Hello, future law students! My name is Tara Anderson, and I am a law clerk at SW&L. I began law school in August of 2015, and I just graduated on May 5, 2018. If you are reading this, I am guessing you are considering going to law school, have applied to law school, or maybe you are just wondering, ”Is law school really like ‘Legally Blonde’ or ‘The Paper Chase?’” (FYI, it’s not.) Law school was completely different than what I expected. It was probably the toughest three years of my life, but it was a great experience. Since I just graduated a couple of weeks ago, I thought I would share some tips for those considering law school and entering law school in the fall.
What Do I Need To Do Before I Start Applying To Law School?
- Well, for starters, you need to have a four-year degree from a college or university before you can be admitted into law school. It doesn’t really matter what type of degree you have, as long as it’s a four-year degree and you’ve maintained a good GPA. If you plan to attend law school right after you graduate, you should start applying to law schools during the fall semester of your senior year. You will likely have to write a personal statement for your application, so it is best to start brainstorming for that sooner rather than later.
- You should also start building your resume by volunteering, getting involved in school groups or activities, and getting work experience in the legal field. The contacts you make with these efforts will provide another benefit: letters of recommendation for law school applications! Professors and lawyers are also great references for your law school application, so build those relationships.
- Before you apply to law schools, you will need to take an exam called the LSAT. This exam has nothing to do with the law, so don’t worry if you were a physics major and not a political science major. This test measures skills like critical thinking, reading & comprehension, analysis, etc. If you want more information about the LSAT, you can find it here. If there are law schools that you are already interested in, I would recommend looking at the school’s website and reviewing the GPA and LSAT scores of accepted students from the past couple of years. This was really helpful for me, and it motivated me to work hard.
What Advice Would I Give To Someone Entering Law School?
- My number one piece of advice is to get experience! For me, some of the best learning experiences happened outside of the classroom. I worked at a law firm part-time, had three internships, and participated in a mock trial competition. I did this throughout the three years of law school, so don’t try to cram everything into your final year of law school. While I don’t recommend working the first semester (or even the first year for some), I started working my second semester of law school as a law clerk, and it really helped me apply what I was learning in class to real-life situations. However, working part-time while being a full-time student is not for everyone. Some people recommend working only during summer breaks. It can be difficult to manage your time and you do not want your grades to suffer. If you feel like you would have a problem with this, you might consider limiting yourself to internships or working at a law firm during the summer breaks.
- During your second and third year of law school, you will be able to do internships, moot court, mock trial competitions, trial team, law review, school organizations, etc. Check out your school’s website to get more information about what your school offers and see what you are interested in! My internships and mock trial experience really helped me improve my legal reading and writing, and trial advocacy skills. I would recommend getting involved in some way because studying hard and having a good GPA will only get you so far. Being involved outside of the classroom is great for helping you learn, but it is also important for building your resume.
Work On Your Time Management Skills
- You are going to be VERY busy in law school. I know you want to hang out with your friends or vent about your professors, but you really need to take the time to study and read cases! You should block off a certain number of hours per day, per subject to study. Buy a planner to organize and track your reading assignments for each day. It will help you in the long run, trust me!
Do Not Be Afraid Of The Socratic Method
- I remember in undergrad wanting to go to law school, but I was so scared of the Socratic method! You may be wondering, what is the Socratic method? If you haven’t seen this teaching method in action, watch the movie “The Paper Chase.” In short, the Socratic method is a teaching technique used by law school professors, and it’s designed to help you learn the cases and principles through discussion. While this may be the intent, this teaching method can be intimidating, and it may seem like the professors are trying to break you down. From my experience, this was not the case. Most professors want you to succeed and will not embarrass you if you get an answer wrong. Plus, I had some teachers who chose not to use this teaching method, so I really worried about it for nothing. As long as you prepare for class, you will be fine.
Be Competitive, But Do Not Be “That Person”
- I get it. You want to be the best! Seriously, who doesn’t? While being competitive and trying to succeed is great, it should not prevent you from being kind to your classmates. Those classmates will eventually become your opposing counsel or co-workers. So, don’t be that person who is rude to everyone and thinks they are the best. If someone misses a class and asks you for your notes, let them borrow yours. If someone needs help to understand a topic you know really well, help them out. You never know when you might need their help too.
Find A Support Group
- My last tip is to surround yourself with people who support you and build you up. At one point during my first year of law school, I seriously considered giving up. Thankfully, I had an amazing group of family and friends who supported me and helped me get through the rough patches. Law school is hard and can break you down at times. You may feel worn out, tired, sleep-deprived, and (to be honest) feel absolutely stupid at times. However, if you have a great support system and believe in yourself, you will get through it.
Finally, while I do not think that the movie “Legally Blonde” is an accurate representation of the real law school experience, I think Elle Woods’ graduation speech is great advice for someone entering or graduating from law school. “It is with passion, the courage of conviction, and a strong sense of self that we take our next steps into the world, remembering that first impressions are not always correct. You must always have faith in people. And most importantly, you must always have faith in yourself.”
Good luck, future law students! If you have questions or need help on a legal matter, please contact Severson, Wogsland, & Liebl, PC at 701-297-2890 or email us via the contact form below.