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Student Spotlight

An Interview with Dan Lei, Class of 2018

Dan Lei ’18

By Sofia Lesko
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1.) Do you remember the moment you decided you wanted to go to law school? A pivotal time in your life that stands out to you?

Well, I’m from New York City, and we had to apply to high school the way most people apply to colleges, so I ended up getting into a law program at Francis Lewis High School. While there, I joined the Moot Court program, which is similar to the debate team, where you compete against different schools. I ended up doing quite well, I enjoyed it, so I gravitated toward this career path.

2.) So, you said you’re from New York City. What made you choose the State University of New York at Albany, and then Albany Law School?

While applying to colleges, I was very pleased to learn that I had gotten into the 3+3 Program at SUNY Albany. The program is completely at-will, so it’s non-binding—you don’t need to know that you want to be a lawyer your senior year of high school. But if you decide you want to go to law school, then you have that assurance when the time comes. You also have the option to choose any major at SUNY Albany in the program, so you can enter into the program and then decide to do something completely different, too. I personally chose to be an economics major during undergrad because I was not yet sure I wanted to be a lawyer.

3.) How do you feel that the 3+3 Program prepared you for your time at Albany Law?

Well, Albany Law offered me a generous scholarship, which definitely helped. I also enjoy the tight-knit community of Albany, and the professors at Albany Law School. Since I spent a lot of time in Albany, it felt like a second home to me.

4.) Anything else you’d like to say about the 3+3 Program?

So, I would definitely say the program has grown substantially since I was in it, which is great. They gave us opportunities to visit open houses at Albany Law, sit in on classes, and meet with faculty. One of the things I was involved in was Discover Law, hosted by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). Basically the program allows undergrad students to go through law school, but in a summer boot-camp style. It allowed me to experience law school and to solidify my decision to pursue a legal career.

5.) What type of law is it that you are looking to pursue?

I am looking to pursue mainly litigation, which is also what I have the most recent experience with. I enjoy this because this type of law is really exciting. I am a natural competitor, and I like winning; with this type of law there is a definitive outcome, so you can confidently say that you did your job.

5.) Any internships or outstanding experiences you would like to highlight from your time at Albany Law?

So, my first year I served as a New York Bar Foundation Fellow. Essentially, and placed in a non-profit organization. Usually you do not get paid during your first year summer job, but at this position I received a stipend through the fellowship. I was working with the Prisoner’s Legal Service, in the immigration department. We mainly handled removal defense, helping to prevent people from getting deported from the country. Personally my parents came as immigrants, and until this opportunity, I had never thought about how all that worked. I was born here so I was a natural citizen, and I thought it was really eye-opening to learn a new area of the law. I was able to start to develop legal skills, being that I was writing lots of briefs and memos with the opportunity to get feedback. This is a great opportunity for young lawyers and students, since at this point, you are still figuring out what being a lawyer is all about!

6.) So, what comes after Albany Law for you? Do you have plans to stay in the area, or to travel elsewhere?

I am still somewhat unsure as of right now being that I am pretty young, since I skipped time in school due to the 3+3 Program. I feel like I have a lot of mobility. It has been a while since I have been home in New York. A lot of my friends went to graduate schools and then returned home. At times I feel like I might be missing out, which is my main driving force to go home. But at the same time, I really enjoy the community of Albany. This has been my home for the past six years. I am just going to see where opportunities take me. One of the best things about Albany Law is that it is centrally located, so you can travel throughout the east coast easily.

7.) What activities are you currently involved in on campus that you enjoy?

Currently, I am the Vice President of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association. I really enjoy hanging out with that group of people, they’re great. Starting out, I noticed that there were not a lot of Asian students at Albany Law, but since then, it has grown considerably, which is great. Now I can actually connect with more peers and people who understand what it is like to be a “model minority.” The community really started to grow and it’s great collaborating with other affinity groups.

8.) Any suggestions for students just starting out at Albany Law?

I would definitely say work hard, but don’t burn yourself out. A lot of times people who come to law school are already the cream of the crop. The fact that you applied and was accepted shows that you have initiative and are a go-getter. Sometimes that personality makes you try too hard, in a way. Law school is a lot of work, and although everyone knows this, it is something that you might not be able to truly understand until you are in the experiencing it. It’s almost like running a marathon. Make time for yourself, personal and mental health are also really important.

9.) Lastly, what is one fun or interesting fact about yourself that most people might not know?

I used to go to church when I was younger which led me to being on the praise team. During my time on the praise team I learned to play the guitar, bass, and drums. I still fiddle with the guitar from time to time but I rarely have the time to play anymore.

Dan Lei