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INTERVIEW: ABIGAIL SIA ’15, FORDHAM LAW 2L

A close-up of a gavel and the weights of justice.

Abigail Sia is a Long Island native and a current 2L student at Fordham University School of Law in New York City. She is the first in her family to pursue a graduate degree. At Hopkins, Abigail double-majored in International Studies and East Asian Studies and minored in Economics. Outside of the classroom, Abigail was involved with the JHU Politik, the Johns Hopkins Model United Nations Conference, Alpha Phi Omega, and the Hopkins Symphony Chamber Orchestra. In 2013, she worked as a summer research assistant to Professor Earle Havens and co-authored a chapter on the Garrett Library at the Evergreen Museum. Abigail spent the Fall 2013 semester studying abroad at Sciences Po’s Europe-Asia campus in Le Havre, France. In 2014, Abigail was a summer intern at the U.S. State Department and also a Council of American Ambassadors International Affairs Fellow. Abigail graduated from Hopkins in December 2014 but is a proud member of the Class of 2015.

Between Hopkins and Fordham Law, Abigail worked as a corporate paralegal at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP in New York City for nearly three and a half years. She was part of a specialized practice group that focused on private equity funds and hedge funds. Abigail also had the chance to work with several pro bono clients, including a South African foundation focused on increasing education opportunities for underprivileged youth and an individual seeking asylum in the United States.

At Fordham Law, Abigail is a staff member of the Fordham Law Review and a recipient of the 2018-2019 Fordham Legal Writing Award. She works as a research assistant, serves on the executive boards of both the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association and Fordham First Generation Students, serves as a Peer Advisor for 1L students, gives tours to prospective students, and is also an active member of Fordham Law Women. When she finds spare time, she enjoys spending time outdoors, playing couch Jeopardy!, and completing the New York Times crossword puzzle.

Describe a typical day as a law student at Fordham Law.

Fordham 1Ls in the day program have class 5 days a week. Typically, morning classes start anywhere from 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM and go until 11:00 AM or 12:30 PM; afternoon classes tend to start around 2:00 PM and usually end by 4:00 PM. Your 1L schedule is pre-determined for you, and you generally have 1 or 2 classes a day. 1L students usually fill the time between and after classes reading, outlining, and preparing for class. There are opportunities to get involved in student groups, but most groups here try to make the time commitment as low as possible for 1Ls because 1L year is probably the most important year of law school in terms of academic performance.

As a 2L or 3L, you have a lot more flexibility and variability in your schedule. This semester, my classes are still during normal “business hours” so I usually get to school by 9:00 or 10:00 AM. Unless I’m staying late for a specific event or activity, I usually leave campus by 4:30 to commute back home to Long Island. Some of my friends intern two days a week, so they try to stack their classes on certain days or try to pick only evening classes. A significant number of 2L and 3L classes are also offered in the evening, so you might get to school later in the day and leave later in the evening. You also have the opportunity to get much more involved in journals, competition teams, and student organizations as an upperclassman.

Overall, regardless of class year, we tend to treat a law school day like working a full-time job. Once we get to school, we generally stay on campus all day until all of our classes, meetings, or events are over. In between classes, you can find most of us in the library or other various study spots around campus.

To date, what has been your favorite law school class, and why? What classes are you looking forward to taking after your first year of law school?

I really enjoyed my Constitutional Law class last year. My professor was brilliant and incredibly engaging. Con Law offered the chance to reexamine so many cases that I first learned about in my high school U.S. History class. Of all my classes, Con Law touched on international affairs and international law the most, which made this former International Studies major very happy. This semester, I’m enjoying my Corporations and US Foreign Relations Law classes (the latter with my former Con Law professor).

I’m really looking forward to taking more corporate-themed courses (e.g., Introduction to the Deal, Fundamentals of Private Equity Fund Formation, Mergers & Acquisitions, Commercial Drafting) because I plan to be a transactional attorney once I graduate from law school. I also hope to take classes in international law, cybersecurity, and national security law. I plan to participate in a clinic as well either next semester or next year!

What made you choose Fordham Law? What do you see as the primary pros and cons of law school?

