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Leap of Faith for First-Generation Lawyer

Kadeem Wolliaston

KADEEM WOLLIASTON ’18, THE FIRST PERSON IN HIS FAMILY TO GO TO LAW SCHOOL, felt welcomed into the legal community when he was given the Richard D. Parsons ’71 Scholarship. “It’s a confidence-booster,” he said of the scholarship. “It helps you believe that you belong in the profession.”

For those who don’t have a family that is well-off, he said, just getting to the point of a law school acceptance letter can be an accomplishment.

“The LSAT courses cost money. People can’t focus 100 percent of their time while they’re studying for the LSAT because they are working. They can’t take a month off.” Then they look at tuition and get sticker shock. “A large number of people are not attending because of the cost of law school,” he said. “We’re always thinking about diversifying the legal industry. The costs, these barriers, play a large role. It’s all interrelated.”

So when he got the letter offering him a scholarship, it was a big deal. “You’re just taking a leap of faith. You don’t know how it’s going to go. With the scholarship, you think, ‘I’m more than qualified to be here.’”

The scholarship also helped him to pursue his career goals. After he graduated—magna cum laude—he saw how much he owed and how much more was paid off by the scholarship. That’s when reality hit as to the amount of the gift.

“Students that graduated with me, their major concern is their student loans,” he said. “A lot of people take jobs they don’t really want. It can definitely hinder people in pursuing their passion.” While he still has loans to pay off, he was able to take a job as an appellate court attorney for the Third Department for a year, and has now started working in his desired field—commercial litigation, health care, torts, and liability—as an associate at Barclay Damon.

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