Aiming to make a legal education less intimidating for first-generation law students, James Harris L'19 and Dan Walsh L'20 created "Law School Crucible" with interviews showcasing the many ways the Elon Law community defines success.
Two Elon Law students, both the first in their families to pursue a graduate education, have launched a podcast to share with audiences how several Elon Law faculty and staff members define success – and their advice for achieving it in law school.
James Harris L’19 and Daniel Walsh L’20 created “Law School Crucible” as part of their work with the Alliance of Legal Pioneers and Supporters, formerly known as First-Generation Legal Professionals & Allies, an Elon Law student group that promotes academic achievement, fosters a community of inclusiveness, and encourages both professional and personal growth.
The duo produced three episodes now available for download through iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Stitcher, with more in the editing process. Each episode is about 30 minutes.
They’ve talked with Elon Law deans. Professors. Staff members. Even practicing attorneys, including Toussaint Romain, a former public defender who gained national prominence in 2016 as a community activist following a fatal officer-involved shooting in Charlotte.
“When I got here, a big thing was figuring out what ‘success’ is, what it means,” Harris said. “What I’ve found is that everyone has a different definition and different views on what it looks like.”
Harris and Walsh note that all law school students face challenges. For those who are the first in their families to attend law school or, more broadly, graduate school, there are added complexities. Family members don’t always appreciate the amount of time required for studying, and professional networks often need to start from scratch.
Then there’s the “impostor syndrome,” Walsh said, the self-doubt that gives the sense of not having the tools to succeed in class.
“Impostor syndrome, for me, is the feeling that I am ‘faking it,’” said Walsh, a former paralegal for a Winston-Salem law firm with the professional goal of litigating civil cases. “I am completely faking all of it, and someone is going to call me out on it, and that will be the end. You feel like you don’t belong here, and others haven’t yet figured out that you don’t belong.”
“Law School Crucible” attempts to counter those feelings by reaching current and prospective students with the personal stories of professors and lawyers. At the same time, Harris and Walsh said, the podcast humanizes those who teach at Elon Law. Stories reveal to listeners how faculty and staff once grappled with the same fears as today’s students.
“I want to encourage younger generations to consider law school overall but specifically Elon Law,” said Harris, who knew as a child that he wanted to be an attorney and has applied to the JAG Corps in various military branches. “I also want people to understand that success comes in many forms and shapes, but no matter how you define it, you need to figure out how to achieve it.
“We all have privilege, being in law school, but we don’t understand how huge it is to be here. I want people to be aware of it and appreciate that.”
About Elon Law:
Elon University School of Law in Greensboro, North Carolina, is the preeminent school for engaged and experiential learning in law. With a focus on learning by doing, it integrates traditional classroom instruction with course-connected, full-time residencies-in-practice in a logically sequenced program of transformational professional preparation. Elon Law’s groundbreaking approach is accomplished in 2.5 years, which provides distinctive value by lowering tuition and permitting graduates early entry into their legal careers.