I chose Fordham primarily for its strength in the New York market and also based on an intangible feeling. I knew I wanted to stay in New York for law school and ultimately practice in New York. Fordham has a great reputation in New York and an incredibly strong alumni network; Fordham also gave me a very generous merit scholarship. As for that intangible feeling, it first arose after attending Fordham’s Admitted Students Day. I visited a couple of other law schools before and after finding out I had been admitted to Fordham, and I felt pretty neutral about attending school at those places. After visiting Fordham, I had this gut feeling that I would be really happy at Fordham. This same feeling steered me towards Hopkins back in 2011, so I had to listen to it for law school. I chose Fordham and haven’t regretted it for a second!

I think the pros of law school include the legal education and training itself, the countless opportunities that a legal education can open up for you, and the network that you get to build while in law school. Law school teaches you to be a really analytical thinker and a sharp writer.

It’s also really fun to be around a lot of motivated, driven, law-minded people. My law school peers are some of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and it’s a privilege to be able to learn alongside them.

I think the cons of law school are the cost, the three years you spend out of the workforce (unless you attend as a part-time student), and the stress. Law school is expensive, and if you go to school in an urban area then your living costs will be pretty significant too. Law school is also stressful! You spend a lot of time reading and preparing for class, and you have to begin studying for finals at least a month out. Also, grades are incredibly important for the job hunt, and your grade in almost every class will hinge almost exclusively on one final exam – no midterms! All that being said, Fordham students are really supportive of each other, so you never feel like you’re doing it all alone.

What types of undergraduate opportunities did you pursue that led to your decision to apply to law school? Were there any experiences that you felt were particularly helpful in strengthening your application to law school?

As an undergraduate I never really considered going to law school. I thought I wanted to get a master’s degree in international affairs from SAIS or another similar school, so all of the opportunities I pursued were with an eye towards that type of program. It wasn’t until I had spent a few years at Paul, Weiss that I realized law school was the path for me.

What did you pursue during your interim year(s)/before beginning law school, while in law school and during your law school summer(s)? How did you go about researching these opportunities?

Before law school I spent nearly three and a half years working as a corporate paralegal at Paul, Weiss as part of a specialized practice group. I found this opportunity through the Career Center portal (back then it was J-Connect), where I learned that Hopkins was participating in a career fair in New York City over winter break. Paul, Weiss was attending the career fair (the firm did not recruit directly from Hopkins at that point) and I was starting to expand my job search to include law firms, so I sent an application. There happened to be a vacancy in the private funds group, which I could fill immediately because I had graduated in December and moved back to New York. I had several rounds of interviews, and the rest is history.

I spent the summer between 1L and 2L interning with a federal magistrate judge in the Southern District of New York. A lot of rising 2Ls spend the summer interning for a judge, and the Fordham Career Planning Center has this process down to a science. I carried out a direct mail campaign to over 70 federal judges, had a few interviews, and ultimately accepted one. Aside from interning with the judge, I also worked as a research assistant for one of my professors this summer – she had emailed our entire class over spring break saying that she was looking for research assistants, so I sent an application and she offered me the position. My research with her has continued into this semester as well.

Next summer, I’ll be returning to Paul, Weiss as a Summer Associate. I applied through the On-Campus Interview recruiting process, which is where law firms come to Fordham and interview candidates at the school.

How would you compare the reality of law school to the picture you had of it while an undergraduate?

Because I wasn’t thinking about law school as an undergrad, I didn’t have a mental picture of law school beyond it involving a lot of reading. That has turned out to be completely true!

Do you have any advice for an undergraduate interested in pursuing law school and a career in law given your experience as a current law student?

I strongly believe that anyone considering law school should try to work in a legal position (e.g., a paralegal or a legal assistant) for a few years before applying. It doesn’t matter where – law firm, non-profit, government, or in-house, to name a few options. I probably wouldn’t be in law school if I didn’t work for a few years! Everyone’s situation is different, of course, but working in a legal capacity can help you figure out if law school is really the right move for you. I think you should have a solid reason for embarking on the law school journey; unfortunately, I think too many people go to law school because they don’t know what else to do and they generally end up being really unhappy at school. Law school is stressful enough without being unhappy!

Working as a paralegal or legal assistant can also help you figure out what attorneys actually do, and from there you can make an informed decision as to whether you want a career like that. Working can also make you a more convincing candidate when you start looking for your post-law school job. And finally, you can build up a network of professional contacts (who have probably all been through law school too) who can lend you support and advice and help you land a job!

Contact Information: Abigail is happy to answer any questions, and you can connect to her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/abigail-sia-91442411b/.

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