Katrina James has worn many hats—even a baker’s cap. James, who learned pastry-making as an undergrad at Cornell, is bi-racial, black and white; and bi-national, born in England. When it comes to trying on careers, she embraces the Sturm und Drang with aplomb.
In college she had visions of being a public defender, but after interning at a child welfare agency in Harlem, James realized that her clients needed counseling more than reduced sentences. Putting law school on hold, she earned an M.S.W. at NYU.
Later feeling burned out by social work, James went into admissions and recruiting, first at Fordham and then at NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and noticed a pattern: Candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds—regardless of ambition— often didn’t have the requisite qualifications. Rejecting one such student, she recalls: “I was heartbroken because I knew he could be a great practitioner.” She, too, could have missed opportunities if not for the rigorous British schooling that placed her in accelerated classes. The comparison made James realize that her original plan, law school, would better equip her to offset these imbalances in our society.
James began at NYU thinking that “the next Brown v. Board of Education is coming, and I want to be a part of it.” She’s active in the Black Allied Law Students Association and the Coalition for Legal Recruiting, which promotes faculty diversity.
Next she’ll work in Manhattan as an associate at Clifford, Chance, a firm she chose for its securities litigation work, and volunteer as an admissions officer at TruePotential, the LSAT prep course for low-income students started at the Law School: “I might not use all of the nonprofit skills that I have right away, but I’ll be prepared for the day when I move on to do other things…whatever I decide to do.”
We’ll add more pegs to the hat rack.