INTERVIEW: LAUREN ALTUS ’17, PENN LAW 2L

The graphic image of Lady Justice, blindfolded and holding the weights of justice.

Lauren Altus is from Hewlett, NY where she lived her whole life. She attended Hewlett High school where she was involved with the school newspaper, literary magazine, and cheerleading. Lauren graduated from high school in 2013 and went straight to Johns Hopkins University.

She applied as an English major but quickly decided to be a Writing Seminars major and English minor. Having the opportunity to write stories and poems all day, really working on a craft and getting feedback and getting better at it didn’t feel like school at all but just something she was so lucky to have the opportunity to do. Lauren originally thought she wanted to be a writer or go into the publishing industry. She also considered going for an MFA in creative writing because she loved the writing seminars program at Hopkins so much.

Lauren toyed with the idea of going to law school but didn’t think about it seriously until her senior year. She knew she wanted a career in which she physically went to work every day, and one in which she could be challenged and her coworkers would be passionate about their day to day tasks. Lauren wanted to love her job as much as she loved her favorite classes at Hopkins. She also wanted to have the power to help people and advocate for clients. The 2016 election was the ultimate impetus that made her feel like she should educate herself on how to advocate for others.

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

A typical day as a 1L entails a 9 am class, a 10:30 class, a break for lunch and usually one or two more classes. First year students are on a block schedule, which is nice because everyone can eat lunch together and everyone really feels like they’re in it together. When I finished class for the day I would usually go to the library for a couple of hours, go home make dinner and then try to do a little more studying. Everyone finds a different balance that works for them, but because the days can feel long I liked to be in bed early and made sure to put all work away by 10 pm in order to get a good night’s sleep. Everyone at Penn is really friendly and nice to each other so I made a great group of friends, we usually do one or two fun things on the weekend especially at the beginning of the semester.

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 class so far has been Reproductive Rights and Justice, which I took in the Spring of my first year. I have always been a feminist and advocate for women’s rights. On the first day of class, Professor Dorothy Roberts told us that reproductive rights are so much larger than the right to choose, and I felt so lucky and excited for the opportunity to have my mind opened to scenarios I hadn’t otherwise considered.

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

I sincerely believe Penn is the best law school you can go to in this country. I’m from the New York area, and most of my friends are in NYC now. For me, I think it would have been hard having my family and friends nearby while also going through such a big transition. Instead, all of my law school friends moved to Philly for law school. As a result, we were all ready to forge strong friendships and help each other instead of simply seeing each other in class and then returning to our “real” lives. In addition, with our small class size I think Penn really encourages collegiality. You can’t learn the law by yourself, you need people to talk out complicated concepts with you, so it’s important for many reasons to feel close with your class. Finally, I just finished the OCI (on campus interview) process. Penn has incredible employment stats, so I don’t feel like I gave anything up by leaving NY for school. I’ll be returning to NY this summer and hopefully when I graduate, and so will the majority of my friends. Our education and career prospects are so strong, and I think our quality of life is as good as it can get.

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?

At Hopkins, I was an editor of J.Magazine, the literary magazine, I was the student organizer and host of Lit Barn, the open mic reading series, and I was the Chief Marketing Officer of Kappa Alpha Theta. I like to think law schools know that Hopkins students work very hard. I don’t think there’s anything in particular we need to do to “look good for law school” in terms of a major or activity, but I think getting involved on campus certainly doesn’t hurt.

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 took one year off in between Hopkins and Penn, in which I was an intern at Sanctuary for Families, a nonprofit organization that provides resources to victims of gender violence. I only planned on taking a year off so I felt like I wanted to take that time to do something good and helpful. I also think it was a little bit different than what other people do in their gap years which may or may not have been helpful.

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

It’s kind of like how we think of college before getting there. It’s hard, but there are support systems and we figure it out. Everything in life is a transition.

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?

Pursue your passions. Don’t worry about taking classes or joining clubs or reading books because you think that will make you look good as a law school applicant. Just do what makes you happy because a passionate applicant/student is the best one a law school can hope for.

Contact Information

Lauren is happy to answer questions and is reachable by email at laltus@pennlaw.upenn.edu

Tags: , , ,