Looking back at her first year in law school, Crystal Cole describes a supportive community of faculty, staff and upper-division students. Despite what she had heard about going to law school, during her time at Golden Gate she never felt like she was on her own. We, in turn, are impressed with this ambitious woman's role as long-time mentor of underprivileged youth and her goal of using her law degree to empower others through awareness of their legal rights.
Background before law school:
After attending Spelman College in Atlanta, Crystal moved to the Bay Area to work for Wells Fargo. Although she enjoyed the work, she is most proud of her many years of involvement with a non-profit organization called BUILD that pairs youth from under-resourced communities with mentors who help them excel in education, community leadership, and professional development. Crystal has served as a mentor to underprivileged children for as long as she can remember, even when she herself was still a child! This fall all four of her mentees from Oakland High School went on to attend college. Crystal also shared with me that she was raised in a small town outside of Houston called LaMarque, Texas. A little internet research revealed that Crystal shares her hometown with U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Clearly this is a town that produces powerful women. Decision to go to law school. Crystal always knew that she would apply to law school and become a lawyer. Not only was she advised to make good use of her "big mouth" and "love of talking," she knew that a law degree would allow her to use her training to empower others. Although she had initially intended to pursue traditional public interest positions after graduation, her recent summer internship at Gap Inc. has persuaded her to explore other areas of practice including intellectual property and employment litigation.
Law school experience:
Crystal was surprised to discover that faculty, staff and upper-year students provided so much encouragement and positive energy during her first year of law school. Despite what she had heard, she never felt like she was on her own. She has also found that law school has made her more confident; particularly as she is able to help others become aware of their legal rights.
Source of motivation and support:
Crystal's family members, including her fiance, are her biggest fans and supporters. She explained to me that because her family struggled while she was growing up, she is intensely motivated to create a better life for herself, her extended family and eventually her own children. Her faith is very important to her as well, and she and her fiance are trying to find more time in their busy lives to go to church.
When not at law school:
Crystal did not hesitate for one second when I asked her this question. Her enthusiastic response: "Shop!! Oh, and try new restaurants."
Advice for fellow law students:
Crystal was ready with a notepad and pen the minute we started brainstorming possible leads for her job search, and this former LCS counselor was duly impressed. Her advice to law students (which I heartily endorse) was as follows: Get involved with student groups and be active on campus. Learning how to work with your fellow students to plan events and help each other succeed is good training for the realities of life as a lawyer. Network! Network! Network! And then figure out how to use that network most effectively.
If not in law school right now, what would you be doing?
Crystal would be enrolled at FIDM, the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. Can't you just see her trading barbs with Tim Gunn on Project Runway?
About the interviewer: Angela Dalfen is the Director of Admissions for the School of Law. When she is not at work she can either be found at the playground trying not to hover over her toddler as he teeters precariously at the top of the slide or in her living room catching up on missed episodes of Mad Men and Entourage.