When it comes to law, people might automatically picture a scene from a “Law & Order” courtroom or the Elle Woods version from the “Legally Blonde” films. But law is a necessity in many facets of business and life, and can be a useful tool across the board, no matter what profession or major one might choose. Both Bakersfield College and Cal State Bakersfield recognize that, and have programs to help students prepare for the next phase in their lives for law school and beyond.
Though the Bakersfield College Pre-Law program is relatively new, beginning in 2015, it has already made an impression on its students and the community.
“The program is designed to both expose our students and prepare them for a future career in the legal profession,” said Christian Zoller, pre-law department chair.
BC is one of 23 community colleges across the state, in conjunction with the California State Bar Exam and the State Bar of California, to assist students with getting on the right path to ultimately go to law school.
“The Bakersfield legal community has been extraordinarily generous to our program,” Zoller said.
Prior to the pandemic, Zoller said the program allowed those in the legal field to connect with the students for their mentorship program. The professional lawyers and attorneys in the community were able to meet with students and offer advice about their time in law school, as well as navigating the field.
So, why study law now?
“There’s always going to be a demand for attorneys,” said Zoller, adding that it takes someone who is dedicated, committed and enthusiastic.
It isn’t the kind of job that will be overrun by computers and technology.
In Kern County and Bakersfield, specifically, there are a lot of current unmet needs in the legal realm, such as family law.
“The required courses for the program have helped me gain or improve skills, such as, public speaking, argumentative writing, and how to read legal documents,” said Estrella Ramos, a graduate of BC’s pre-law program,
Ramos plans to attend her dream school, UC Irvine, where she will complete her political science degree and minor in history. She hopes to continue her studies at UCI Law and participate in the environmental law moot court and legal clinic.
“I am very happy with my decision to have begun my academic journey at my local community college and am looking forward to my future in law,” said Ramos.
But even if students don’t plan to go into the legal field, the critical thinking and analytical portion of the program helps prepare them for other studies.
“The career possibilities are out there for them,” said Jo Ann Acosta, educational advisor in the pre-law program.
Acosta also noted that majoring in law also gives students the opportunity to become a paralegal or go into politics.
BC is excited about the opportunity to grow the program and connect with more students, as it has continued to grow each year since the program began.
Cal State Bakersfield
“You have to meet people where they are to affect change,” said Dr. Jeanine Kraybill, pre-law program director and faculty advisor to the Pre-Law Society at CSUB.
That’s the goal of the CSUB pre-law program — to prepare students in a way that allows them to offer support and give back to their community.
New to the program this fall is the Legal Information and Support Clinic, which will allow pre-law student interns to work under the direction of the pre-law director and supervisor, as well as licensed volunteer attorneys.
The hope is to provide the community with help navigating their legal needs.
Sixty percent of CSUB alumni who have earned a law degree have returned to Kern County.
Alumnus Nicole Mirkazemi, a CSUB pre-law graduate from 2018, said the three words she would use to describe the program are guidance, support and structure.
“I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since childhood but navigating the law school admissions process can be a daunting task, especially when you think you are going through it alone,” said Mirkazemi.
The best part about the program, according to Mirkazemi, is that it doesn’t end at graduation. She has made lifelong friends and is extremely grateful to have been part of such an engaging and supportive program.
Mirkazemi graduated from UC Hastings, College of the Law in May, and now works at the Kern Community College District’s General Counsel Office.
Since she was on her way back to Bakersfield, she asked the Kern Community College District if she would be able to give back to the community that helped her get into law school. They took her on as an intern.
Eventually, it led to the position she has now as a policy expert, which she worked in while preparing for the Bar Exam.
“I think that the legal profession is a great place for people who want to help people,” added Kraybill.
Another student, Taylor Brown, said the CSUB Pre-Law Program is a big part of the reason she is currently in law school at Chapman University, Fowler School of Law.
“The program was a great way to get a foundational understanding of how our laws come to be and how they are implemented into everyday life,” said Brown.
It provided hands-on experience through mock trials and the Court Observer Program, visiting courtrooms. They were also able to try on a variety of law types to see which one they liked most.
“The pre-law program and Dr. Kraybill's guidance within it really cemented my decision to go to law school and pursue a legal career. I owe a lot to CSUB and Dr. Kraybill, specifically for my academics so far,” said Brown.
Other events, such as the Speed Mentoring “mixer,” gave CSUB students and legal field members alike the opportunity to connect with one another.
“It did not matter what area of the law the attorney would practice or what side of the courtroom they were sitting on, each and every member of the profession was extremely inviting, inclusive and educational,” Brown said of her experience.