Pre-Law Program at Miami University
[More People in the Spotlight.]
Drew was interviewed by former Director of Miami's Pre-Law Program, Yvette Simpson, on April 15, 2008.
YS: What is your name?
DD: Drew Thomas Dorner.
YS: What year are you?
DD: I'm a senior and I'll be leaving for law school next year.
YS: And what is your major?
DD: My major is speech communications with a specialization in rhetorical influence. It basically just means persuasion. I also have a minor in political science.
YS: What law school do you plan to attend in the fall?
DD: I just decided a couple of days ago that I'll be going to Vanderbilt Law School. I am actually very excited about it.
YS: What has been your most memorable experience as a student at Miami?
DD: As a student at Miami ... I've traveled to Europe and I've performed with one of the best musical ensembles in the country.
You know, I spent what seemed like half of my senior year and the summer before preparing for the LSAT, which was an experience in and of itself. There have been a lot of good memories of Miami. It's really difficult to name one. Do you mean my favorite memory of being a student ... or as a pre-law student?
YS: How about just being a student?
DD: I am going to cheat and name two. The first is sailing around the Greek Islands to start my Europe trip; that was a nice transition from America to Europe. We were on a sailboat with the sun beating down on us ... that was amazing. I guess the other favorite memory was performing with Glee Club. It's a fabulous organization. Essentially it's a singing fraternity and a great group of guys. We made some really great music. I really loved doing that.
YS: Let's talk about coursework. What courses have been the most beneficial for you?
DD: Definitely the law courses that I have taken. I realize that they are not law school level. You know, BLS 342 at Miami is not your standard law school Contracts course, nor is POL 353 your standard Con Law class. On the other hand, it just seems like taking these courses is going to be a huge advantage once I hit next year. I've taken First Amendment Law — actually Libel Law and Journalism Law — and that is going to translate great when I start getting into Con Law next year, especially the First Amendment stuff. Many alums have said that law school Contracts is so much easier because they've essentially taken it when they were in BLS 342. Granted, it will be a little bit harder next year and there will be more work. The same goes for POL 353. So those have all been very rewarding in terms of academics.
I think there are a lot of skills integral to being an attorney that you can pick up from Mock Trial ... from thinking on your feet, making an argument, crafting an entire case in chief, to, you know, making an objection.
YS: What activities have you participated in that you found particularly interesting considering your future plans?
DD: I'd have to start with Mock Trial. Here's a little plug for the Mock Trial Team for any pre-law students who happen to be interested in it or, any students, for that matter, since you don't even have to be pre-law. We just finished third in the nation, right behind Maryland who was the national champion and George Washington who came in second. So we were really happy with that. We were definitely an underdog but we proved ourselves at the end of the year.
I think there are a lot of skills integral to being an attorney that you can pick up from Mock Trial ... from thinking on your feet, making an argument, crafting an entire case in chief, to, you know, making an objection. A lot of us know all of the Federal Rules of Evidence now. You know, when you say 404, a lot people don't know what that means, but we all do. So. I think that Mock Trial is definitely going to be beneficial. But, at the same time, everything I did in college, from the Luxembourg trip to joining Glee Club to working with the theatre department, all of that kind of culminated into making me, hopefully, into enough of a well-rounded person to make it in the legal world.
YS: Who have been your mentors at Miami?
DD: Ooh! Excellent question. I think one of them I've taken a lot from is Ethan Sperry who directs Glee Club. I've consulted with Dr. Carolyn Haynes, Director of the Honors Program, quite a bit, and she has assisted me in the personal statement writing process. She also assisted me in choosing a law school. Heck, she's even partly responsible for the job that I have now, which has allowed me to make some amazing connections in the Honors office. So Dr. Haynes has definitely been integral. I definitely turn to those two for help.
Of course in the pre-law realm, I've definitely turned to Ms. Simpson who has been very helpful as well.
YS: [Chuckles] You didn't have to say that.
