Good afternoon, Pre-lawyers!
From our Pre-Law family to yours, we wanted to wish everybody a happy Family Day and hope that you have all had the opportunity to spend some time with your loved ones.We would like to start off the week by featuring one of our own family members – our awesome treasurer Kurtis Harms.
Kurtis is currently in his fifth and final year of studies in Mechanical Engineering and International Relations. He is particularly interested in trying to bridge his engineering background with the field of law, perhaps in the capacity of legal consulting for engineering projects. We asked Kurtis a few questions about his inspirations and involvement with law studies:
Q: What inspired you to want to pursue law school?
A: Growing up, I had a keen interest in science/technology, but I also loved studying history and the legal, societal and political ramifications that have influenced our past, and continue to shape our future. For several years, I struggled with how to combine two very different passions into a career.
Then, around Grade 10, I met and learned of engineers who now worked in law and commerce. I realized that a unique path in law, one that encompassed technology and business, was something that I was really passionate about. Even as I applied for a degree in engineering, I also purchased my first LSAT books from the sale bin at the library. I’ve had those books sitting on my bookshelf for the past five years, and now and again I’ve brushed them off!!
Studying mechanical engineering at UBC has reinforced my original motives to pivot my career into law; while I think that both math and science serve many wonderful and fundamental roles in society, they can, in my view, also offer a somewhat limited perspective. I know that many students approach the legal profession with a different background than my own, but I think that’s what also makes law so unique: it’s one of the few professions that truly spans every background, and that’s because it’s applicable to every aspect of our society. I am really motivated to work in an area of law that bridges my background in engineering with a legal career, and have been working towards that goal for five years now!
Q: How did you first get started with Pre-law Society?
A: I attended the UBC Pre-Law Society’s “Admissions Night” event at the beginning of my second year. At that point, I already knew that I wanted to pursue law, but still hadn’t put much thought into how I would achieve that. The nature of my undergrad studies (engineering) was such that I wasn’t surrounded by students interested in law, and it made me want to join a community of students on-campus that shared my goal and would give me focus in pursuing this dream! It’s been a great balance over the past few years, having that unique perspective for my future beyond undergrad through the Pre-Law Society.
Q: What do you like best about Pre-Law Society?
A: I love how the Pre-Law Society offers both involvement and academic support that directly furthers one’s career. It’s wonderful to meet and share stories with other motivated students interested in law, and to also have the opportunity to gain knowledge about the pursuit of the legal profession from law school advisors and lawyers themselves! On an everyday basis, I find myself surrounded with very like-minded people within my faculty, but the legal professional truly seems to attract an intriguingly diverse set of personalities, and I feel that the Pre-Law Society is really unique in sharing that perspective at the undergrad level.
Q: What does your ideal journey to becoming a lawyer look like?
A: I have seriously debated the trade-off between applying directly for law school out of undergrad, or building some work experience which I could use to position myself in a more specialized field of law. I think there are merits to both routes, but am currently pursuing direct entry into law school following my undergraduate degree. However, it is really challenging to be able to properly study for the LSAT while still in-school! I made the mistake of not dedicating time the summer before graduation (last summer) to prep for it and, if you cannot do that, I then think that taking the year off is advisable.
I hope to work in engineering legal consulting and technology/business law. I can definitely see myself pursuing a JD/MBA combined degree, which is an increasingly popular option offered by many law schools. I don’t have a crystal ball of the future, but I don’t necessarily see myself working in a traditional “big law” firm in my long-term career. Perhaps I’ll pursue a more consultancy-based role, or eventually work within a more specialized firm.
Q: What advice can you give others taking the LSAT and pursuing law?
A: First, make the decision of whether you want to go to school in Canada or the United States. There are significant differences in application requirements to get into a good Canadian school versus a good American school, and most advice you’ll see online about studying for the LSAT and preparing a strong application is geared towards admissions to American universities. American schools tend to require more competitive LSAT scores, and also place less weight on GPA in favour of extra-curricular involvement. As somebody who was at first convinced that I wanted to study law in the United States, I’ve recently realized that there are also many drawbacks to studying law in the States if you want to ever come back to Canada and practice law here. It’s often easier to study in law in Canada and then move to the States, if that’s something you are interested in, than to do the reverse!
Buying the official LSAT PrepTests are the best investment I’ve made for preparation… even the old ones are quite applicable, I’ve found. At the end of the day, I think the only really good way to study for the LSAT is just to force yourself to do those old exams, and after each exam, try to learn from your mistakes. LSATHacks.com is a fabulous website with complete step-by-step solutions for many of the exams; definitely use this as a resource! And make sure you time yourself: they don’t allow digital watches/alarms into the LSAT exam, so I recommend buying a cheap bezel or chronograph watch from Amazon and practicing with that, because that’s what you will have on test day!
Q: What are some of your favourite places at UBC to hang out and study?
A: You’ll often find me in the “Harry Potter Room” of the Irving Library, the Life Sciences building if I’m looking for a spatial study area, or the Agora Cafe, which is hidden in the basement of the Macmillan Building. The Land and Food Systems (LFS) students entirely run it! I think the Agora Cafe is a real hidden gem on-campus; at all times of day, it smells of fresh baking, and every Wednesday night they offer dinner made by the LFS students!
Amid studying and applying for law schools, you can often find Kurtis working on robotic sailbots and cycling downtown and around Stanley Park! He also loves playing piano, going on hikes and, more than anything else, loves to travel. Be sure to say hi to Kurtis at our upcoming events!