The attorneys at GJEL recently hosted a scholarship program and asked incoming law students why they wanted to go to law school.

As a part of this contest, the students put together essays highlighting their reasons for wanting to go to law school. This article is a collection of the students who participated in this program.

1. Why Ashley Brewster wants to go to law school.

I remember being 12 years old, watching my mother bury her father with such distress because he was unprepared for life after death. He died without life insurance and a Will, so my mother and her siblings didn’t have the chance to grieve due to having to pay a mountain load of court costs in addition to his funeral arrangements.

In addition, he had no assets to leave them after tirelessly working for over 40 years of his life at a job that only provided him just enough to eat and survive. As I got older, I saw that not preparing for life after death was a normal part of African Americans’ lives as 70% die without a Will or estate plan.

Many African Americans aren’t leaving Wills or Trusts to help transfer assets from one generation to the next, which is a huge factor for the increasing racial wealth gap between black and white Americans. As a young African American woman, this troubled me. Although some buy enough life insurance to cover the cost of their burial, this isn’t a comprehensive plan.

I know this to be true because I’m now reaping the burdens of the lack of financial and estate planning from my grandparents. My parents learned all of their financial habits from their parents. Subsequently, my parents were unable to contribute to my college education. I had to start my adult life from scratch as they did, except my start began with piling on student loan debt and scrambling trying to come up with funds to pay for college.

The difference between my parents and me is, I know there is a better way. I choose to be the wealth creator in my family. It wasn’t until I began working for Dinsmore and Shohl as a Legal Project Assistant that I realized there’s a way to protect one’s assets through properly creating an estate plan.

During my third week, I had a very personal conversation with my supervisor, a partner in the Corporate Tax and Estate Planning practice group. She sat Reason Why I Want to Go to Law School Brewster 2 me down and told me that I should pursue my dream in the legal field as an attorney. She then looked me in my eyes and said, “There’s definitely a need for more diversity in the legal profession, especially in estate planning, as we have had very few African American estate planning attorneys.”

After being in that position for over a year, I realized how much I really enjoyed this practice area. This is why I need to be an Estate Planning Attorney and help people learn about passing on wealth from generation to generation. I want to be able to help small businesses and individuals who cannot afford high costing attorneys by eventually starting my own practice. Being a black woman, I have a purpose to show those who look like me that wealth is a possibility.

This is a key reason that I am striving to be more than just an educated woman. Many African Americans are very educated and have high paying jobs but do not know how to pass down wealth to the next generation. I know this from experience in my own family. This is also something that I have experienced in my early adult years as well.

I graduated college a semester early, with a good GPA, and multiple internship opportunities. I also was able to volunteer and be involved on campus in several organizations such as being the treasurer of The Ohio State University African American Gospel Choir and an active member of the Black Student Association. However, none of these accomplishments mean anything if I pass nothing down to my future children and their children because no matter how educated I become, I cannot pass my diploma to my children. Similarly, many people in my family have lived decent lives, including my parents, but passed down nothing but generational debt. This is a driving force in my passion to help make a difference in helping others build wealth even if they are not rich.

2. Reason #2 to go to law school

Receiving the GJEL Law Student Scholarship of $2,000 will help me reach my career goals by helping me with the cost of books and tuition. This scholarship will help me focus more on my studies as law school has a very rigorous course load. In my undergraduate career, I worked several jobs in order to take out the least amount of loans possible, and it consumed my mind.

As I mentioned above, estate plans are crucial to wealth building, if my parents had saved money protected in a Trust fund, I would have been able to afford college and not have to rely on student loans. Being awarded this scholarship would completely change my life by releasing the huge burden of immense debt and freeing me to be able to search for internships and use my law degree to help the communities for whom I came to law school. I sincerely hope that you will consider awarding me the GJEL Law Student Scholarship.

3. Why Alexis Suib wants to go to law school

I slowly exhaled. It was the end of June. I sat in the darkened, quiet office reflecting on the place I worked as a High School Placement Advisor for the past three years. This was often the same office where I counseled students, frustrated by their lack of opportunities and not knowing what their future looked like. These students of mine had such grit and perseverance, such as a respectful young man named Anderson who was being raised by his single mother and recently had found himself homeless with the holidays approaching. Students like Anderson made me work harder and provided me the motivation to help them and advocate on behalf of them. Fueled by my students’ and families’ pain, stories and lost hope, I recognized in those moments that I needed to change the system not only for them, but for future generations of young people. When I would meet with my students and subsequently, their families, they would tell me of their frustration not knowing or understanding the system here in the United States. Many of the families I worked with were new immigrants to this country, and had overcome significant obstacles such as living in the shelter system, not knowing the language and working multiple jobs to support their families. They knew the dangers of what lurked in the shadows of their neighborhoods, with poverty and gang activities running rampant. They wanted better for their children, and thus needed someone to advocate for them.

