Beginning in the Fall 2022 semester, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Beth Kinne took over as the Pre-Law Advisor for the Colleges. The Herald reached out to her to learn more about her new position, and how she hopes to strengthen the pre-law programs at the Colleges.
What is your background in the law? How has this informed your role as Pre-Law Advisor?
When I first considered law school, I was too intimidated to apply. I didn’t think I was the “right kind of person” to be an attorney. But after working on pollution problems that really needed a regulatory fix, I decided I needed to go to law school to gain the tools necessary to make change in this area. I had come out of a graduate program where I had done all my field research on water pollution in Taiwan, and the University of Washington School of Law had a really exciting LL.M. program in Asian and Comparative law. So I enrolled concurrently in the LL.M. and applied for a fellowship in foreign languages, which helped pay for law school. Upon completing the J.D., I was lucky enough to get a fellowship in Chinese language that allowed me to study in Beijing for a year while I worked on an LL.M. thesis on water rights in China. When I returned to the U.S., I took a job in western Colorado practicing municipal and water rights law. Now I teach environmental law, natural resources law, and sometimes business law at HWS. It’s my observation that students often see one, direct, narrow path to a career in law, and feel they have to be or make themselves the “right kind of person” for law school and a legal career. I hope that sharing my experiences in legal practice and legal study can expand their ideas of what is possible, and desirable, for them.
What directions do you hope to take the pre-law program?
My hope is to increase the number of students who consider law and diversify the reasons that students consider a career in law. Due to media representations, when people imagine what lawyers do, they see people in suits in the courthouse talking to a judge. That narrow image doesn’t represent the myriad things lawyers do. One of my goals is to invite more students to discover how a legal degree might advance their goals of working in an area they really care about.
Are there any new programs or events you’d like to share?
I would like to encourage students to think of pre-law advising, career services, and the student-led pre-law club as three legs of the stool that supports students as they pursue their interests and goals in law. Students should keep an eye out for virtual alumni panels where they will get a chance to hear what our HWS alumni are doing now in their legal careers, and for opportunities to meet lawyers who come to campus in person. There is really no better way to become energized and inspired than meeting and connecting with people who do what you want to do. I also encourage students to participate in the pre-law club and pool their resources as they research law schools, share experiences from internships, and prepare for the LSAT.
What is your favorite part of your new role?
I really enjoy getting to know a wide variety of students from a broad cross section of majors at HWS, some of whom I wouldn’t otherwise get to know. We have so many very interesting, compassionate students here. I also like helping students think about preparation for law school as just one piece of what they will do as opposed to an end in and of itself.
What would be your biggest piece of advice for a student at HWS thinking of going into law?
Read broadly. Practice listening to the opinions of others and actually trying to understand them. Strengthen the skills you’re acquiring by fighting for something you care about. Keep building your mental library of ideas and diverse ways of thinking and being. That will be the reservoir from which you draw your ability to empathize with, communicate with, and motivate others. All of those things will make you a better law student and a better attorney.