What You Should Know Before Going to Law School

Dec 11, 2013

by Josh Silver

Prior to beginning your studies, law school can seem like a vague and foreign place, and beginning law school can be an overwhelming or daunting challenge.  For those fortunate enough to be admitted, they have been handed the keys to doors of opportunity, something that should not be taken for granted.  Practicing law is a privilege, not a right, and your studies in law school are the first step towards a long and lucrative career in the legal profession.

However, ask any law school graduate, and they are sure to have a litany of tips and pieces of advice that they wish someone had shared with them before embarking on their career path.  Some of these tips read like common sense, and others are insightful, yet each of them is something worth considering before embarking on the long, three year trek through law school.

You will meet people from all walks of life, so be prepared to engage and interact with many different view points.

Students in law school come from many diverging backgrounds and from many ethnicities and religions.  These are your peers for the rest of your life, so it is imperative you learn to communicate and relate to them.  This is a skill that is highly applicable and transferable to actual practice, as your clients will also come from disparate backgrounds and require different levels of attention and interaction.

Volunteer!

Every law school has a Legal Aid clinic of some form.  They eagerly anticipate the beginning of each school year as scores of students offer their time to help serve the community.  This is perhaps the single most practical experience that a student can receive while in law school.  At clinics, you will have carriage of files, will meet with clients and do intake, and have the opportunity to give back to the community while gaining real life legal experience.

After first year, pick an area of focus.

First year affords no opportunity for a dedicated focus; you take the core classes that are assigned, and most schools do not allow you any electives.  However, after first year, you are free to design your own course calendar.  At this point, students should do their best to identify an area of concentration.  Law firms are more likely to be interested in a candidate if they can show a demonstrated interest and sustained success in the specific practice area.  This piece of advice is not for everyone, as there are bound to be many students who are unable to identify an area of concentration so early on.  Fear not.

Work/School-life balance is important to success.

Although you may think you will never have an ounce of free time, it is absolutely crucial that you take on some extra-curricular activities outside of the classroom.  Whether this means going to the gym daily, joining an intramural team, joining or starting a club, or making sure to go hit the bars every once in a while, by maintaining a good balance, you will improve your health, your outlook, and your academic performance.

Be prepared for your classes.

It is no exaggeration to say that the three most important characteristics of a successful lawyer are preparation, preparation, and preparation.  Living this motto should begin even before your first day of law school.  You will likely have access to your syllabi before the school year begins; take advantage of this opportunity to get ahead in your studies and casebooks.  Before you know it, you will be wondering how the first 6 weeks of law school has flown by, and you will be desperately cramming for a mid-term.

Visit your professors during their office hours.

It is simply amazing how few students take advantage of their professors as a resource.  Many professors comment frequently about how they idle their time away during their office hours as no students come to visit them.  They will appreciate you dropping in to ask a question, or even say hello.  They are there to help you, not only in their course, but throughout your journey to becoming a lawyer.  You will come away with a better understanding of your subject matter, and your professors will remember you as far more than just a face in the crowd. After all, professors are people too.

No amount of friendly tips or warnings can really prepare you for the grind of law school.  Hopefully, however, the above can be used as a resource for any aspiring students who wants to go to law school, and help them be more prepared and better understand the challenges ahead of them.

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