From left to right: [top] Giovanni Sibilia, Amrutha Chethikattil and Sterling Cole [bottom] Jordan Motley and Jordan Farrell. Photo: Jenny Hudak/University of Miami

Above the Bar aims to help minority students realize their law school dreams

By Jenny Hudak

Above the Bar aims to help minority students realize their law school dreams

By Jenny Hudak
Founded by University of Miami junior Jordan Farrell, the multicultural organization provides test preparation and other resources for aspiring lawyers.

Jordan Farrell has always wanted to go to law school. However, she quickly realized the path would not be as easy as it seemed.

“Going into my sophomore year, I started doing my research on how to prepare myself and realized how many hurdles, especially as a minority student, I would have to overcome,” she said.

The Fort Myers, Florida, native and Civic Scholar who is studying political science and criminology sought campus resources to support her path to become a lawyer.

“I channeled all my energy into researching ways to support myself, but also other minority students on this journey,” she said. “There’s already a massive gap in representation in the legal community, so I wanted to create a platform where we can highlight these resources and conversations about representation to the University community.”

Last year, Farrell took matters into her own hands by launching Above the Bar to provide support to minority students on the pre-law track. The multicultural organization helps undergraduate students prepare for law school by providing resources for the law school admissions test, networking opportunities, advice on financial readiness, and workshops to tailor students’ strengths during the application process.

“Creating a vision for Above the Bar has taught me the importance of just taking the initiative for the things that matter to you,” Farrell said. “I knew in my heart I didn't want other students to face the same adversities that I did. To have a platform to share important information that can change the trajectory of students' careers is the most rewarding experience.”

Sterling Cole, a first-year student studying political science, arrived at the University with law school already in mind. Looking for ways to further his preparedness early in his academic career, he discovered Above the Bar. Now Cole, who serves as the freshman liaison on the organization’s executive board, said the networking opportunities afforded by his role already has benefited his law school ambitions.

"Above the Bar’s programs have introduced me to so many amazing people. Everyone around me has been so helpful in the process," he said. "I enjoy hearing from the different knowledgeable speakers we bring in for our events.”

This semester, Cole, Farrell, and other members of the executive board addressed one of the most daunting issues many aspiring law students face: preparing for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

“One of the biggest burdens students face when applying to law school can be the cost,” Farrell said. “One LSAT preparation book can cost hundreds of dollars. Our executive board wanted to figure out how to create a resource for students on campus that eliminates that barrier for them.”

The students partnered with Student Government and the Otto G. Richter Library to fundraise for a series of LSAT preparation books to be housed in the library system. Through the program, University of Miami students will be able to check out law school preparation materials free of charge with their CaneID. The students are collecting monetary donations and gently used LSAT books for the program.

Ismaris Ocasio, assistant director of exploration and life design at the Toppel Career Center, advises Above the Bar. Ocasio also works as a pre-law advisor to students across campus interested in pursuing law school.

“As a pre-law advisor, students are always coming to me asking for support and these materials. The whole idea with Above the Bar is that these students help provide the tools, insight, and awareness to these resources to help them get into law school,” she said.

“This executive board is the most dedicated group of students I’ve ever met,” Ocasio added. “Jordan and their whole executive team work extremely hard. They care so much about making a difference and having an impact on students like themselves.” 

Toby Obodoechine, a sophomore studying business technology, serves as a career development coordinator on Above the Bar’s executive board. She said her role in the organization is equally beneficial and rewarding, allowing her to gain leadership experience while supporting the goals of other students. 

“[Above the Bar] has given me such a sense of purpose by being able to help other students like myself through the pre-law process by sharing resources with them,” Obodoechine said. 

“With the library book initiative, we’re just getting one step closer to accessibility to law resources on campus. While it’s a big step, I want us to keep going. I want to use this role to keep giving back to the people who come after me,” Farrell added. 

To stay up to date on Above the Bar’s events and initiatives, students can visit its page on Instagram or Engage.