January 30, 2002

Cornell Offers Pre-Law Program in NYC

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It used to be a fact of life that internships at the high-profile law firms of New York City were reserved for law students, but not anymore.

Cornell is offering an intensive pre-law program in the city this summer for undergraduates interested in becoming lawyers. During the eight-week program, students participate in a “selective internship” at a law firm or legal department while completing a four-credit course, according to a program brochure.

“There’s no program like it at any other university,” said Mark A. Belnick ’68, the director of the program and the instructor of the course “Introduction to the American Legal System: Its Nature, Functions and Institutions.”

Belnick explained that unpaid internships are usually only available to law students as summer associates, but Cornell’s pre-law program gives undergraduates access to these opportunities.

The brochure lists past internship hosts such as American Express Company, Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. and New York State Attorney General’s Manhattan office.

In addition to experiencing the legal world firsthand, students also get a taste of the law classroom. The program course is taught with the Socratic method used at most American law schools, according to a University press release.

“I would have loved to be in this program when I was in college at Cornell,” commented Belnick.

Belnick has been active in the legal system as well.

He claims to have had an active role in University affairs since he graduated, as well as teaching experience at Columbia University, where he earned his J.D. in 1971.

Belnick’s career profile as an attorney includes impressive experiences such as serving as Deputy Chief Counsel to the United States Senate Iran-Contra Committee in 1987.

Then two years ago, Cornell asked Belnick to direct the pre-law program. “It didn’t take more than a second for me to say yes,” said Belnick.

“[Belnick] is very, very involved with the University. He’s always trying to do things to improve [it],” said Christine Holmes of the Office for the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions (SCE), who coordinates the program.

The program is open to students from any university, but Belnick encourages Cornell undergraduates interested in law to apply.

Belnick calls the program “a terrific opportunity” because it is done “the Cornell way–in depth and at a level of excellence not matched anywhere else.”

Interested students should contact Holmes at the SCE, B20 Day Hall. Students can also call (607) 255-7259, send email to [email protected], and visit the web at www.sce.cornell.edu/prelaw.

Archived article by Emily Adelman