The Mentorship Spot
My Journey to Law School
By Nivi Srinivasan
Hi, my name is Nivi and in this article I’ll be discussing my journey from completing a business undergrad at Western to my admission to Queen’s Law which I’ll be starting in September.
I graduated from Western University in June of 2019 and took a year off between undergrad and going into law (banking on the fact that I’d get into law) so that I could start working and explore. I did a business undergrad and I really enjoyed it – I worked five internships before I worked a full-time job, and I never worked at the same place twice. That being said, for me, it was more about exploring my opportunities and getting that exposure before I went into law school because, even in law school, there are so many paths. Gaining clarity through my year off has been really valuable. I currently work at Coca Cola (currently working from home but previously at their head office in downtown Toronto) and it’s been great! I work in project management, which is kind of a fusion between marketing, supply chain, and operations, and I find that really cool. I’m going to Queen’s Law in September which I’m really excited about.
Since when did you know you wanted to pursue law school?
I definitely have a type A personality, where I plan out everything in my life. So, I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since grade 8, but my reasoning at that time was because I saw many politicians who were lawyers before becoming politicians, and I really wanted to go into politics. It was definitely quite hypothetical at that time. Now, I’m not really looking to pursue politics. As my life has gone on, being a lawyer to me has become more about interacting with and helping people. I’ve always been interested in the law, taking lots of law-related classes in high school. That being said, I’m also a realist so I recognized that I wanted to do law but I needed to have an appropriate backup plan, which is why I did business in my undergrad. I think I started seeing law as a career that I truly wanted to pursue when I was in grade 10 and taking an international law course, which was really interesting to me as it combined my two main interests – business and law. Then, when I got into university, this idea was 100% solidified for me. My five internships and my current job have all been amazing but I don’t see myself doing these types of jobs for the rest of my life. I really want the work that I do to directly touch people and the work that I do in my current job and in my five internships was touching companies, which were then touching people. I want to do law because this will give me a direct way to interact with and help people.
How did your undergrad program prepare you for law school?
I didn’t go into undergrad as a stepping stone to law, and I never had a guarantee in my head that I would get into law. So, I took business in university because I also enjoyed human resources and marketing and I wanted to have a solid career path if I wasn’t able to get into law school. I almost did a double degree, but I didn’t – I graduated with just a marketing degree, but I also took lots of courses related to human resources.
What was your mindset taking a full-time job at Coca Cola directly out of undergrad? Did you know when you started this position that you’d be leaving a year later to go to law school?
When I applied to Coca Cola, I started in October and that was right when law applications were due. It was strange for me because I had found a position that I truly love doing and I can see myself growing at Coca Cola in this position, but I had already done five internships which I couldn’t see myself working happily long-term. I did accept this job but not with the mindset that I’d be quitting a year later to go to law school – it was more of a mindset of “if I get into law school, I’ll have a really tough decision on my hands”. Obviously a little part of me did always want to go to law school, but the uncertainty which I was feeling in fourth year was still there. Taking the year off helped me to feel a lot more certain about my decision to pursue law school and I’m really happy that I did end up taking the year off to work.
What sorts of extracurriculars did you do during undergrad to better prepare you for law school?
A lot of people have this misconception that you need to have extracurriculars that the admissions committee would want you to have when applying for law school. I believe this is a large fallacy because they’re really just looking to see that you’re involved in something you’re passionate about. I didn’t do any extracurriculars specifically related to law. Extracurriculars I’ve been part of were my residence council in first year, DECA, a mentorship program called LAMP (spelling?) in second and third year, and Western Indo-Canadian Students Association (WICSA) in third year. I joined WICSA because I wanted to join something which I’d feel like I had a place in. It was a really safe space for people of all descents and that club is what propelled my experiences in third and fourth year because, come fourth year, I actually headed and started the first ever South-Asian fashion show on campus, and that had never been done before at Western. Western is definitely more of a Caucasian-prominent school, and I thought that it would be really valuable to bring an Indian fashion show to this school. I think when I was applying for law school, that really stood out to people because it’s one thing to be part of a fashion show but it’s another to create one because you feel strongly about a cause. You could clearly tell that this was not just a resume-booster for me, and I think that’s what made me a stronger law candidate. In my first and second year, my extracurriculars were more resume-focused, but in my third and fourth years I was able to do things that I was legitimately passionate about, and I think that’s something that people should definitely integrate into their university experiences, especially earlier on.
What was your experience with law school applications?
