Advice from the Trenches for Incoming 1Ls: On the Rigors of Law School

Advice for incoming 1Ls Part I - What I Wish I Had Known When Starting Law SchoolPlease welcome guest writer Kala Mueller, Director of Public Interest Programs at the University of Nebraska College of Law. Kala is looking at what some of the students she works with wish they had known going into law school.

For incoming 1Ls, the weeks and months leading up to law school are usually filled with excitement, fear, anxiety, and a lot of questions. I could regale you with tales of my law school experience, but alas, it was more than ten years ago and the details are blurry. Lucky for you, I have the privilege of working closely with a lot of really exceptional law students who are much wiser than me. I asked a few of them to tell me what they wish they would have known as they prepared to enter law school or what advice they would give to new students. [Read more…]

5 Things I’ve Learned as an “Older” Law Student From My Younger Colleagues

What I've Learned as an "Older" Law Student from my Younger Colleagues.

Today we welcome back Jaclyn Wishnia, rising 2L at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and aspiring entertainment law attorney, to discuss the generation gap at law schools and how to work together at any age.

Like most law students, I felt both nervous and excited on my first day of law school orientation. I also shared many of the same thoughts my colleagues have mentioned as well, such as would I make friends easily? Or would everyone be as cold and competitive as the rumor mill suggests? They were the typical questions of doubt anyone entering a new social situation, would ask themselves. Unlike many of my colleagues though, one major concern was dominating my nerves that day: my age.

It took me six years to finally apply to law school after college; the bulk of my twenties. I had lived through almost a decade of failures and triumphs, worked for prominent firms and attorneys, networked with top CEOs of reputable companies, and best of all, was now certain that I belonged in law school. Why was a petty number destroying my confidence? [Read more…]

Perspective on Being a First Generation College Student and Lawyer

Being a First Generation College Student and Lawyer: A First-Hand Perspective

Today, we welcome back Shirlene Armstrong, guest writer and now rising second-year law student to share her personal reflections on her experience as a first generation college and law student.

From a young age, my parents encouraged my sister and I to work hard and be successful at school. Ever since I can remember I knew that I would eventually go to college and get a degree, no matter what obstacles I had to overcome. With the love and support of my family, I became a first-generation college student. [Read more…]

Are You Willing to Look Stupid to Learn?

shutterstock_121961872Lee Rosen once said something interesting to me, which is that he runs across a lot of solo and small firm lawyers who are more concerned about looking like lawyers than they are in doing the non-glamorous work that’s required to get enough business to actually be a lawyer.

At the time, I found this sort of amusing and ironic, but didn’t think much about it. However, I’ve realized this principle applies more broadly, and is applicable to all types of students, too. (As a struggling Spanish-language learner, I count myself in this group, too.)

Are You Too Focused on Looking Smart to Actually Learn?

How often do you do the thing that makes you look (or feel) smart, rather than admitting you don’t know something and really diving in to try to understand it?

[Read more…]

Is Starting Law School Like Moving to a Foreign Country?

Starting Law SchoolPeople always say that law school is like high school, and — while there’s some truth to that (cliques, lockers, backpacks, and gossip!) — I think it’s actually more like moving to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, don’t know anyone, and don’t understand the culture.

Given that I recently moved to Mexico City for the summer (where I don’t speak the language, don’t know anyone, and don’t fully understand the culture), I’m amazed by the similarities to those first months of law school. Here’s what I’ve realized, which might help with the transition to law school.

At First, Everything is Exciting and New

By the time you arrive at law school Orientation, you’ll have been anticipating the moment for months, or even years. It’s really happening! After all of the LSAT prep, application stress, packing, moving, thinking, wishing, worrying — you’re really doing it! You’re starting law school.

Similarly, the first days in a foreign country are so fun and exciting. Who cares if you can’t communicate with anyone! Just look at this adorable cafe you can sit in and daydream about how awesome your life is going to be. All the new friends you’ll make! How quickly you’ll be communicating fluently! This is going to be awesome.

Then, Reality Sets In

Then, a few days in, things start to shift.

[Read more…]

Law School Myth #4: Life as a Lawyer is Exciting and Intellectually Challenging

StressIf you believe pop culture, life as a lawyer is pretty exciting.

Jury trials take half an hour and there’s an ongoing highlight reel of witty cross-examination and bombshell surprise evidence. Sadly, that’s not the way things work in reality.

[Read more…]

Law School Myth #2: Student Loan Debt is Good Debt

Cut up the credit cardsPeople often say you shouldn’t worry about student loan debt — that it’s “good debt.” In some cases, this might be true.

Taking out student loans is an investment in your human capital.

To the extent they enable you to do something you couldn’t otherwise do, i.e., afford to pay for law school so you can become an attorney, student loans might be justifiable.

However, it depends on the specifics:
[Read more…]

Law School Myth #3: Law School Gives You Three More Years to Decide What to Do With Your Life

MazeAre you applying to law school because you want three more years to figure out what to do with your life? Guess what. That’s not the way this works.

You need to know where you want to work geographically, and what kind of work you want to do, well before graduation.

In fact, it’s helpful to know both of these things before the end of your first semester.

[Read more…]

Law School Myth #1: Lawyers Make a Lot of Money

Dollar signTo put it charitably, one reason people consider joining the legal profession is to cash in — lawyers make lots of money, right? Sure, maybe they work all the time and aren’t always happy, but they’re rich! Totally worth it.

Reality check: Most lawyers don’t make all that much money, given the time and cost required to become one.

[Read more…]