By Caambridge Horton • May 30, 2019•Writers in Residence, Law School, Pre-Law
If you browse the internet, you will find many sources providing information on topics from “things you should know before going to law school” to “things I wish I knew before law school” and many of these articles seem to all have a common theme where they stress the importance of doing your research. While there are many sources including entertaining YouTube videos where you can follow a law student in “A Day in their Life,” I thought I’d provide you with one more informative article on what you should know if you are thinking about attending law school.
1. Schedule a Class Tour
One thing I wish I did before attending law school was to go on a class visit. Most law schools allow prospective students to participate in “class visits” where they get to see a law school class in full effect. Granted, the school typically takes prospective students to a class where the professor is well liked, and the topic is interesting, but this visit will still give you valuable insight into the structure of a typical law school class. I feel as though this is important to do before attending law school because it will give you taste of what law school has in store for you, as a future law student.
2. Yes, the Socratic Method is as Bad as it Seems
One thing that causes a lot of anxiety amongst people thinking about law school is the fear of the Socratic Method. If you do not know what the Socratic Method or “cold calling” is, now would be a great time to Google it but in the meantime, here is a link to a great article that sums it up: https://www.princetonreview.com/law-school-advice/socratic-method. In short, the Socratic Method is so terrifying for many people because at any moment, at any given time, the professor may call on you about any information contained in the reading for that particular class. Beyond the reading for the class, professors are notorious for asking questions that have nothing to do with the reading and that call for you to pull from your own knowledge bank about past experiences that you may or may not have had. The main thing that you need to know is that yes, cold calling is scary but trust me, you get used to it. Beyond getting acclimated to it, cold calling provides a lot of relevant skills that help to shape attorneys into great advocates such as thinking quickly on your feet and helping to eliminate any fear one may have about speaking in public.
3. Talk to Law Students Currently Attending the Law School You are Interested In
Now this piece of advice requires doing a bit of investigation. If you talk to the admissions representatives at your prospective university, they will likely have a list of current students who will be glad to talk to you about the institution. DO NOT TALK TO THESE PEOPLE. These students have been hand selected for a reason - whether it is because they are the top of their class, people who had great summer jobs, or the most professional students currently in the law school. While these people may have insight into certain aspects of law school, they likely will not provide you with the full picture. You need to find the average, everyday student who will shine more light onto what the law school experience at your prospective institution really entails. The process is as simple as going onto any social media platform and either typing in your prospective law school’s hashtag. Also, LinkedIn is a great place to find current students at your prospective university. Once you have done a search and found a student who looks interesting, first verify that they attend the law school and then it is a simple as shooting them a direct message. It is likely that they will be thrilled that you want to know about their personal experience. Try to find someone who seems like their life is not consumed by school and who has a nice balance of posts on their account. By doing this, it is likely that this person will have more of a real-world perspective, and they are not one of the rare people who love law school. It is also a great idea to reach out to alumni of your prospective law school as it is likely that they will be more candid about their experience and they can also help to shine light on what the employment outlooks have been for them and their classmates.
4. Do Not Pick a Lower Ranked Law School because You Think You Will be the Top of Your Class
Many of my classmates complain that they did not go to the higher-ranked law school that they got into because they thought they had a better chance of being ranked at the top of the class if they went to a law school a few notches below the higher ranked institution. Well, imagine their surprise when they found out half of the incoming class did the same thing. I say this to say do not let competition be your main motivation for picking a law school. No matter how much research you do, one thing is for certain; you never know who will end up in your law school class until you pay your deposit. Basing your decision on feeling like you can be the top of your class by picking one institution over another is just honestly not a good idea.
5. Law School Really is as Hard as it Seems
If you are anything like me, at each juncture in your education, you have had mentors, teachers, and the like to tell you that xyz level of education is not as easy as what you just went through. For instance, after graduating from high school, teachers always love to say “college is not going to be as easy as high school” then you get to college, learn the ropes and boom it is not that much harder than high school. After I received my undergraduate degree, I attended graduate school and once again, mentors, professors and the like said “graduate school is not like undergrad, it is not as easy” then I went to graduate school, learned the rope and boom it was that easy. Now imagine my surprise when I graduated from grad school with my master’s degree and went to law school, and it actually was as hard as people said it was. Law school is truly like nothing I have ever experienced before. It requires a different level of intellect that you have to unlock even to begin to understand the concepts. The most difficult part is that nothing can really prepare you for this learning adventure. My advice is to be ready to learn, go in with an open mind, and do not let fear get the best of you.
6. Be Sure that Law School is Right for YOU
If you are not sure about law school, then you first need to ask yourself why? If it is because you are more passionate about another field, then I say explore that other field first because law school will always be here. Further, if you are not passionate about the law, it will show and simply put, you will be miserable. If you are not sure about law school because you are scared or fear failure, then you first need to have a serious conversation with yourself and figure out why you are experiencing these emotions. After this conversation, you need to understand that unfortunately, failure is always a possibility. However, you cannot let fear control your decisions or your life. If you are passionate about the field of law, then you need to throw caution to the wind and believe in yourself enough to follow your dreams.