St. Olaf College | News

A liberal arts preparation for Harvard Law

Brianne Power ’15 says the experiences she’s had at St. Olaf College have prepared her well for Harvard Law School, where she’ll enroll this fall.

From working alongside law students and attorneys as part of St. Olaf College’s Legal Scholars Program to researching juvenile law in her Legal Aspects of Business course, Brianne Power ’15 has had numerous opportunities to closely examine the legal field.

And what she’s discovered is that majoring in mathematics at a liberal arts college has provided her with many of the skills she’ll need to be a successful attorney.

“I found that legal professionals find patterns, make predictions, and solve problems every day,” Power says. “Pure mathematics also involves a lot more writing and analytical reasoning than I think most people realize. And St. Olaf’s dedication to the liberal arts ensures that students from every discipline graduate with the necessary reading, writing, and analysis skills.”

She’ll put all of those skills to work at Harvard Law School, where she will enroll this fall. Power — who also pursued a concentration in family studies at St. Olaf — was particularly drawn to Harvard Law’s programs in mediation and child advocacy work, as well as its dedication to service.

“The commonality among the students there seems to be their passion for effecting some sort of positive change, which is definitely energizing,” she says.

Power is no stranger to service work herself.

As a student at St. Olaf, she has volunteered with organizations including Story Circle, which helps local retirees share the stories of their lives; the Nightingale Project, which pairs St. Olaf women and Northfield middle school girls with the goal of building ongoing relationships and mentoring; and Blue Key Honor Society, which focuses on scholarship, leadership, and service. She was also president of the Honor Council.

And this year Power lived in the Gender Equality and Empowerment Honor House, which provides a safe space for people on campus to discuss gender issues. Through the honor house, she volunteers at Thursday’s Table, a weekly dinner hosted by the Northfield Community Action Center to aid community members in transition.

Hands-on legal experience
In addition to her volunteering and classroom experiences, Power participated in St. Olaf’s Svoboda Legal Scholars program last summer. The program provides an opportunity for a select group of undergraduate students to perform intensive legal research and serve in a legal support role to social impact–oriented clinics at several institutions.

Power worked under four rising third-year law students at the University of Minnesota Legal Clinics — mostly serving in the Civil Practice Clinic and the Child Advocacy Clinic — and was supervised by professors of the law school.

“There are not very many opportunities to spend a significant amount of time actually in a law school before being admitted as a student, so I really appreciated gaining familiarity with a law school as an undergraduate student,” she says.

She also spent several summers interning at a law firm in Iowa.

Power gained hands-on legal experience in the classroom, too. Through her Legal Aspects of Business class, taught by local attorney and Visiting Assistant Professor of Management Studies John Ophaug, she developed a research project that investigated the role of Guardians ad Litem in Iowa and Minnesota.

Through legal research and interviews with attorneys, Guardians ad Litem, social service providers, and a juvenile court judge, Power “created a portfolio outlining experiences and recommendations for the revision of statutory Guardian ad Litem requirements to better serve children’s best interests,” she notes.

All of these things, as well as her time in the St. Olaf mathematics program — which is nationally recognized for its innovative and effective teaching — have left Power well-prepared to join one of the nation’s top law schools.

And she’s not alone. Two Oles entered Harvard Law School last year, including a 2012 math major. Other law schools that members of last year’s graduating class enrolled in include New York University School of Law; University of California, Berkeley School of Law; the University of Michigan Law School; Vanderbilt Law School; and the University of Minnesota Law School. Nearly 90 percent of St. Olaf students who applied to law school from 2008 to 2012 earned acceptance.

Of this year’s graduating seniors, Bayley Flint ’15, Elizabeth Archerd ’15, and Caroline Bressman ’15 also will be attending top 20 law schools in the fall. Flint will be attending Washington University School of Law, Archerd will be attending Emory University School of Law, and Bressman will be attending the University of Minnesota Law School. Bressman also participated in the St. Olaf Legal Scholars Program with Power.