Dual BA Alumni Bring a Global, Intersectional Lens to the Law

Lucy Jeffries ‘20GS, Blythe Edwards ‘21GS, Lorenzo Lamo ‘21GS, and Jeremy Zhang ‘23GS—alumni of the Dual BA with Sciences Po and JD/LLM candidates—share how their GS experiences prepared them for success in the law.

February 28, 2024

Just like their unique paths to Columbia, GS alumni pursue a vast array of professional endeavors post-graduation. Nevertheless, some commonalities can be spotted, from a plethora of community-focused innovations, to a strong entrepreneurial tendency. These shared trajectories shed telling light on interest groups within GS’s student body, and the strengths of a GS education. 

One such pattern is the frequency of alumni from the Dual BA Program Between Columbia University and Sciences Po who are drawn to the law. Speaking to four recent graduates pursuing law studies—Lucy Jeffries ‘20GS, Blythe Edwards ‘21GS, Lorenzo Lamo ‘21GS, and Jeremy Zhang ‘23GS—the reasoning behind this collective interest becomes clear. The Dual BA is characterized by its global reach and multidisciplinary opportunities, experiences which our interviewees recall both awakened their interest in the law and have served as exceptional preparation for their current legal pursuits. In our conversation, they share their top takeaways from the Dual BA, what excited them about the field of law, and their advice for fellow nontraditional students considering law school. 

Lucy Jeffries '20GS (political science, Reims, JD Candidate at Columbia), Blythe Edwards '21GS (politics and government and political science, Reims, JD/LLM Candidate in the Joint Program between Harvard and Cambridge), Lorenzo Lamo '21GS (economics and human rights, Menton, JD/LLM Candidate at Duke), Jeremy Zhang '23GS (Politics and government and sustainable development, Le Havre, JD Candidate at NYU)

What brought you to the Dual BA, and what were some standout experiences?

Lucy: I am half French and half American. I grew up in DC, but very much surrounded by the French community of the French International Lycée. This duality meant a lot to me and leaving high school, I was not fully ready to give up living in a meshed bilingual environment. I also didn’t know if long term I’d prefer to live in the US or in France. The Dual BA enabled me not to compromise on either experience, and continue my education in an international environment. 

My favorite moments were those that helped build community. At Sciences Po, I was on the women’s soccer team and we played at the “week-ends inter-campus” (WEICs). I also loved the opportunity at Columbia to travel with the Amnesty International student group to the organization's general body meetings in Boston and Chicago. These trips solidified strong friendships and enabled us to exchange with human rights activists from across the region.

Blythe: When applying to universities, I was torn between programs in the United States and Europe. I wanted both to be part of an internationally-minded community and to experience living in the United States. The Dual BA program felt almost tailor-made for my background and interests. I knew it would challenge me more than any of the other undergraduate programs I was considering. Attending both Sciences Po and Columbia, you get not only academic rigor, but must also adapt to two completely different places and pedagogical styles.

Blythe Edwards '21GS after running the 2019 NYC marathon

Sciences Po Reims had a remarkably tight-knit and international community of students. The academic intensity combined with the relatively small, enclosed campus meant that we got to know each other and bonded quickly. Transitioning to Columbia felt like everything had been super-sized. A favorite memory from my time at Columbia was training for and running the 2019 New York City Marathon in my first semester. Another highlight was interning part-time at CBS News’s Political Unit in my second semester. I loved combining the student experience, while feeling like a professional; it's the type of opportunity only on offer in places like New York, and what gives Columbia such an edge.

Lorenzo: I'm Colombian and I grew up in a predominantly Latin American community in Miami, Florida. From an early age, I had a strong interest in languages. In high school, I was also very involved in debate and model UN. For me, the Dual BA was a perfect way to immerse myself in a foreign culture, learn a third language, and delve into international relations in a global setting. 

I absolutely loved my two years at Sciences Po. I was the President of the Amnesty International branch [on the Menton campus] and we did a lot of work at the Franco-Italian border related to refugees and migrants. That was my first exposure to human right lawyer-ing and seeing the impact lawyers can have, so that was a definite highlight. Another feature I would say is how well rounded of an education you get out of the Dual BA. I came out as a very analytical thinker, and a very well rounded student which prepared me for the professional world.

Jeremy: I was born and raised in Toronto, to parents who immigrated from China, with a stop in Germany along the way. While in school, I learned French, and inspired by my parents’ international background, I became enamored with the idea of spending some time in France during my undergraduate degree. Through a stroke of luck, I was sent a letter describing the Dual BA Program Between Columbia University and Sciences Po, and it immediately became my singular focus as it felt like the program was perfectly crafted for me.

An obvious strength of the Dual BA program was that I got the chance to take advantage of a natural turning point during the transition from Sciences Po to Columbia. Although I had deepened my interests in policy and law at Sciences Po, I was itching for something more specific to guide how I wanted to make an impact. I soon realized that the sustainable development program aligned with my values as it seeks to create a world that is environmentally sustainable, as well as economically robust and socially equitable. I’m not sure that if I was in a more traditional four-year program I would have had the push to seek out something different from what I started with.

What drew you to the law and to your current law program? 

Lucy: After graduating from the Dual BA, I worked at an NGO called the Syrian Emergency Task Force, and realized that law provided the possibility for creative solutions needed to overcome current obstacles to accountability for war crimes. I also knew that I wanted to work in a field that provided an international experience, and law does just that—whether by using international law, working with international clients, or contributing to cases that touch upon geopolitical realities and current events. These are the key reasons for my interests in both international trade law, and international human rights and asylum law.

