Law School Student of the Year: Katelyn (Katie) James, New York Law School

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a … law student?

Katie3L might be the only law student who regularly dons a brightly-colored cape. By day, James plays the role of Ready Girl, a superhero she created to teach New York City children about emergency preparedness. By night, she’s a top evening division student at New York Law School (NYLS), planning a career in privacy and cybersecurity law.

James’s Ready Girl persona is tied to her job as a community engagement program specialist for the New York City Emergency Management Department, which coordinates the city’s response to emergencies ranging from hurricanes to blizzards, power outages, and pandemics.

James created the award-winning educational program in October 2015 as an offshoot of the city’s “Ready New York” public education campaign. Dressed in a sparkly costume and cape, she teaches schoolchildren emergency preparedness measures, such as packing a “go bag” of essential supplies and keeping a list of important phone numbers.

In the past few years, Ready Girl’s reach has grown dramatically. In 2016, Marvel Comics created a custom comic book, The Avengers, Featuring Ready Girl in “Against the Wind.” In 2018, James and colleagues presented training sessions at 200 schools, reaching 30,000 children. There are now five Ready Girls, and the program is planning to expand nationally in 2019. James has won awards from the National Hurricane Conference, the National Association of Government Leaders, and FEMA. She’s appeared on TV and at Comic Con. (See clips here, here, and here.)  

James, who attended college in downtown Manhattan, became interested in emergency planning after Hurricane Sandy forced a rapid evacuation of her undergraduate dormitory.

At NYLS, she has found innovative ways to apply her experience to her future legal career. James is pursuing courses in data privacy and cybersecurity law, and after graduation, she hopes to help companies navigate the thorny legal complications of data breaches. She also serves as the student member of NYLS’s Faculty Committee for Safety and Security. In addition, she’s a top student, a New York Law School Law Review editor,and a member of the Dean’s Leadership Council.

She drew on her city government experience as the stand-out student in NYLS’s State and Local Government course this past semester. The project-based learning course is taught by Dean Anthony W. Crowell, former Counsel to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. James served as team lead for a research project, done for a client, on the legal issues surrounding Safe Injection Sites across New York City. The project explored ways to combat the opioid crisis through public health and criminal justice reforms. James’s team analyzed relevant local, state, and federal laws; possible legal pathways to implementing these sites, and the success of such sites in Canada.

James has accepted an offer as a 2019 summer law clerk at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, where she plans to develop her litigation skills further.

This year, NYLS hung a poster of the Ready Girl comic book cover in its “Hall of Superheroes,” which features other iconic comic art. The tribute honors James’s public service, ingenuity, and leadership skills.