November 15, 2012
If you’re looking for Ada George (’14) and she’s not in class, chances are she’s in her favorite spot, in a fifth-floor corner study room, with her papers spread out on the table.
“I’m a full-time law student. My day starts here and usually ends here,” said the St. Albans, Queens–born student.
George, who now lives in nearby Bedford-Stuyvesant, knows that working hard and commuting can go hand in hand. Before law school, she worked for Assemblyman Nelson Castro of the Bronx, traveling back and forth with him to Albany from the Bronx. As Castro’s legislative director, George saw how attorneys drafted bills and created policy that could change the lives of everyone in New York State. That’s when she realized she wanted to earn a law degree.
“If I really wanted to make a difference, I needed to understand the system better,” she said. Her mentor, Jeanine Johnson, counsel to Assemblyman Keith Wright of Harlem, advised her to apply to CUNY Law School, even though George wasn’t happy with her LSAT score. Studying had been a challenge with the Albany-to-Bronx commute.
George was accepted to some schools, but not her top choice, CUNY Law.
“I remember being so devastated,” said George. “If you want to do public interest law, you need to come to CUNY Law.”
George later received a letter from the Law School referring her to the Pipeline to Justice program, which offers a second chance at admission to excellent public interest students whose LSAT scores seem incompatible with their achievements.
Through the pipeline program, George prepared for the test at CUNY Law, took the LSAT again, and this time surpassed the program’s threshold score and got into the Law School.
“I really feel like CUNY Law chose me, instead of me choosing” the school, George said, thanks to her second chance.
CUNY Law has given her access to all kinds of experiences she did not expect to gain from law school. That includes four weeks in Chile and Argentina this past summer, studying international human rights and comparative family law.
When George returned from her time abroad, she had an internship waiting at Queens Legal Services under Cindy Katz. At the Economic Justice Unit, George got the opportunity to do client intake interviews; she put to use some of the skills she learned at CUNY Law in her first-year lawyering and legal research classes.
Now in her second year, George realizes there are many options open to her in law, if she chooses not to return to politics and policy work.
To look deeper into other legal professions, George, as president of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), wants to organize a “day-in-the-life” panel of attorneys from all walks of life, so students can be exposed to all kinds of different careers.
Whatever George decides to pursue, she feels her time at CUNY Law has been well invested, even as she watches the day become night from her perch in the fifth-floor study room.
“I’m just really grateful to CUNY for this opportunity,” she said. “It’s life-changing. I definitely feel like my eyes have been opened to things I didn’t expect coming into law school. I think it’s changing and shaping me for the better.”
– Paul Lin