Jeremy Zhang '23GS participating in a soccer match between NYU Law and Columbia Law students

Jeremy: Not too surprisingly, I am interested in a career in environmental and energy law. Something that really drew me to NYU School of Law was the culture of empowering public interest law. From the first day of touring the school on Admitted Students’ Day, I could sense that there was a community here of people driven to practice law with the goal of helping people. NYU has been a great place to learn from incredible professors and peers, with the room to explore the issues that matter to me. And of course I would never complain about spending three more years in New York City!

Blythe and Lorenzo, both of you are again pursuing dual degree programs in your legal studies! Tell us about your programs and experience so far. 

Blythe: The Harvard Law School (HLS)-Cambridge J.D./LL.M. Joint Degree Program was actually one of the reasons Harvard was my top choice for law school. In the program, students spend two years at Harvard Law. Then, rather than a traditional third year of law school, participants spend one academic year at Cambridge, before returning to Harvard for a final semester, graduating with both LLM (masters in law) and JD degrees. 

I have been incredibly happy in law school. My “section” (the group of 80 students with whom you take all your first year classes) developed a wonderful sense of camaraderie, and I made many life-long friends. In that first year of law school I worked harder and experienced the most concentrated intellectual and personal growth of my life. Because I was so comfortable with my community and opportunities at Harvard, it turned out to be a really tough decision to leave for the third year. It was the Columbia-Sciences Po experience that convinced me I should launch into an entirely new educational experience, knowing how much I would get out of it and that it was likely my last chance to do so. The year-long LLM program has thus-far been wonderful. Cambridge has a special magic that comes from its many centuries of traditions—I’m so grateful for the opportunity to experience some of the ancient customs, institutions, and quirks.

“It was the Columbia-Sciences Po experience that convinced me I should launch into an entirely new educational experience, knowing how much I would get out of it.”

Lorenzo: With my interest in law, and my international background from Sciences Po, a natural path was to go into international law which I’m specializing in now. This brought me to Duke. Having done a dual degree in undergrad, I wanted to do something multidisciplinary and have a similar experience in law school, so I found the Duke JD/LLM in international and comparative law. It’s a three-year program but you get two degrees—an American JD and an international-focused LLM. In your second and third year in the program, you get to do a lot of coursework in international law, and this summer I’m going to be doing an internship abroad in the Hague and taking international law classes through a program run by Duke at a university in the Netherlands called Leiden. I’m also doing an internship in Sao Paulo, Brazil in Latin American corporate work. These kinds of opportunities are huge draws of this program.

How did the Dual BA and GS’s nontraditional educational opportunities prepare you for or inform your law pursuits?

Lucy: First, having been exposed to so many unique students in GS who have inspiring experiences beyond academia allows you to take a step back from law school and remember that there is more than just studying. Additionally, remembering that people come from different paths and backgrounds helps promote empathy and understanding. To me, this has been central to a part of my client-facing work with Columbia Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, where empathetic-lawyering (a holistic approach to law that considers the client as a person first and foremost) is key. 

Blythe: The Dual BA program is an excellent preparation for law school, and the HLS admissions office seems to agree based on the number of us there. There are four other Dual BA women in the HLS class of 2024. Last year we organized regular dinners together, and while we come from different graduation years and Sciences Po campuses, it is amazing what a strong bond the shared Dual BA experience builds. 

I found that my education at Sciences Po and Columbia prepared me in different, complementary ways. Sciences Po was great preparation for law school process-wise. The French style trains you to think in a very analytical way. Columbia was an extremely helpful introduction to the American pedagogical style. It also provided a substantive introduction to US legal education. I took then-President Bollinger’s First Amendment class, which he taught as a traditional black-letter law class. That experience helped to rip off the bandaid and relieve my anxieties about the cold-calling law school system.

What advice would you have for current GS students, especially fellow Dual BA students, who are interested in law school?

Lorenzo: This advice goes for many careers, but I think really informing yourself about your chosen field to make the best decision possible is so important. A lot of people don’t grow up with lawyers in their family, especially first generation professional students. So, I didn’t know any lawyers growing up, but once I became interested in this career, I was really proactive about reaching out and making use of the Columbia network—a lot of people who did their undergraduate or law studies at Columbia are happy to talk to students about their career path. 

There are also many international or general law conferences happening in New York. I remember once in my junior year, I signed up for an international law conference one weekend in downtown Manhattan…I was the only undergraduate student! It was all practicing lawyers and law students, but it was great, and that’s the benefit of being in New York; there are just so many opportunities.

“I would advise you to embrace the uniqueness of your path through undergrad…You bring something so special to the table.”

Jeremy: I would encourage students to really explore the things that excite you. Ask yourself what classes get you out of the bed, what projects you’re actually excited to work on. The most important thing I found heading into law school was having a "why." The great thing about the law is that it can be tied to just about any industry or issue area. You just need to find the problem you want to learn how to solve, the people you want to learn how to help, or the movements you want to learn how to support. 

More specific to Dual BA students, I would advise you to embrace the uniqueness of your path through undergrad! Law schools do a great job of building a holistic class of students that feature a mix of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. You bring something so special to the table because you may have learned about a specific legal issue others have never considered, or you may have seen a legal solution in action that hasn’t been implemented elsewhere. Emphasize these parts of your story because they will help demonstrate the value you can bring to the law school community.