Diversity @ Widener Law: Jay Patel
Jay Patel relied on a strong support network to fuel his success and keep him hungry for the challenges of law school.
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To Protect, Help, and Guide
BustamanteCLaudia300px“In life, we never expect to ever need a lawyer,” Delaware student Claudia Bustamante says, “It just happens.”

Claudia came from Peru with her family at the age of 16 with goals and dreams, but before she could fulfill those dreams, she had to wait through a “long and tedious” immigration process that was very much in the hands of her family’s lawyer. “I felt at some point that my future and my life depended on him and when our case was finally completed, it felt so good,” she says, adding, “It felt even better to have the support, the guidance, and the protection of someone who not only understood my legal issues, but also understood my desire to achieve my goals.”

“I became fascinated with the law and with the opportunity that being a lawyer gives to someone,” Claudia says, continuing, “Being a lawyer gives people the opportunity that many others may never have – to help someone who desperately needs your help, or to speak for someone who is incredibly terrified to even be in the same room as someone who has hurt them. When your career gives you the opportunity to protect people, to help, and to guide them, I cannot find something more rewarding than that.”

After graduating from John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York, Claudia looked at a number of law schools. She sought a law school far enough from home to avoid distractions but close enough to see her family in Bergen County, New Jersey when needed. Widener Law’s Delaware campus offered an ideal location, but it was a visit to the campus that sealed her interest.

“When I attended the accepted applicants picnic, I fell in love with the school. I loved the warm welcome the faculty members and upperclassmen gave to me. I had visited about 6 other schools up in the New York area prior to visiting Widener and none of them came close to the organization I saw at Widener and the eagerness of the faculty members to answer the questions I had,” she recounts.

“Widener has met and exceeded all expectations I had of law school,” says Claudia. “I take every class as a new challenge. At the beginning of each semester, I come into the classroom not knowing anything about the subject matter, but at the end of the semester it always impresses me how much I have learned.”

Law school has not been without its difficulties. “I find that every law school exam has been a hurdle for me to overcome,” she says, but she credits her professors and an open-door policy with helping her become more comfortable with taking exams.

Claudia’s involvement in Widener Law’s community goes far beyond the classroom as well. Working with upperclassmen during her first year, she helped to revive the law school’s Latin American Law Students Association (LALSA), and served as the vice president during the organization’s first year. In the 2011-12 academic year, she served as the president, a role she will reprise in 2012-13. She also participated in the Public Interest Law Alliance, serving as co-president this past year.

Claudia hopes to become a prosecutor after law school, crediting time spent at the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office with helping her focus on an interest in criminal law, but she credits law school with changing her way of thinking, concluding, “Widener has given me the opportunity to experience such transformation.”