DD: I know.
I thought it was a really big deal, picking that right major that'll lead you down that perfect path ... But, that's not the case at all ... many people, you know, choose a major that has nothing to do with what they end up really doing.
YS: What has been your greatest obstacle here at Miami?
DD: My greatest obstacle was choosing what I wanted to study. I thought it was a really big deal, picking that right major that'll lead you down that perfect path ... you know, you need to study this to get to this. But, that's not the case at all. For anybody who is confused about picking a major ... I heard this statistic as a tour guide: 80% of undergraduates change their major at some point. This means that 80% of people come in and they think their minds are made up but they're not. In addition to that, many people, you know, choose a major that has nothing to do with what they end up really doing. Well, look at me for example. I'm studying Communications. Is that going to be my degree? No. Communications will be a facet of what I do, but it certainly is not going to be the only thing. I'd say, unless you are going into medicine or accounting or something like that, where you are learning the job right here, it doesn't particularly matter. My biggest obstacle was getting over that. I thought it was such a big deal to choose a major. When I finally realized it wasn't, I decided to pursue something I'd be good at, get a high GPA, and that, in turn, will enable me to get into a pretty good law school.
YS: What has been your greatest accomplishment?
DD: Oh, God. I don't know. I am not sure that I have accomplished that much. I feel like I've had a good four years at Miami and I've gotten a lot done. I've certainly met a lot of people ... certainly forged some lifelong bonds with people ... bonds that I hope will continue as life progresses. I'd like to think that I've secured a pretty good future at least for the next three years, in terms of being a pre-law student.
I think having the opportunity to go to Vanderbilt or possibly another very good law school is pretty good. You know, about half the people who apply to law school don't even get the chance to go and, knowing that, the fact that I get to go to a place like Vandy that is going to treat me great — they bring in 400 employers for 200 graduates every year — knowing something like that is good. It makes me feel like I have accomplished something.
The fact of the matter is, looking back on my background and the way I work and the way I function, I really can't think of anything else that would fit me more than the field of law. I enjoy communicating. I enjoy giving advice and counsel to others.
YS: When did you decide to pursue a career in law?
DD: I had always had the inkling that I would go into law, for the longest time ... but probably in my sophomore year is when it really started sinking in. Certainly during my freshman year of college I had thoughts about pursuing law ... and maybe even back in high school. The fact of the matter is, looking back on my background and the way I work and the way I function, I really can't think of anything else that would fit me more than the field of law. I enjoy communicating. I enjoy giving advice and counsel to others. I will learn to enjoy doing research [chuckles]. I think it's just something that's going to fit me. As I learned more about myself — and college is the best time to do that — I learned that law was probably the field for me and that feeling just became stronger and stronger until I got to the end of my junior year, and I said to myself "Yep, it's time to take the LSAT; it's time to go forward with this; let's spend the next three years of my life getting a J.D."
YS: What are you most anticipating about law school?
DD: I anticipate a very big workload and I anticipate meeting some excellent people. Vanderbilt invited accepted students down to get a feel for the school. I'd never felt more home on a college campus on a first visit. I feel very at home at Miami, of course, and it's going to be terrible to leave but, you know, I felt so accepted and welcome at Vandy. And that's really a big deal. I am excited about the community there and the education that I'm going to get, because it is an excellent university. So I'm looking forward to that.
I'm not so much looking forward to an increased workload. It's going to be a lot of work. We've all heard plenty of horror stories by now about that first year of law school. I know you went through it. So that's not going to be easy but I look forward to the challenge. I'm also not looking forward to taking out a lot of student loans now, but I guess that just kind of goes along with the process and, so, it's a necessary evil.
Don't go to law school unless you're sure you want to do it ... In addition to that, study hard for the LSAT ... Start your personal statement early.
YS: What advice would you give to underclassmen who are considering law school?
