An interview with Sara Qi- a 1L student from the Juris Doctor (JD) program at the University of California Berkeley, School of Law
By Cathy Liu
To provide more relevant information for students who are doing a non-law degree but desire to enter the legal industry or conduct further studies in the legal field, we decided to run a series of interviews with law students at graduate school, trainees from various law firms and attorneys specializing in different legal branches.
Cathy Liu, the new blog editor of UCL Law For All Society, with Sara Qi, conducted the first interview of this series of interviews. Sara is a 1L student in the three-year JD program at the University of California Berkeley School of Law. Juris Doctor, also known as Doctor of Jurisprudence, is a graduate-entry professional law degree. Since there is no undergraduate professional law degree in the USA, law practitioners in the USA usually hold a JD as the standard degree to practice law.
University of California, Berkeley, School of Law is a renowned and prestigious law school, ranking 10th in the US News Best US Law Schools 2023-2024. Sara enthusiastically shared her experience in transition to the legal field, her application experience, and her current life at law school. If you are considering going to law school after finishing undergraduate studies or entering the legal field, you will get some insights from the following interview with Sara.
Academic experiences before entering Law school:
-At the undergraduate level, Sara majored in film and media studies and East Asian studies at Emory University. Her work experience at the New Zealand Parliament spurred her to enter the legal field:
"I worked in the New Zealand Parliament for a Summer Internship, and I got to see how much of an impact law could
have on people's lives. As regular people, we don't feel that
impact until we are in the environment. You see how lawmakers accommodate different people's needs, and I guess that sparked my interest."
How did undergraduate academic experiences help you apply to law school and prepare for law school studies?
-Sara stated that majoring in humanity-related subjects shaped her personality and academically prepared her for law school studies:
"I think I'm a pretty creative person, and I made a lot of scripts and stuff. One thing that needs to be done in a law school application is that you gotta write a bunch of personal statement essays. So being creative for sure helped me a lot."
"Coming from a humanity background, I am accustomed to doing a lot of readings and dissecting a paragraph. I think that quite prepared me."
Do you have any suggestions on improving reading and writing skills for future law students?
-Sara clarified the difference between essay writing at undergraduate level and legal writing at law schools:
'Different from the essays you write at the undergrad level, It doesn't require much analysis and stuff like that, it is more like research and then use supporting evidence for whatever claim you are trying to make for your client. The writing itself is pretty straightforward. You do not need to use any sort of hard vocabs, your job is to make sure that your writing is so straightforward that a partner of your law firm is able to understand your standpoint."
-Sara also gave some suggestions on improving reading skills and demystified the horribleness of readings at law school:
"We do have a lot of readings, but it wasn't as shocking to me because I do a lot of reading on my own. I read so much before attending law school, which helped me get used to it. And law school readings can be pretty interesting because they are all about law cases. It is not that horrible, at least at UC Berkeley."
Extracurricular and internship experiences before entering law school:
How did your internship experience prepare you for law school?
-Sara highlighted work ethics and pressure-management skills cultivated from her extracurricular activities and her internship at the New Zealand Parliament:
"It is less about my internships but more about my work ethic. I worked hard. I joined a bunch of stuff, and I just understand what it means to have work ethic and to work hard. My experience at the New Zealand Parliament, that's something super pressured, so that also compelled me to get used to being under pressure all the time at law school."
-Sara also pointed out the uniqueness of US law schools:
"We don't have undergrad majors in law, and they don't expect to go with any sort of like legal experience. They need to see your dedication to the field you are interested in. That is more important than just doing a random internship at a law firm for one summer."
How tough was the LSAT (Law School Admission Test)?
-Sara weighed the psychological challenges of the LSAT:
"It was for sure more like mental training, and you can do already well in one practice, and the next one, you just completely bombed it. It is more about believing in yourself and keeping going. That's the most important thing compared to how hard it is."
What makes a good personal statement for a law school application?
-Sara stated the importance of originality and emphasis on "self":
"The most important thing for personal statements, you know, it's pretty much a marketing campaign for yourself. Instead of talking about other people's experience, it's more about how you are involved in that experience."
Current life at law school:
How do you feel about the workloads and pressures at law school so far?
-Sara emphasized the importance of time management at law school:
"UC Berkeley is on the West Coast where classmates are chill, so honestly, professors know that they don't want us to be overworked. So the workload is not horrible."
"But we have like midterms and extracurriculars and stuff like that, so all of them together can pull up the pressure. So you need to be able to be good at time management."
How are the class structure and study mode different from your undergraduate experience?
-Sara pointed out the different atmospheres at undergraduate school and law school:
"At undergrad, the professor spent the first couple of classes to get to know you and do icebreaking. But they go straight in at law school and treat you as colleagues."
-Sara also talked a bit about the renowned "cold call" at UC Berkeley:
"We can sign up for a day that we want to be cold called…She would randomly call on people from their assigned days… That's pretty different from undergrad, but honestly, it's not something so horrible like what you will see on the internet. At least at Berkeley, it's chill."