Kaeun Kim begins law school in the US

Kaeun Kim begins law school in the US

1. Congratulations on beginning law school. Could you tell us why you decided to study law? That is, when and why did you become interested in the idea of studying law and what aspects of the law do you find most interesting?

I always knew I wanted to continue my education after my undergraduate studies but I did not commit to law school until I finished my second year at Hanyang University. I thought about the subjects I learned in my classes at Hanyang and tried to determine which topics I found interesting and what skills I was good at. I knew I was interested in making an impact and I knew I had competent reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. This train of thought is what lead me to a career in law and this is a thought process I encourage everyone to do. I think it’s important to understand what your skills are and combine those skills with subjects that interest you.

My favorite part about the law is in the way the law is organized. The logical flow makes sense and I enjoy reading past case decisions because it explains a lot about what the U.S. society values. I also find it interesting that while the law is constant throughout a jurisdiction, different lawyers and judges can have completely different opinions about a single case. I love following the logical thought process of exceptional professionals and form opinions on my own.

2. Why did you decide to study law in the US? And why this particular law school?

I knew my academic Korean was not good enough to go to any graduate level school in Korea so a part of me always knew I had to go to an English speaking country for school. But for the career that I wanted to pursue, an American legal degree (JD) provided me with more opportunities. Since many Korean companies conduct business in the United States, I have the option to practice law in Korea as an “American” lawyer.

I chose Northeastern University School of Law because of its exceptional Co-op program. It’s the only law school in the U.S. that offers a Co-op program. Most law schools in the U.S. have internships and clerkships, but the Co-op program begins as soon as your first semester ends. Students are in rotation either in full-time school or full-time work through the Co-op so all students graduate with two years of full time work experience. I also liked how I was able to begin building a portfolio of legal cases right away. I just finished orientation week and I already got assigned to work with the City of Boston to build a legal case on affordable housing in Boston. Not many schools offers joint full time work and full time student opportunities.

3. What area of law do you intend to specialize in, what sort of firm would you like to work for, and what are the job prospects in that area for those graduating from law school?

I have not considered a specific area of law yet because I want to learn more of the law first, but I definitely want to be in litigation rather than transaction. I am very interested in malpractice/health care law for now but that could surely change in the future. NUSL is ranked #5 for healthcare law so many of NUSL graduates work in malpractice, drug/pharmaceutical industries, hospitals, and intellectual property. Moderna is one of the school’s co-op companies.

Harvard and MIT are both in Boston so the correlating medical and science industries are equally flourishing. From pharmaceutical companies to high-tech companies, there are diverse areas to specialize in as a lawyer. I was worried that graduating in a city with Harvard Law School students might lower my chances in getting a job here, but 80% of my school’s graduating class were fully employed within 10 months of graduation and half were employed in private law firms.

If you are someone who is looking to go to big law firms like Kirkland and Ellis, I would definitely advise aiming for a higher ranked school (probably top 14) as big law firms do tend to hire from that pool of law school graduates.

4. The application process for law schools in the US can be very difficult and time-consuming, but it seems that you completed it successfully, since you were accepted by several universities. What were the key elements of your success? What advice would you give to other students who are in the process of applying to law school in the US?

Give yourself more time than you think you need even if that means taking sometime after graduation to study for the LSAT. The LSAT is not the type of exam you can memorize/cram. It takes a while to restructure your brain because legal critical thinking is not something that is taught in schools (unless you take Creative and Critical thinking with Professor McGuire). You can opt to hire a law school admissions advisor, but they are expensive and won’t tell you anything more than you can figure out on your own. Instead I would spend that money on hiring a LSAT tutor and buying online study programs.

Writing supplemental essays can be a good way to show your dedication to a school (you should write every single one of them). Research the school’s history and write an essay that reflects their values and beliefs. Convince the schools that you were meant to be there and be specific on why you think your legal career would flourish there.

If you get wait-listed to your dream school, insist an interview with anyone that will hear your case. Continuously email the school and tell them that you are still interested. Send them any updates on your resume as you wait for your acceptance. As long as you have a strong LSAT score for that school and a strong personal story to back that up, that increases your chances of turning the wait-list status into an acceptance. Re-taking the LSAT for a higher score after your wait-list decision is an option, but if your score is lower than what you scored before, that could hurt your case.

5. Do you have any other advice for students in the School of International Studies at Hanyang University? Is there anything in particular that you would encourage them to do (or not do) while they are students here?
International Studies is a really good opportunity for students to decide which classes are interesting to them. Take a diverse range of classes and make a mental note of the topics you find interesting. If you want to pursue an education above the undergraduate level outside of Korea, research a lot into it and give yourself enough time to carefully curate your resume.

Build a relationship with your professors and don’t be afraid to ask them for help. They are your professors and are willing to help. Even if post-undergraduate studies is not something that is in your path, professors can be of great help for building your resume and writing recommendation letters.

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