INTERVIEW: ALI ARMAN, 1L, CORNELL LAW SCHOOL

Ali Arman hails from Walnut Creek, California. During her middle and high school years, she discovered a passion for political advocacy and social justice, which lead to her major in Gender and Women’s Studies at UC Berkeley. While at Berkeley, she was active in anti-sexual assault and Title IX advocacy and organizing, and held positions on Student Government and Academic Senate. She wrote an honors thesis on the sociology of charter school networks before graduating cum laude in 2014.

After Berkeley, Ali moved across the country to pursue her EdM at Harvard, where she continued her research on education policy and privatization. She moved back to Walnut Creek for a year to work in schools and apply to law school; she ended up at Cornell, where she holds leadership positions on Moot Court, the Women’s Law Coalition, and the American Constitution Society. She is also working with LawNY, Tompkins County’s legal aid provider, to match law students with clients seeking uncontested divorces.

Describe a typical day as a law student/1L at Cornell Law School.

Being a 1L is a lot like being in middle school: you spend all day with your Section. A typical 1L day at CLS is spent in class, which starts around 9 and finishes around 4. In between, most of your time is taken up reading and preparing for class. At a small school like Cornell, there are a lot of opportunities to get close to your classmates; on weekends, we often make time to relax between readings and other obligations. We also spend time attending club meetings, lectures, and getting ready for Moot Court and Mock Trial competitions in the spring. I also made time to call my mom almost every day to remind me of life outside of Ithaca.

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?

My favorite classes have been Constitutional Law, First Amendment Law, and Feminist Jurisprudence. Outside of traditional classes, I’ve particularly enjoyed my time in the Family Law and Child Advocacy clinics. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the Cornell Legal Aid clinics, including the new First Amendment and Media clinic coming next fall.

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

I chose Cornell because of the opportunities here for feminist and family law. Because we’re located in rural Tompkins County, we have a lot of opportunities to serve children and families through our Legal Aid Clinic. That’s one of the big pros of law school: being able to serve real people. One of the downsides of law school, particularly Cornell and the other T14s, is the focus on corporate law.

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?

In addition to my Master’s degree, I think my involvement in student government and community organizing was an asset to my application. I also had a clear vision for what I wanted to do during and after law school, which I think helped as well.

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?

I always knew I wanted to work in education policy and law, so my choice to go to graduate school was clear. I spent my 1L summer at OneJustice, a legal aid organization in San Francisco. I found that opportunity through the Public Interest office at my school. My second summer will be spent at East Bay Community Law Center, which I found through the recommendation of my supervisor at OneJustice.

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

I underestimated how isolated I’d feel, and how difficult it would be to pursue something other than Big Law. CLS is a feeder school for Big Law, and that can be hard, especially because a lot of the values and personalities that come to law school to go to Big Law can be hard to get along with. Still, once I remembered why I came to law school, it got easier to cut through all the noise; now that I’ve found my “corner of the sky” in public interest.

Do you have any advice for an undergraduate interested in pursuing law school and a career in law given your experience in today’s legal market and now as a current law student?

I think the most important thing is to go to law school because you want to be a lawyer, not because it sounds like a good next step or because it sounds prestigious. Once you’ve made that commitment and decided what you want to do as a lawyer and why, the work will be worth it.

Contact Information:

Ali Arman is happy to answer questions or offer guidance and is reachable by email at: afa54@cornell.edu.

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