – as long as Record could participate – to a client who had been improperly denied unemployment benefits. The client agreed. Record read the entire Massachusetts unemployment law book, summarized arguments and accompanied Toomey and the client to her appeal hearing. They won.
“It was great to know we could have an impact,” Record says. “The system misread our client’s situation, and we were able to correct that.”
“There’s a practical demand for high-quality paralegals,” he says.