Believe in Yourself

Minika N. Udoko, '16

Minika N. Udoko ’16 knew from an early age that she wanted to pursue a career in law. “While I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, I am a first generation Nigerian-American. As a first generation law student in my family and a minority, I always wanted to pursue the highest level of education possible that interested me. For me, that was always law.”

As an undergraduate, Minika obtained her Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from Brenau University Women’s College in Gainesville, GA.  During college, Minika decided that after graduating she wanted to relocate to New York to pursue her Juris Doctor. “Pace was a wonderful option for me. In my research, I found that Pace University’s mission is Opportunitas – this spoke directly to me as a first generation Nigerian-American.”

Minika was pleased with her decision to attend Pace Law immediately. “I had so many positive experiences throughout my time at Pace. During the Summer of 2014, I was a student in Professor Vanessa Merton’s Immigration Clinic. Professor Merton’s teaching style focuses on practicality. Also, I took Evidence and Negotiations with Professor Lissa Griffin. I also found her to have a very practical approach to learning. Both Professor Merton and Griffin encouraged me to go above and beyond and took a keen interest in my academic and professional development as law student.”  

Traveling and seeing other cultures and countries is also important to Minika. Luckily, she was able to participate in two study abroad programs while at Pace. “I traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil through the Environmental Law Program and learned about the environmental regimes of the United States and Brazil. I also was able to travel to London and focus on comparative counterterrorism law. Both of these study abroad experiences further enriched my legal knowledge and understanding of the respective issues we focused on.”

Minika notes that during her time at Pace Law she was exposed to a variety of practical experiences and opportunities. “I had internships at Safe Horizon with their Domestic Violence Law Project, with Urban Justice Project, the Housing Unit of Manhattan Legal Services, and the New York City Housing Authority’s Law Department. I was also fortunate to have the opportunity to be a student attorney with Pace Law’s Barbara C. Salken Criminal Justice Clinic. When I graduated, because of all of these experiences, I felt a step ahead in terms of practical experience and my ability to jump into a variety of situations already knowledgeable.”

After graduating, Minika joined the New York State Bar Association as Special Projects Lead. From there, she became Manager of Section and Solo-Small Firm Member Outreach. And, recently, Minika started in a new position with the NYSBA, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. “As Diversity and Inclusion Specialist, I am responsible for overseeing the Association’s efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in the Association and the legal profession through educational programming and outreach in coordination with the Association's committees and sections. This position is extremely important to me because of my personal background. I feel honored to be able to serve as a resource to the NYSBA committees, sections, and staff liaisons regarding programming focused on promoting diversity and inclusion, and the elimination of bias.”

When asked what advice she would have for current and future law students, Minika’s answer is two-part. “Stay involved. I was a member of several student organizations and not only does it give you different perspectives, but it gives you a core group of individuals to network with. And, my other advice comes from my late grandmother, who is my greatest inspiration, she encouraged and supported my dreams of becoming a lawyer as a child. As a result of her, I have always strongly believed in the Eleanor Roosevelt quote “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” I would encourage all law students to do the same – believe in yourself and your dreams.”