I cannot allow injustices to continue. I myself was a product of the broken, unhinged and poorly resourced NYC public school system and as an adult having years of listening to my students’ stories, I see the same issues persist. I have made this commitment to earn a  JD so I can help advocate on behalf of all young people and families who have faced discrimination, whether from being undocumented, to not being able to access resources, to those grappling with the criminal justice system. Many of the students I have worked with over the years have become disheartened, forgotten by a system that they truly believed would afford them learning and opportunity. I care deeply about social injustices and having a law degree will enable me to revolutionize the way that these issues are approached and discussed in discourse whether in the chambers of Capitol Hill, in law firms, or on the front lines in school districts. Change is brought about through evaluating and implementing programs that will create ripple effects throughout history, and I am hopeful that through practicing the law, I am able to create necessary benchmarks and provide a voice for those who often times are voiceless in our country.

I hope to gain a greater awareness for how the law is used to support communities and how it shapes our society as a whole. My professional goals are to use the skills and knowledge that I will gain with a JD by implementing and creating safer spaces for all communities, particularly with an emphasis on the most marginalized communities.  I will be equipped to take on the most pressing inequities of our generation with a deep-set dedication to the most vulnerable of populations. I wanted to pursue a JD degree to make impactful, essential changes through our judicial system. Being afforded this scholarship would allow me to truly focus on Law School, without being encumbered by debt. I will be able to truly focus on what matters and pursue my dreams to become a lawyer dedicated to public interest and serving the needs of communities that do not have access to quality legal counsel.

4. Reasons to Go To Law School Essay by Lashae Richie

Many times have I been asked “Why do you want to be a lawyer?” To be honest becoming an attorney was not my first career choice. When I entered into college I was sure that I was going to medical school.  It took about a year and a failed biology course to realize that a becoming a doctor was not something that I was truly passionate about. I met with my pastor for advice and he told me to pray and to think about what motives me.  All I could seem to think about for the next few weeks were my grandparents and how they raised me and my sister and prevented us from going into foster care. I felt more connected to them during these few weeks than I had ever felt before. I had finally come to the realization that I wanted to advocate for families in situations that appeared hopeless. I knew that becoming a lawyer would allow me to assist people like my grandparents did us, but on a larger scale. The more I thought about it, the more I fell in love with the idea of being able to provide hope to my community. I know that getting my JD is the bridge from my current position to my desired future destiny.  It will allow my voice to be heard in a community that seems silent.  Getting my JD will allow me to fight for those who have become victims of injustice and to repay a community that has helped shape who I am today.

A goal that I have as an attorney is to make a positive impact on the image of the legal profession. I will practice with high ethical standards in hopes that I can bring honor to this profession.  I wish to make a positive and professional impression on my clients and others that I have the opportunity to work with during my career. This will be achieved by always respecting my clients and their needs. When we make a positive impression on the people that we serve, it can improve the overall image of lawyers. It is important that we show that we genuinely care about their needs and emotions and that we are not just trying to get paid. It is through these relationships that the image begins to change.

It is unfortunate that many minorities feel that the law is not on their side. Both inside and outside my community, I aspire to contribute to the dispelling of the stigma that the law is against us. I want to show that we can use the law as a tool for the advancement of our community. This can be done by educating minorities on the reasons and policies behind certain law procedures based on history and jurisprudence; through the implication of education programs throughout the community. This establishes trust between the community and the legal system. Trust is a very key factor in improving the overall image of the legal profession.

Another goal that I have, is to always be open to learning. The best way to serve my clients is to be up to date on changing laws and policies. The diligence in remaining current will pay off as it can effect the outcome of cases. As I hope to be a successful, I plan to provide opportunities for people, who have dreams of becoming attorneys. I would love to implement mentoring programs for students that would allow them to take a peek into our professional lives.  This can help to improve the image by eliminating deep-rooted stereotypes of attorneys.  I believe that my main goal of being able to provide help to people will be accomplished through becoming an attorney.

5. Reasons to Go To Law School Essay by Kelsey Ruszkowski

Over twenty years ago my parents were struck by a drunk driver; the accident left my mom permanently disabled. She was no longer able to work, which was especially difficult given that me and my two sisters had just been born (we are triplets). It was not until many years later I realized the difficulties that came with a disabled parent. The other driver only had the minimum insurance coverage, so my dad had to work longer hours to make up for my mom’s lost income. He normally worked night shifts and slept little just so he could see my family. I now recognize the constant pain my mom is in, not only from her injury but from her torment over her inability to support my family financially. Unfortunately, my mom has since been in another accident.