DD: First of all, know that you want to go to law school. Don't go to law school unless you're sure you want to do it ... that you want to make that at least part of your career ... because it's going to be a very trying process. It's not an easy thing. Unless you are passionate about it; unless you have that drive and desire to pursue it; just make sure it's what you want to do.
In addition to that, study hard for the LSAT. I know you can take it two or three times, but if you can nail it on the first shot, trust me, you are going to want to do that. Study hard for the LSAT, it's your one chance to prove yourself to an admissions committee. Also, keep that GPA up.
Start your personal statement early. It's a terrible process [big laugh]! Your personal statement is one of the hardest things you'll ever write, because you are writing about yourself. It feels vain to be writing all of these stories and anecdotes about yourself. It feels a little conceited to be writing all of these good things about yourself but you need to sell yourself to that admissions committee and make you look like the person you can be. Work hard. Know what you want to do. Set a goal for yourself and go get it.
YS: Before the Pre-Law Program started, where did you receive most of your information about law school?
DD: I did a lot of research on my own. I came in at a unique time at Miami. Half of the time when I was dead set on law school was spent without the benefit of a pre-law advisor. Then the other half was spent with a pre-law advisor. Thankfully, the Miami Pre-Law Program started during the most important part of my undergrad career — when I was preparing for the LSAT and when I was applying to law schools. Before that, when I was trying to find my way through the maze of law schools, I did a lot of research on my own. I pulled up a lot of stuff online or, when I did need to talk with somebody, I'd consult professors who I knew had been in law school. I consulted people who had gone through the process, for example, Dr. Herron and Dr. Haughey, both Mock Trial coaches, and Dr. Forren, a former Political Science professor, now staff member, with a lot of knowledge about law school admissions. Even after the Pre-Law Program came, I've continued to consult with them.
YS: What did you find most useful about the Pre-Law Program?
DD: First, I regret that it started so late. I didn't have much of an opportunity as a sophomore or junior to make use of it, because it didn't exist. I found the help with the application process extremely helpful. You do this one time in your life. I am never going to apply to law school again, and I had never before applied to law school. I had no idea what I was doing. So having assistance in choosing law schools and writing the personal statement was definitely helpful.
[The Pre-Law programs] are already providing excellent networking connections ... I'll say this — it's lived up to my expectations; I came here and I got everything that I was looking for. Everything that I needed assistance with, I got. It was great.
YS: What suggestions do you have for developing the Pre-Law Program?
DD: It's certainly seemed like it's blossomed since it began, which is good to see. You know, many times you see a university program started and the wheels turn so slow, but it's only your first year here and the programs are already providing excellent networking connections. Just last week there was a panel of 10 young lawyers. You had a table set up at the advising fair. Outreach doesn't seem to be a problem. As long as students know about the Pre-Law Program, I almost think it is their duty to go and seek it out, you know. Seek and ye shall find. I've been happy... I'll say this — it's lived up to my expectations; I came here and I got everything that I was looking for. Everything that I needed assistance with, I got. It was great.
YS: Do you have anything else that you want to impart to those who are going to be reading this?
DD: Wow! I am at a unique period at this point. I am graduating next month and I don't want to graduate. It's just been so excellent here.
YS: You don't have to leave. You can stay [chuckles].
DD: I know, and, honestly, if I could stay and get a Master's or something, I would ... but I'm not sure I would have the financial support for that, so I'm gonna have to move on with life. I don't know, maybe my Facebook profile sums it up best, where I've written that I am making the transition from college student to adult as slowly as possible. Just because this is such an excellent time, you know. As much as I anticipate and as eager as I am to get law school and move on to the next phase of my life, I've got to enjoy my time at Miami. You've got to enjoy your undergraduate years because they are so special. And I am sure that the next three years in Nashville are going to be just as great. And I am sure that the first few years out of Nashville are going to be just as great. Enjoy what you are doing and keep looking ahead, but at the same time don't forget to live in the moment.