I’ve been in the law school advice business for almost 15 years (assuming you count the time I was actually in law school). My Top 5 Tips are as follows:
- Be sure you really want to go. Talk to lawyers. Find out what they do, how much they make, how much law school will cost you, and what you can reasonably expect to accomplish as a lawyer. See The Law School Decision Game: A Playbook for Prospective Lawyers for the results of surveys and interviews of 300+ lawyers and the advice they give to those contemplating law school.
- Be careful whom you listen to. Don’t join the first study group you’re invited to join, don’t write down what other people say in class – only what the professor says.
- Don’t count on the law school to get you a job. Start networking from Day One. Choose activities that get you interacting with lawyers, seek them out and learn from them. Have them introduce you to other lawyers too.
- Start making friends with your classmates. After all, they will probably be employed one day, practicing in the same community as you. You’ll see them in the courtroom, you’ll work with them, you may even marry one (or more, eventually) of them. Your reputation may not feel important – you may feel like law school is just an extension of college, or better yet high school – but think of this as the beginning of your time as a lawyer. It’s important that other lawyers respect you.
- Don’t talk to people after you take exams. Don’t talk about the exam with anyone, don’t listen to what anyone else says about the exam. Just go home, lay in bed, and watch a really silly movie. What’s done is done.
Just in case you were looking for more advice, I asked my 1000+ Facebook friends (most of whom have graduated from law school or are about to do so) for their advice for people starting law school. (Most of those who responded turned out to be from California, a phenomenon I can’t really explain, but they provided universally helpful advice.)
Here are some of the highlights:
- Don’t buy textbooks; look up the cases for free on Westlaw/LEXIS instead. (from a Graduate of UC Davis King Hall School of Law)
- Don’t get caught up in the idea of study groups and feeling like you won’t succeed if you are not part of one. Talk to your professors, don’t be intimidated. (from a graduate of Loyola Law School who is now a judge in Los Angeles County)
- Don’t go to law school for the money, your parents, or anyone else. It won’t be worth it and you will end up doing a disservice to yourself, and more importantly, your future clients. (from a 3L at Hastings College of Law)
- Law school is stressful not because it is inherently stressful but the people who go to law school are the type who make everything stressful. Don’t be one of those people and you’ll be fine. (from a Berkeley Grad, now a BigLaw lawyer in NYC)
- Look at practice exams (old tests given by professors) early on so you know what to expect. (3L at University of Texas Law School)
- Treat law school like a full-time job. Work diligently 9-5 and don’t let it consume your entire life. (JD/MBA candidate at Rutgers School of Law)