“And Justice for All”: Yeshiva University’s Approach to Pre-Law

By: Rachel Lelonek  |  October 19, 2017

Since the age of eleven, I knew what I wanted my career path to be. For me, there was one option and one option only: to become a lawyer. Inspired by my late grandmother’s neglect and mistreatment in a rehabilitation facility, I’ve always wanted to fight for those who couldn’t fight for themselves. I’ve wanted to represent the victims with no one to help them and I’ve wanted to right the wrongs done against them by perpetrators of the law.

Despite being a small school, Yeshiva University is known for a lot of things.  From biology and pre-med to BIMA and business, both Yeshiva College on the Wilf Campus and Stern College on the Beren Campus have strong departments and mentors to help guide the students in their future pursuits and careers. And then there’s the pre-law students. When applying to Yeshiva University, there was one requirement for me in order to achieve my dreams: a great pre-law advisor or department.

But there is one difference in the way the university treats its male and female pre-law students: they treat the Yeshiva College men well, while forgetting about the Stern College women.  Pre-law events and law school visits generally take place on the Wilf Campus during the men’s dinner hour (5:45-6:30 pm), making it extremely difficult for the women on Beren to get to the event on time or even at all.  Any events downtown on the Beren campus usually take place on Fridays, when many students have already gone home for Shabbat. There are also issues with the Pre-Law Society, being mostly vocal uptown with little representation downtown. This became such a big problem that many of the female pre-law students did not know whether or not the club was renewed on the Beren campus, and who was even supposed to represent us.

And then there’s the pre-law advisor–or lack thereof. Until recently, the Beren and Wilf campuses shared a joint pre-law advisor, who was based on the Wilf campus and spent much of her time uptown. Once or twice a month, she came downtown to assist the female students, but appointments with her were usually inconvenient because they were during classes, and the advisor generally left early in the day before Stern students had the opportunity to meet with her. For me, it got to a point where a combination of advice from Academic Advisement and lawyers at my internship were more useful than what I was hearing from the pre-law advisor.

This year, my fellow pre-law students have been more vocal about the disconnect, especially about not having a pre-law advisor on the Beren campus for everyday needs of the students. To solve this, Yeshiva University hired a pre-law advisor specifically for the Beren Campus, an academic advisor hired to help the pre-law students. There are a few  problems with this approach.  For starters, the new advisor did not go to law school (like the Wilf Campus advisor did) and does not know about the LSAT exam or what law schools in particular are looking for from applicants. Another point of concern is that the new advisor is simply an academic advisor and does not specifically cater towards the needs of pre-law students. And while the Wilf advisor will likely train the new hire to be able to assist pre-law students, that probably won’t be enough, and the new advisor might be unable to fully anticipate students’ needs due to her lack of background. I’m sure she’s a very competent in general academic advising, the field she was trained in. But not having gone to law school and not having any previous law experience makes me hesitant to trust her advice about any matters for my future career.  

The final problem which concerns me most is that students who have been previously working with the Wilf advisor but are graduating in 2018 still have to work with her, someone who is rarely on the Beren campus and hasn’t provided me much help to begin with. I respect the advisor for her career as a lawyer and for her work as a pre-law advisor, but in my experience with her, she was always running late, giving me counterintuitive suggestions and not giving me advice that I thought would genuinely benefit me.

Now a senior in college, I’m still dead-set on my desire to become a lawyer. I’ll be taking a gap year after I graduate to study for my LSAT exam and to make some extra money to save up for the hefty expense of three years of law school. And yet, I have one more year in Stern, one where I’ll be needing more help from Academic Advisement and my internship than I would have liked because the assets I require are not on the Beren campus, from visiting law schools to Pre-Law Society events to pre-law advisors. Was YU everything I thought it would be? Well, no; some things have been much better than I expected and some things have not.  But in the case of pre-law resources at Stern, I’ve been increasingly stunted in my growth and I’m tired of sitting back and allowing the university step on the Beren pre-law women.  While I may not yet be a lawyer, this is my way of fighting for myself and my peers, my way of giving voice to those wronged.