“Penn State was not my plan at all,” recalls third-year law student Amber Bynum. Born in southern California with an undergraduate degree in business administration, Bynum had never lived outside of the golden state or frankly ever had the intent to leave. But by a twist of fate and a determined mindset, Bynum finds herself in central Pennsylvania pursuing her life-long dream of becoming a lawyer.
As a first-generation college student and the oldest of three siblings, pursuing higher education was an unprecedented feat within Amber’s family — and a law degree even more aspirational. “It sounds funny now, but in third grade I remember watching Legally Blonde and being fascinated with Elle Woods,” says Bynum. “She’s the underdog, she’s not your conventional law student, but she overcame it all.” Just like Elle, Amber has faced her fair share of challenges, yet is tirelessly working to break the mold of what a lawyer looks like. “I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer, but I was unsure of what that journey would be” says Bynum.
After undergrad, things for Bynum didn’t necessarily go as planned. She was denied or waitlisted from every law school she had applied to, with no plan B. Bynum remained in California and took an internship at her local congressman’s office, with little prior understanding of politics. “It was the beginning of the Trump era and I knew that I had to do something” says Bynum. “People in my community were scared.”
Prior to that role, Bynum believed her future was in entertainment or sports law. With her newfound interest in social advocacy and criminal justice, Amber’s life path was changed for the better. “I can’t be the person who sits here and complains without being the person who also goes out and does something about it,” says Bynum.
Bynum retook her LSAT and was accepted to Penn State Law. She is now exploring her passion within social justice, civil rights litigation and employment discrimination. “The law is universal,” explains Bynum. “Our country is built on fundamental rights and liberties, so it is essential to make sure that LGBTQ+ people, people of color and immigrants are granted the same protections.”
During her first semester in State College, Bynum regularly found herself in debate with her classmates. “I was so surprised by the American experience they were not seeing,” she explains. “I realized that many people are unaware of the realities for minority communities within this country.” Bynum approaches difference from a place of understanding, curiosity and love. “There is so much hate in our country right now,” she says. “I want to be the person making sure that every citizen feels cared for under the law.”
As Bynum continues her education she dreams of a future in which she can practice law and make a substantial difference in the lives of others. To other aspiring law students she urges, “you are stronger than a standardized test. You are more than a law school application. Focus on finding your strength. Success looks different or everyone.”