Students lay down the law

Whittier Law School students and alumni shared their stories and experiences to roughly a dozen Orange County college students Friday afternoon.

The goal of the Costa Mesa-based law school's Diversity Day event, put on by the Hispanic American Law Student Assn., was to provide information to college students, especially minorities who are thinking about entering law school, said Luis Elias, a third-year student at Whittier and president of the association.

"We want to reach out to students of diverse backgrounds and give them information they might not have simply because of their background and past experiences," Elias, 30, said.

Whittier Law was named the fifth best environment for minority students by Princeton Review in 2013 and the 13th most diverse law school in the nation by U.S. News & World Report in 2012.

James Drake, a third-year student and member of the Black Law Student Assn., said he appreciates the dedication to diversity and serving minority students in an industry that isn't known for accepting a wide variety of people.

"As America becomes more diverse, the state bar doesn't reflect those numbers," he said. "If you come from a diverse background you can be at a disadvantage."

The event wasn't as well-attended this year as it has been previously, Drake, 32, said.

This year, the association chose to focus on mentoring college students rather than bringing in high school students as it has in the past, he said.

"We wanted to focus on a demographic that is the most relevant," he said.

The event featured a panel discussion with current students of varying years and ethnicities. The audience could ask questions about the admissions process, studying for the LSAT and how to handle the rigor of law school once accepted.

"You have to understand what you're getting yourself into," said Andrew Cobb, a first-year student and one of three panelists. "At least one point in your education you're going to feel overwhelmed. It's going to take a lot of work, but you get a big reward."

Elias credits a similar Diversity Day event he attended at UC Berkeley with his own admission to law school.

"It opened up my eyes and allowed me to believe I could get into law school," he said. "When people hear someone speak during one of these events and say, 'Wow that sounds like me,' they persevere."

Aytan Nabiyeva, 26, a graduate student at UC Irvine, is in the process of deciding between law school and entering a Ph.D. program.

Having moved to the United States from Azerbaijan, she said diversity is something she looks for when applying to colleges.

"The plurality of thoughts is important," she said. "People who have different opinions can all work together and come up with better solutions for world issues."

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