Harvard Pre-Law Academy + In Conversation With Forbes’ Laurel Donnellan

Summer Endeavors 

Sometime towards the end of last year I loosely touched on my acceptance into Harvard’s  pre-law program. Among the many external courses I took part in in DP1 I was informed of two potential opportunities that I could take part in over the summer and after 2 essays, one questionnaire and an interview I received the news that I had been selected. Now that all of it is said and done, let me catch all of you up on a little bit of what I did this summer.

Harvard Pre-Law Academy

  < Day 1

After receiving my acceptance letter I could barely contain my excitement, I had made it into a law course! One that was sponsored by Harvard nonetheless! Even though I was happy I got selected in I was also just as nervous. Harvard is something that I have always associated synonymously with academic excellence so naturally, I had my fair share of nerves since I assumed the other 19 selected students would be mini Einsteins.

In the weeks that followed I received multiple emails briefing me on what I was to except from a course overview to a note docket and itinerary. I was then introduced to the two course leaders, Nisha and Maia who led our sessions for the upcoming weeks. The first few sessions were rather predictable, we did our introductions got introduced to different law terminology and judicial systems and were split into various breakout rooms to talk to conduct research in. I soon got to know quite a few of my peers some of whom I still keep in touch with today, and naturally they were all as smart as I expected them to be but they were also very welcoming and just bounced ideas off of each other. At the end of it all I can even confidently say that I learned just as much from my friends as I did my mentors. As the final week approached, things turned up a notch. Our mentors decided to introduce the main component of the program: a mock trial. Yes, you heard me right, an actual mock trial based off of an actual trial that would be mediated by Nisha and Maia in the end as unbiased judges.

They decided to pick our roles within our teams at random and much to my shock I ended up being given the role of the primary defendant! This was huge, I was going to be playing the defendant and defense attorney for myself as Dana M. Colby the principal of Michigan High School who was accused of enabling a memorandum that had to do with the alleged unlawful seizing of student, Pat Roman’s bag in a civil case. This meant that my partner Nubar (who would play co-defendant as the teacher who seized the bag (Terry Wordshaw)) and I, would act as defense attorneys while the other members of our team would be responsible for gathering data, cross examination and other logistics in a fight against the plaintiffs who claimed that privacy comes above the safety of the students seeing that the teacher came up empty handed aside from a cigarette after the search. Initially I was concerned because I personally sided with the plaintiffs argument at first, but naturally, one of the first steps to being a good lawyer is to put your own opinions aside. Nubar was extremely diligent and myself, her, a boy named Iqbal and a girl named Nadine spent the good part of the next week working tirelessly at finishing opening statements, closing statements, witness statements, summaries of facts, rebuttals, questions for direct and cross examination etc. It was a very long and nail biting week but we managed to stay on top of things. On top of that we had sometimes up to three meetings a week and constant correspondence via social media just to ensure that we were on track.

On the day of the mock trial we went in well prepared. I was to give out the opening statement which I had written and answer all the questions in direct and cross examination. My opening speech was spoken out without much error and I was positively beaming on the inside because we had made a solid start. I had also suggest that we trip the other team up by making our expert witness a child psychologist so that she could comment on Pat Roman’s behavioral tendencies to create mischief. Any good lawyer is a good story teller after all 😛

The direct examination went quite well except a member of the other team kept interrupting at every instance saying “the question is irrelevant to the case your honor!” every time I opened my mouth to answer which was rather infuriating but the cross examination was where I redeemed myself.

We had known full well that the angle they would use to win the case would be to talk about an infringement of privacy but we made it so that we placed special emphasis on certain clauses of the amendment in focus and after that it was really just a matter of re-iterating facts. The rest of our trial went off in very intense rounds of questioning, I didn’t quite expect that much passion from an online mock trial but it was clear that everyone including myself was very highly invested and much thanks to Iqbal our resident cross-examiner he asked questions from the plaintiffs that had them squirming in their seats. After a good 20 minutes of deliberation our judges felt they were ready to give out our verdict.

I had been excitedly talking to my teammates on the chat reminding them of how proud I was of all our hard work regardless of the verdict since at that point in time I genuinely did not know what the decision would be and then, much to the defense team’s delight Nisha announced that although their personal views resided with the plaintiff’s argument we made such a compelling case that we won! All of us were elated and knowing that we had not only managed to win but sway the personal beliefs of the judges felt incredible. Having gone up against some seriously intense opposition and still winning out made it all the more worth it :))

In hindsight, Harvard’s Future Lawyers Program was one of my proudest achievements and most exiting endeavors. I had not only been accepted into an exclusive group but also lead my team to a solid victory as well alongside Nubar! This was an incredible once in a lifetime opportunity that I will certainly remember for the years to come.

An extract from the 57 page case reading we had to each do and take notes on! ^

^ My certificate of participation

^ Our program course book

In Conversation with Lauren Donnellan 

Another pleasant surprise I had this summer was when Learn With Leaders (the platform I used to find my law course) extended an invite to an invite only conversation with Laurel Donnellan about career paths. By this time after my participation in the pre-law academy I had made up my mind that I would want to choose a law related career path perhaps in diplomacy but I wanted to see if it was the right fit for me, not to mention that Laurel is a contributor at Forbes.com where she writes about Compassionate Leadership and focuses on leadership and falling in love with careers through kindness and purpose. This is naturally a major achievement and her resume spoke for itself when looking at all the incredible entrepreneurs she interviewed and the people she inspired. In this time we spoke in small groups about what makes someone passionate about a job and how being passionate towards it can benefit your lifestyle, health and happiness in the long run.

^ Donnellan’s Forbes Profile

^ Certificate of Participation

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