As a first year law student, I have come to the conclusion that law school is not what it’s “supposed” to be. Here are a few tidbits that may help you in your quest to learn what law school is really like.
The LSAT: before and after.
The LSAT is a necessary evil in applying to law school. Strongly consider taking the test in February the year before you wish to enroll. This allows you to re-take the exam in June, October and December if you didn’t do as well as expected. Fortunately, your LSAT performance is completely irrelevant once enrolled, so that is a plus. Good general test-taking skills are helpful on final exams, but your performance is mostly contingent on your understanding of the course material and your professor’s specific testing style. Even if you bomb the LSAT, it will have no bearing on your success in law school. Have no fear.
You don’t really learn “the law.”
In law school you are taught to make legal arguments via detailed factual analysis and applying existing legal precedent. The good news is you don’t have to memorize a bunch of laws. Instead, you learn how to research, interpret and apply the laws to the issues in each case. Law school may frustrate you with the lack of practicality in learning what lawyers do each day, but you will be well versed in the “lawyer language” and thought process.
The school name matters much more than in your undergraduate years.
A law school is not really a part of the campus it sits on; it’s more like a private club within the university. Law school alumni are much more connected and useful to current law students than general university alumni to the undergraduate population. Your law school’s reputation in the legal community, both locally and beyond, weighs on your career opportunities much more than your school reputation in undergrad. Therefore, it is important that you work to get into a good law school that is respected for producing good attorneys. Set a higher standard. Don’t go to any law school just because. You’ll regret it when your law degree is almost worthless.
If you commit to law school, it better be your career of choice.
Law school is extremely expensive. It is not uncommon to obtain over $100,000 in student loan debt. Life comes at you fast, so enjoy it while you can. In law school you will wish there were more than 24 hours in a day because the time spent reading cases, memorizing torts, issue spotting and studying is time consuming. And, the fat attorney’s salary is not as easy to achieve as one may think. High-paying legal jobs are scarce. In fact, most internships for first year law students are unpaid. You do not have to use your legal education to be a lawyer, per se, because the skill set you acquire from law school is beneficial in any career. However, you should undoubtedly know that law school is absolutely necessary for your career objectives.
Given the time commitment and debt law school requires, the stakes are way too high for law school to be an “experiment.”
Christopher Ivory is a first-year law student.