The accident was minor but jolted her back just enough to make a potential back surgery, which ran the risk of paralysis, no longer possible. Her pain is worse since the second accident and she no longer has an adequate means to manage her pain. Even though it was difficult for her, my mom always did what she could to support me and my sisters. When we decided to organize a food drive in our community, she was more than happy to drive us around to all of the houses to collect donations when the donations vastly exceeded what we could fit in our small wagon. I even taught myself extreme couponing so that I could donate more to the food drive while keeping necessary items stocked at home. Now, ten years and thousands of items later, thanks to the help of both our parents the food drive has continued and thrived. Even though it meant I would not be around to help her as much, my mom has always encouraged me to continue my schooling, making me and my sisters first generation college graduates. The three of us worked part-time jobs during school at the same location so that we could share a car to drive to our University together. While my parents could not help with tuition, their encouragement and support was never lacking.

They attended numerous honor society inductions, award ceremonies, and even read my entire honors thesis. I ended up graduating summa cum laude with departmental honors in Political Science, and had minors in psychology, philosophy, and law. Additionally, I was inducted into five honor societies and won an award for academic achievement in political science. I was also the Chair of the Commuter Advocacy Board and Vice President of the Pre Law Society. After graduating undergrad, I decided to enroll in law school and was fortunate enough to be offered a fellowship conducting research on the effect of technology on legal practice. I know that attending law school is the best long-term decision I can make for the well-being of my entire family and is an opportunity I want to utilize to help others. Once I have earned my J.D., I hope to extend support to other families enduring the ramifications of a serious injury. In addition to my research fellowship, I was also offered a fellowship at the William and Mary Leadership Institute, an association geared towards creating lawyers who will be pillars in their communities.

I enjoy conducting research which aims to reform and improve the legal system. To this end, I have conducted research on remote attorney communication, juror and judicial misconduct, and recidivism assessment tools. I have also studied the use of neuroscience in the legal system and its potential to be used in personal injury cases. My own experiences with auto accidents have shown me just how far-reaching their effects can be. There are so many consequences that cannot be translated into monetary amounts or even anticipated. I want to be an attorney so that I can help any family that is in the same situation that I experienced. Additionally, I intend to protect the rights and well being of those who are suffering from an injury. For example, when the children of a person on disability turn eighteen social security decreases, regardless of whether they remain dependents or not. This is the type of problem that I aspire to fix. I hope that becoming an attorney will give me the opportunity to help ensure that the needs of those with disabilities and their families will continue to be met long after the initial accident. Once I graduate law school I plan to accomplish my goal of helping those affected by a personal injuries through legal practice at a firm and as an advocate for policy change. Those with personal injuries face other problems incidental to the initial accident such as obtaining health insurance and reasonable accommodations in the workplace. These are problems that need to be solved through future legislation or regulation. Because many damages associated with personal injuries are hard to conceptualize, advocacy is necessary to create policies which make a normal life more attainable for those with injuries.

My law degree will provide the knowledge and reasoning ability necessary for me to be an effective advocate for those suffering long-term personal injuries. During internships I had the opportunity to work on personal injury cases, such as slip and fall, products liability, and medical malpractice. Through the course of those internships I discovered a passion for personal injury practice beyond car accident cases. From living my entire life with a family member who has a permanent disability I know the effects the injury can have beyond the pain and lost wages. Like my mom, a person suffering from an injury may miss out on family outings or have difficulty completing everyday tasks like walking up stairs. I plan to use my own family’s experience with personal injury to further humanize all personal injury victims and help ensure that families affected by personal injuries truly have the lifetime relief they deserve, whether it’s in the courtroom or on Capitol Hill.

6. Reasons to Go To Law School Essay by Michael Wimberley

Like many lawyers I have met recently, I did not start out with the intention to study law. I always had an interest in studying U.S. history and American government, and from there, that interest grew into studying law. My college experience was very influential in deciding to pursue law school. When I was 13 years old, I started studying at my local community college with the goal to earn my Associate’s degree. I then took 19 units per semester for about a year and half allowing me to graduate with an A.A. and A.S. when I was 15 years old. While I was in community college, I was able to further pursue my interests in taking history and a political science class, even though those were not in my major. I then transferred to Chapman University. I further developed my interest in law during my undergraduate studies at Chapman University by pursuing classes that were of interest to me.

While I studied at Chapman, I majored in Strategic and Corporate Communication and minored in Political Science; as a result, I took a Constitutional Law course during my first semester after transferring. Taking Constitutional Law was the first of a series of events that sparked my interest in the study of law. As I continued my studies, I studied communication and delved deeper into the study of American politics and government. I came to appreciate the interdependence that law and American government have on each other. Our system of government influences the formation of law, and our laws influence the day-to-day operations of our system of government. How much the legal field impacted my life in ways I did not realize was fascinating to me. For my degree, I subsequently took Communication Law with an adjunct professor who is a practicing attorney.

