Carnegie Mellon University
March 14, 2022

Pre-Law Program Opens Doors for CMU Students

By Marissa Pekular

The Carnegie Mellon University Pre-Law Program housed in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences is a valuable resource for students and alumni who are considering pursuing a law degree. The program provides students with mentorship and networking opportunities, advising sessions and access to a wealth of information regarding the pre-law track.

“What I find most exciting is watching the students’ discovery process in finding their way to law school as an option after undergraduate studies,” said Joseph Devine, the associate dean for undergraduate studies in the Dietrich College. “They come to it from many directions.”

Navigating the law school application process can be overwhelming for undergrad students, especially for those who may be pursuing a degree outside pre-law. The Pre-Law Program provides students with the resources they need to simplify the application process and facilitates the transition into law school.

“[Students have] access to information and advice about the law school application process and law school in general,” Devine said. [They have] access to each other as part of a networking exercise, [and] access through the network to activities and events that the Pre-Law Society, a national student organization, promotes.”

kim-800x800-min.jpegSarah Kim (MCS 2021) graduated with a degree in chemistry and a minor in politics and public policy. She is currently in her first year at Columbia Law School. While at CMU, Kim took advantage of the Pre-Law Program.

“I definitely found the panels and events hosted by the Pre-Law Society to be helpful, especially while law school was still only a possibility for me,” Kim said. “Talking to many different people gave me a better perspective on my own prospective career path in law and ultimately solidified my decision to come to law school.”

Kim is keeping herself open to any new opportunities, but she is most interested in intellectual property law in which she can utilize her background in chemistry.

“Because intellectual property law often deals with patents in specific areas of science, my chemistry background is useful in allowing me to better understand the content and application of the patented innovation,” Kim said. “In the long run, I hope that my background will allow me to expand my reach to big modern issues in technology like crypto, data privacy and more.”

The ability to fold her interests together in this unique way is, in part, a reflection of Kim’s experience at CMU. She has also emphasized how valuable the advising and support she received through student organizations, like the Pre-Law Program, was in helping her achieve her current place at Columbia Law.

“By far, Dr. Devine was the sweetest, most supportive faculty member throughout my pre-law journey,” Kim said. “I first talked to him when I began considering law school, when I knew absolutely nothing about the application process or even the legal industry. He's connected me with so many practicing attorneys and law students.”

Mahima Aggarwal, a senior studying ethics, history, and public policy, is the current president of the Pre-Law Society and through this role, she plans events, organizes meetings and conducts outreach to alumni and panelists.

“This society was a great way to bring everyone together, even if they had the slightest interest in going to law school [or] pursuing law,” Aggarwal said. “Joining the society has given me a great foundation and understanding of what it may look like if I wanted to go to law school straight after college, or whether I wanted to work for a couple of years and then go.”

Beyond networking and support, the Pre-law Program also exposes students to speakers from across the country who touch on unique aspects of the law.

prof-adam-winkler-800x800-min.jpegOn March 21, Adam Winkler, the Connell Professor of law at the UCLA School of Law, will deliver his public lecture, “Are Corporations People?” The lecture is open to all. Winkler will speak in Porter Hall 100 at 5:00 p.m. 

Winkler’s talk will be based on content from his 2018 book, “We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights.” During his talk, Winkler will discuss how corporations fought for equal rights under the Constitution throughout American history.

Devine said, “This is a very controversial topic and one that has in some ways been difficult for people to wrap their heads around — that a corporation could attain the same status as a person in a constitutional sense. I am interested in hearing the logical structure he provides to support that thought. It has been embedded in the landmark supreme court ruling that affects things like campaign funding.”

This presentation is a part of the Pre-Law Program’s annual lecture series, The Thomas M. Kerr Jr. Lecture on Law and American Society that brings speakers to the CMU campus who discuss topics related to law and American society.