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Non-Traditional Student Leans on Connections with Diverse Student Body to Fuel Passion for a Career in Art Law

Carly Strand

As a first-generation, second-career, non-traditional student, Carly Strand utilized the law school’s sense of community and belonging to catapult her way to academic achievement at UIC Law.

Carly’s journey did not begin on the traditional pre-law tract, as her degree in Arts Management led her to work roles at an auction house and as an exhibition assistant at an art gallery. She wanted to make a “serious career change” and began looking at law schools. She had heard about UIC Law’s reputation for having a strong alumni network of attorneys and judges and was impressed by the law school’s premiere location and welcoming feel when she came to visit. After being awarded the opportunity to attend on a full scholarship, Carly’s journey at UIC Law began.

Carly recognized the challenges she would face as a non-traditional J.D. candidate but gave credit to the diversity of students at the law school.

“The student body itself is more diverse than most law schools I’ve seen,” she said. “There are older students, parents, and different backgrounds… I didn’t feel uncomfortable or felt like I stuck out due to the diversity of the student population.”

Though Carly recognized the intimidation that could come from being amongst those who may come from a family of lawyers, or those who took pre-law in undergraduate and were coming into law school with four years of mock trial experience already under their belt, Carly drew from her eight years of work experience to ensure law school success and used on-campus student organizations to connect and network with her peers.

“If I wasn’t involved [in student organizations], I would not have developed my passion for what I want to do today. Even if it felt overwhelming at times, I loved being able to contribute to my school community,” Carly said.

While in law school, Carly was president of Scribes, president of the American Constitution Society, president and founder of the Art Law Society, vice president of the former Non-Traditional Law Student Association, a member of the First-Generation Law Students Society, the Phi Delta Phi Honors Society and was recently nominated for the Order of Barristers.

Carly was heavily involved in the law school’s nationally recognized Trial Advocacy and Dispute Resolution (TADR) program, serving as the program coordinator/ADR Chair of the TADR Honors Program. She competed with the negotiation, mediation, and moot court teams, receiving a 2nd place mediator team win at the INADR International Mediation Competition as her most recent accolade.

“My team involvement has been a great experience; it has allowed me to build teamwork and leadership skills I could not get in a classroom.”

Carly Strand

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“The chance to work with different people I normally wouldn’t has prepared me for a career in a diverse field,”  she added.

Carly was also involved in the law school’s Pro Bono Litigation Clinic. This semester, she worked on record relief in the advanced clinic, including expungement, sealing, and clemency petitions, stating that “even the simplest work is so important and makes a positive, lasting impact.”

Carly is also thankful for the professors at UIC Law, crediting them for being “experienced, knowledgeable, and supportive.”

Post commencement, Carly hopes to practice law in an international environment in art law. She hopes to work on cases like restitution and repatriation as it relates to cultural heritage.

“Of course those are the big dreams. But I also want to advocate for people in the simplest form, like helping an artist or new business owners.”

To support this goal, Carly is currently enrolled in a certificate course for dispute resolution called the Program on Negotiation at Harvard College of Law, where she hopes to make an impact in art law, litigation, international law and dispute resolution. She also plans to take a short course in Art Law with Sotheby’s Institute of Art following the bar exam in July.

Carly’s advice to other non-traditional students looking to begin their law journey: “Set your own expectations. You can set the bar as high as you want it or as low as you need it to be. The only timeline you have to go by is your own.”