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Albany Law School 3L Victoria Lang has had her sights set on a law degree since her teenage years.
After taking part in an internship in her local district attorney’s consumer fraud bureau, and learning from her father working in a local legislator’s office, she kept an interest in the law—criminal law in particular. But it took a major shift in her family life to start her path toward a J.D.
After learning she was pregnant with her son, she started to think more seriously about following her dream.
“With any big monumental shift in your life, you think about things a little bit differently. I decided, ‘You know what? I want him to have the best life he deserves and I want him to be able to always go after what he wants,” Lang said. “I don’t want him to feel like he can’t [do something] because of certain obstacles. I want to look back and say that I tried and I set that example for him.”
She started at Albany Law School balancing family life and an hourlong commute to and from law school. She was just beginning to explore her strong interest in becoming a criminal prosecutor.
Then, her mother was diagnosed with stage four cancer. By the spring, her mother’s health was declining quickly.
“It was challenging more so than law school itself, having to deal with those huge hurdles that you don’t expect. You can’t control it and trying to move forward and keep putting the best that you have into what you’re doing—juggling being a mom, commuting, taking care of my mom—it was challenging,” she said.
Lang was worried about her education too. But after reaching out, she found the law school to be accommodating and empathetic to her situation.
“[After] getting over the fear of thinking that everything I had worked for was going to fall apart,” she said, “it was nice to see how many people cared and understood and gave me support where they could. Anyone who is going through something: it’s OK, even if you have to slow down. Not being afraid to switch things up to progress is OK.”
Her mother passed away in February 2020.
Through it all, she’s learned to apply the empathy and open mind she’s received from others to her legal education. In her internships with both the Albany and Ulster County district attorneys, she’s seeing the full picture of what a prosecutor does.
“Everything that an attorney does has significance, no matter what field of law you are practicing in. It’s such an impact to balance people’s civil rights, their humanity—a lot of the cases, they talk to you as if you’re a therapist because there’s a lot of hurt and pain—it really makes me feel like this is going to be the most impactful thing that I can do,” Lang said.
“You’re having an impact, not just on justice—that has a lot of different meanings—but the actual impact it has on the community,” she added. “It gets glossed over as to what a prosecutor does [under] the oath they take; they are truth seekers.”
Each case is different but all require listening and a willingness to change a preconceived notion of how things should go. The prosecutor has a responsibility to make sure each case’s outcome best benefits the People, Lang said, and it can look different for everyone.
“Things on the surface can look one way. If you’re doing your investigation to fit that and you’re not willing to modify or change or adapt based on the particulars of the case as they unfold, you are going to do a disservice to not only your reputation but also to the defendant and the victim,” she said.
She’s learning what success means in terms of her future career. But what she’s also finding out is what personal success means for her, and how that also looks different for everyone.
Within her tight schedule, she’s found space to work as a research assistant alongside Professor Ray Brescia and serve as a student ambassador within the admissions office.
The student ambassador role has allowed her to reflect on her own experience through sharing it with prospective students—while also using it as a form of motivation.
“Don’t forget to stop and be proud of yourself for the smaller things. Not everything you’re going to do is going to result in you being number one or getting an A or whatever it might be. But you can learn from that and you can grow,” she said.