You do need to write the LSAT, and most Ontario universities want you to be in the 80th percentile, which is ~160. You can get a maximum of 180, and minimum of 130, for context. That test is unlike anything you’ll ever write. It tests your logic but not in the conventional sense where you would be able to memorize and then fill in bubbles or write an essay. It genuinely tests the way that your brain works, and there are lots of different ways you can study for it. Different things work for different people, and in my experience, the large classes offered by Harvard, Prep101, etc. didn’t work for me, so I had to self study and hire a tutor halfway through. That strategy worked well for me as I did get a good LSAT score and I now have lots of knowledge and contacts which I can share with people if they’d like to reach out. That being said, I do know friends who had the larger classes and books work for them though – it really is a trial and error here.
The other part of law applications are marks. If you’re in first or second year thinking about law school, I’d say you’re in a pretty safe space because a lot of law schools in Ontario look at your last two full years of school. That means that if you’re in fourth year, they’re looking at your second and third years. Some law schools do look at all of your university years though, so it is really important for you to keep your marks up, and I wish I knew that before first year. I didn’t do enough research at that time, and I let my marks drop in first year. I am quite lucky because I researched immediately after first year and caught on to the fact that marks are important, so I was able to pick up my grades the following year. In that way, I think I am both a success story and someone who you can learn from, because I definitely could have focused more on marks in my first year. Generally, law schools are looking for 3.7/4.0, which is ~83% cGPA at Western or you can calculate this based on your school’s grading system.
The actual application process varies based on schools but most schools ask for a personal statement. There’s a lot of information on the internet about American law schools which don’t necessarily apply in Ontario or Canada. My advice for writing a personal statement is to stay true to yourself. For example, my personal statement discussed my experience having immigrant parents and then joining WICSA and finding a passion through that, and how my journey through those experiences solidified my desire to pursue law. I talked about trial and error through all of my jobs, extracurriculars, and talking to people, and I think those accurately showed my passion for law. It’s definitely not about what you did in your undergrad to prove you’ll be a good lawyer – it’s more about who you are, so if you can show them why you’re passionate about law, you’re probably good to go.
What techniques did you adopt to raise your grades so suddenly in second year?
In first year, I took university studying much the same as I did in high school, which for me meant reading the textbook and memorizing definitions. In first year, I adopted this technique of memorizing without understanding, and I was thus really bad at anticipating what would be tested on midterms and exams. In first year, I was always confused and shocked when I got into exams. In second year, I started going to my professor’s office hours to start understanding what they wanted us to get out of lectures and textbooks, and what their testing styles were. Before handing in an assignment, I’d ask the TAs what was expected. Just based on those changes, my grades jumped up 20%, from 60-70%’s to 80-90%’s, which is a huge increase! Anticipating exam questions also really helped me. I would go through literally every single sentence in my notes and think about what exam questions could come out of those sentences. I would actually put in the effort to write these practice questions down for review later on. This was especially useful when there were lists in my notes, and I’d be able to quiz myself on what the contents of those lists were. In second and third year, because I did that, I would walk into the exams and see questions that I had asked myself and that was overwhelmingly helpful. I also think this technique can be useful for any field, not just for law preparations. Being able to anticipate exam questions is definitely the biggest piece of advice I’d have for anyone looking to improve their university grades. You’ll only know that stuff by going to office hours and studying, but it is really helpful.
What are some tips you have for people entering university?
Don’t let the fact that you may have started off as an underdog define you. If I had accepted that my capabilities were indicated by how I was doing in high school or first year, I likely wouldn’t be in the position I am today. I was a definitely a good student in high school but I wasn’t president of my school or doing anything monumental. You have to use your experiences perhaps not being the best in your class and make the most out of them. For example, after first year, I realized that my marks weren’t very good and I then changed that. I knew it wasn’t the courses’ fault because other people were succeeding, so I had to take responsibility and adopt my study techniques to succeed in the way I wanted to.
Don’t just do things because you think that’s what a medical or law school application would want to see out of you. I think it’s such a misconception that people are looking for specific things when recruiting because, in job interviews (and I’ve done quite a few of those!), the things that stick out to people are the things that you’re passionate about or innovative, fun things that you’ve been involved in. Don’t ever do something because you feel like you have to – only do things that you’re happy to do. I was so unhappy in first and second year with who I was becoming through the extracurriculars I had joined – DECA was not my thing even though I was in business, and that’s okay! Later on, I found that WICSA was something I was passionate about and starting the fashion show there allowed me to be much happier and supported me in finding who I was and who I wanted to be.
Reach out to people! This really helped me in my journey to law school – talking to people who are success stories to find out how they got there. Now, I’m in a position to offer that help to other people and I couldn’t be happier. That being said, if you found this article useful or you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out! My email is email@example.com.
Interviewed and transcribed by Rachel Snelgrove
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