Following Your Own Law School Timeline

Following Your Own Law School TimelineThis week we welcome guest writer Zoila Sanchez to talk about how to focus on your own law school experience and adapt to what you need to in order to make it through school.

As you may have already realized, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to experiencing law school as we are all different and rarely fall into the “traditional” law student mold. For example, some students are parents and attend school full or part-time. Some students are returning for a second or third degree.

You may have experienced feeling “behind” in some way. For example, you may feel late on securing an internship merely because someone else has already interviewed or secured one.

As a law student, I remember representing a bar prep program and promoting a prescribed schedule to help students stay on track. Specifically, there were dates on when to complete the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). While the recommendation seemed to emphasize starting early to set yourself up for success, I came to realize how so much of the real-life law school experience for many is set to a totally different pace than what was on the schedule.

Whenever you are tempted to believe that you are approaching law school the “wrong” way or are “behind” in any way, it is important to remember the so-called ideal student timeline may not be for you and that is normal! You are a law student on a unique path, and it can be challenging to remember this at times.

Here are some reminders for why it is important to embrace your own timeline throughout law school (and beyond).

1. Unexpected Changes

I remember interviewing for my current job and being asked how I respond to change. I had just experienced a ton of sudden changes in a short time due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I learned how to adjust my expectations quickly in the face of major stressors and delays. For example, the MPRE exam was set to take place wearing a mask with other covid precautions I was not used to testing under. Additionally, I was starting bar prep and needed to modify my preparation method quickly as the exam was changing and shifting from an in-person exam to a remote exam. Learning to shift and adapt to change is an important quality, especially in today’s world!

As a law student experiencing these changes, I thought back to when I used to emphasize to students the importance of sticking to this prescribed order of things that appeared to frown upon postponing the MPRE. However, the pandemic showed me that things fall out of order sometimes, and it is more than okay. Most importantly, a delay does not mean you have forfeited your chances.

2. Pursue Unique Experiences

Take on the experiences that will fulfill you and equip you with skills and knowledge. Most importantly, take them on even if they shift your timeline or throw you a curveball!

In my final fall semester of law school, I decided to take on a rare and unique opportunity that our school was offering to study in Washington, D.C. for the semester. I decided to apply for my top choice placement, the Office of General Counsel for the Inspector General within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Moving from New York to D.C. for a semester seemed like a logistical nightmare, and it was not easy to make the semester happen. However, shifting my original stringent timeline (i.e., postponing the MPRE and certain classes) was well worth the trouble. My law school experience would not have been as enriching without the D.C. placement, as it exposed me to the various paths I could take with a law degree and in the federal government.

Be sure to seek out opportunities that may be inconvenient, but life changing. With dedication, you can make it happen for yourself!

3. Finding Your Path

It is critical to be true to your own unique aspirations. Law school may help you get there with career center events that generally introduce you to judicial clerkships, working for the district attorney’s office, the federal government’s honors program, and BigLaw firms, to name only a few examples. However, it is perfectly okay to stray away from these common paths.

For example, you may be a student looking to stray away from traditional law paths and instead pursue an innovative endeavor that shapes the course of a future legal field. There are tons of opportunities you can create, or join (i.e., at a start-up) as well as areas of law that are growing and attracting interest such as technology law.

4. Embrace Your Timeline

Remember that your law school experience is your own. You can shape it to be what you want it to be and mean for you. Embrace doing things on your own terms and timeline! This can give you the confidence to pursue your true passion, goals and explore new experiences.

When you look back, you will be glad you did!


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About Zoila Sanchez

During law school, she served as a Legal Clerk with the federal government at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Counsel to the Inspector General in Washington, DC. Currently, she works for a health and business law firm. She enjoys spending down time mentoring students sitting for the bar exam through the American Bar Association Council on Legal Education Opportunity program and taking it easy with her three poodles.

Ms. Sanchez holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stony Brook University, a Master of Public Health from the University of Arizona and Juris Doctor from Hofstra University.

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