What do you wish someone had told you about law school?
August 4, 2008
Last year I wrote Advice for First Year Law Students. Because I do not know everything, I surveyed other young lawyers and this is the advice they gave:
- Accept to go to the best law school you can get into — especially if you are taking out loans. It really is worth it to apply yourself and study as hard as you can your 1L & 2L years; it will dictate the trajectory of the rest of your legal career.
- I found law school incredibly frustrating, to be honest. How well you do in law school is not the same as how well you are going to do as an actual lawyer– or how much you will enjoy it. I think learning how to be a good lawyer is an ongoing process which only begins with law school. I am still learning, and getting better, on a daily basis. That said, law school is a necessary transition point. I think it is important to build and maintain friendships during law school. I also think it is important to work part time during law school. That is the only way you will learn what it is like to actually be a lawyer. Law school does not teach that.
- Law school is a long, occasionally annoying game. Work hard, but don’t forget why you’re really doing what you’re doing. If you came in with a dream job in mind, never stop moving toward that dream job. You don’t have to do what everyone else does just because that appears to be the “normal” path.
- Remember why you went to law school, and try to pursue job opportunities that really relate to that. There is a lot of pressure at law school to accept the most prestigious jobs possible, but no matter how prestigious a position may be, you will not be happy unless it’s something you actually enjoy in some facet. You work too hard at law school to just take a job to “make a living” – take advantage of your higher education and do something you’re passionate and excited about!
- Study hard, constantly network and get any and all practical experience you can through working, internships, clinics etc. Unfortunately grades are still an important part of the hiring process, regardless of skills.About law school, paralegal before going. I have taught the LSAT course for Kaplan for many years and am surprised or maybe the word is disappointed that the answer most students give to why law school is something to the effect of I don’t know what else I want to do.
- Ace the lsat (it really is a test you can master if you understand the inner workings of the test) and go to the best law school you can get into in the geographic region where you anticipate you will practice.
- About getting a job — You never know when or how it will happen. It is frustrating if you don’t get a job that you really want, but you’ll hardly remember the rejections after a few years. When I was rejected for a prestigious summer fellowship at nyu, I told my contracts teacher who went there and wrote my recommendation. She said, in a few years, it will be a distant memory and your life hardly will have been different. I remember her telling me that, not sure if it’s true but it stuck with me.
- Be wary of the prevailing view that you must work in a firm environment when you graduate. There are other career paths than firms, but no one in law school talks about them. Don’t expect much from you Career Services Office. They are not that helpful, even though they tell you they are.