I learned about PLEN from posters on my campus, and I immediately felt drawn to the Women, Law, and Legal Advocacy seminar. Ever since I fell in love with my Constitutional Law class in the fall of 2015, I have been interested in pursuing a career in law, and the seminar seemed like a perfect opportunity to gain skills, insights, and connections that could help me succeed in that pursuit.
The seminar smashed my expectations. Not only did I meet a fantastic group of female peers, but I got the opportunity to network with D.C. professionals as well. The panels and roundtables were packed with new information, advice, and perspectives that hadn’t occurred to me before. For instance, a lawyer who defends the First Amendment even when it is unpopular raised the idea that any limitations on free speech would likely most harshly affect people of color. I had never thought of that before, and it made me see the issue of free speech and hate speech in a new light.
One of the things I value most from the seminar is the inside look we got into the different cultures of different companies and organizations. I come away from the seminar knowing that I do not want to work for a large law firm, but I could work for the Department of Justice or a think tank. It was valuable to hear inside perspectives from workplaces as different as Koch Companies, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Department of Justice, various congressional offices, multiple nonprofits, and a number of law firms of different sizes. As somewhat of an idealist, I had previously thought mostly about the values I would like an employer to have, but the idea of thinking about workplace culture--including details such as lactation spaces and vacation days--was new to me, and I’m grateful to PLEN for exposing me to speakers who put that idea into my head.
Another thing I value from the seminar is the network of peers I gained. I met a number of smart, ambitious women who inspire me to reach for what I want and not be afraid to pursue my passions. Not only did PLEN give us the chance to meet one another, but, especially through assigning us to teams for a coalition-building simulation, PLEN made us actually get to know each other as we worked together to prepare for and execute our goals in the simulation. I am sure that, especially if I decide to pursue a career in D.C., my PLEN peers will be an excellent network that will help me advance my career. Even if I return to my beloved home state of Minnesota instead, I know I can count on these women for LSAT commiseration and career tips.
In addition to meeting an impressive group of peers, PLEN exposed me to a mind-blowing array of high-powered women who served as our panelists and coaches. Not only did we hear them speak, but PLEN also made sure that we got their contact information so that we could add them, too, to our networks, which expanded vastly thanks to the seminar. It amazed me that women who ran in such elevated circles would take interest in college students, but I was happy to find that many women out there want to help other women succeed.
Along with gaining new perspectives and meeting many new people, PLEN also helped me learn new skills, such as networking and salary negotiation. Neither of these things is at all intuitive to me, and I’m sure both will feel uncomfortable at first, but PLEN gave me what I needed to stop feeling afraid of such things and become enthusiastic about starting to try them. Rather than seeming like chores, I now understand that these things are important to building the kind of professional life I want.
In sum, PLEN gave me the connections, information, and skills I need to begin a professional life, as well as the understanding that I need to do that now, rather than waiting until I graduate college. I am grateful to PLEN for providing me with all of this and amazed at how much was packed into the three days I spent at the seminar.
Linnea Peterson, class of 2018 at Luther College, attended the Women, Law, and Legal Advocacy seminar thanks to the Ellie Shaw Scholarship. You can find her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/linnea-peterson-142955125/.