I received a lot of valuable insight and advice from him regarding law school and life as an attorney which further directed me toward law school. During this time, my decision to study law arose from my day-to-day experience with law and studying it. By my senior year, I decided that this was a field that was of interest for me. Because I did not have any attorneys in my family, I used the opportunities that were available at the university to connect with practicing lawyers and learn from them. After graduation, I took off a year from school and worked at a local law firm where I gained valuable experience in the day-to-day practice of law.

My time with that firm gave me a great mentor relationship with the two partners and also gave me great insight into the virtues of being a lawyer. I continued to enjoy and observe the intersection that law had with everyday life and I saw first-hand through that lawyers that I worked for, that one can make a positive impact on society and on people’s lives in this field. These series of events unfolded into a journey for me that has led to the rewarding study of law. In our American form of government, the rule of law has been a staple in our government and everyday lives. A big inspiration for me during my studies, is to know that studying law will not only make me a better citizen, it will allow me to be of service to others, and allow me the opportunity to actively take part in protecting (as quoted from our pledge of allegiance) “liberty and justice for all.”

7. Reasons to Go To Law School Essay by Melanie Griffin

Since my genesis, there were two stigmas attached directly to my crown: being black and being a woman. For me, success requires a greater effort to be attained. My understanding of this complex notion came into full circle when I entered college. Getting accepted into the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) was an accomplishment within itself, but what I did within the realm of four years would help shape my future. My desire for black excellence was for the slaves who endured the unforgiving lashes of a whip merely for doing what you are doing, reading. It was for the slaves who challenged the social constructs that crippled their identity because they knew in 2018 my existence would be a force to be reckoned with. It was for my grandmother who survived the abhorrent effects of the Civil Rights Movement blocks away from Central High-School. Most importantly it was for the black girl who wanted to bleach her skin and reconstruct her negro nose in 7th grade.

Entering college generated new opportunities for me. No longer did I want to allow life to move forward without me. Over the course of four years I joined Minority Mentorship Program, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Greek Judicial Board and the Student Government Association (SGA). I held positions such as the Treasurer and President of the NAACP chapter at UCA, and the Liberal Arts Representative for SGA. As a student at a predominately white institution in the south, the importance of diversity and inclusion is omnipresent. In 2016, I was both the president of NAACP and a member of Greek Judicial Board.

The importance of my involvement in both organizations was further stressed than when our institution was embarrassed by a black face incident. As a leader of an organization who nationally handles blatant ignorance cases like this, it was important for our organization to use the incident as an opportunity. An opportunity to not only educate the student body about the history black face, but to make sure such incidents never occurred again. There was an apparent need for organizations at UCA to bridge the gaps that separated its diverse communities. This reconnection would help debunk the miseducation of students who were content with the idea of black face, or those who watched quietly in the shadows. Following the incident, we held programs not only on campus but in the communities surrounding our institution to educate about a race so easily forgotten.

As my junior year ended, I began to realize I had the achievements and the platform to leave a lasting mark on campus. I became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, I spoke at meetings regarding the future of our campus, and I attended conferences representing the minority. Nevertheless, I wanted more. Spring 2018 I had the privilege of completing an academic internship at The National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. I was stationed in the Education and Public Programs department. I gracefully worked under the Archivist of the United States, casually passed by Michelle Obama in Georgetown, flew kites in the annual kite festival, and baked Ethiopian dishes with my roommates. I was experiencing life in one of the most diverse districts in the world. Every day at work I passed the documents that undeniably molded the future of this country.

As I gave tours in the Rotunda focusing the three charters of the United States, I knew there were important lessons to be learned. First, the amendments that were created and ratified were designed to protect and enhance our lives as citizens. Second, lawyers were established to study the laws that govern our nation and protect those same citizens. Most importantly, the sixth amendment granted legal counsel for all criminal proceedings, essentially giving lawyers their essence. The founding fathers created the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to provide security and reasoning to our nation. The amendments were made to grow just as the United States grew.

As a historian, we are taught to think critically about the events that occurred years before. We have studied key players in historical movements such as Thurgood Marshall, the first African American elected to U.S. Supreme Court and Charlotte E. Ray, the first African American woman to become a lawyer in the United States. These players have elegantly paved the way for our existence, but the fight is unyielding. We live in one of the most heterogeneous nations on earth, and despite our richness in diversity law is the least diverse profession consisting of only 11% African Americans and 46% Women. Imagine the percentage that the African American Woman occupies. The need for black lawyers to defend black citizens in both criminal and civil matters in America is at an all-time high. I intend to join the elite group of black lawyers, using their knowledge for the target goal of equality. The same equality is promised in the Declaration of Independence, 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments.

Author Photo

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Since 1972 he has been helping seriously injured victims throughout northern California fight & win their personal injury cases. Andy is one of the top awarded & recognized wrongful death lawyers in northern California.