Yam Schaal ‘20

Alumni Spotlight

Yam SchaalUndergraduate Degree: B.S. Psychology (neuroscience track), Secondary major: Legal Studies (Conflict resolution concentration). Minor in Philosophy

Current Position Title and Affiliation: J.D. Candidate, Cornell Law School Class of 2023

Summary of Position:
As a 1L, I take classes relating to civil procedure, constitutional law, property, torts, criminal law, contracts, and legal writing. Additionally, through the 1L Immigration Clinic, I assist clients who are in the process of becoming naturalized as U.S. citizens, seeking asylum in the U.S., or applying for DACA.

Future Goals:
I am eager to continue the work I am doing in the 1L Immigration Clinic because it is so rewarding and to explore the multiple different paths available for law students. My short-term goal is to gain real-world experiences through a summer internship. Ultimately, my long-term goals are to combine my passion for science, the law, and advocacy. I am excited for what lies ahead!

What do you love most about this career path?
It’s very flexible and rewarding; if I work hard and organize my time effectively, it is possible to combine multiple interests of mine. One of the things I love the most about law is the intrinsic respect for language and the creativity that is encouraged in discussion and analysis; I love arguing for the sake of reaching deeper understanding. I also love the way background knowledge (such as my background in psychology and philosophy) not only enriches discussions and my own understanding, but also has the potential to impact a person’s life through advocacy or knowledge itself.

How did UMass and/or Psychological and Brain Sciences help prepare you?
PBS helped me prepare for writing research papers in law school. Although the topics I wrote about in college were very different from what I write about now, research and writing skills are transferable. Also, psychological knowledge is also helpful when I work directly with clients. For example, psychology specialists from Cornell Weill Medical School were invited to speak to us 1Ls about how trauma impacts the brain, how it can affect behavior, and how we as legal counselors can help navigate this. I found I was much more prepared for this way of thinking than my peers.

Tips for Current Undergrads:
Do not take writing feedback for granted! Take the time to process comments and improve your writing skills now; strong writing skills are indispensable. It’s okay to not be sure about what the next step is and it is certainly okay to have a different path than your peers! It can be scary to branch out, but it is incredibly rewarding.