Monday, December 10, 2018

Debunk a Law School Myth

Competition is inherently embedded into the education system: in elementary school you compete for that gold star sticker, in middle school you compete to get into those AP and Honors classes, in high school you compete to get into college, and in college you compete against the class curve. With that said, being competitive is almost an expected trait in your average law student: if you’ve made it this far, chances are you’ve had to be selfish at least once or twice.

However, one of the myths I heard over and over again in the process of applying to law school was how much more competitive law students were and how this hindered the ability to create genuine relationships with classmates. “At the end of the day, your friends are your competition,” people said. As the stakes get higher, people get increasingly more competitive, right?

While this seems like a logical inference, my experiences in law school thus far have proven that this particular myth is just that—a myth. Even though my time at Loyola has been limited as a transfer student, I have yet to encounter this level of extreme competition. What I have found is that, especially as the new kid, people are welcoming and happy to help a fellow student. Instead of trying to hinder one another, students at Loyola share a sense of camaraderie and the “we’re all in this together” mentality seems more pervasive than ever.

This leads me to my next point: making friends in law school. According to the myth, law students are too busy looking out for themselves to socialize or make friends. However, my time at Loyola has once again proven otherwise. Whether it’s struggling through that one impossible class together or being part of the same student organization, law school presents so many opportunities for students to come together and build lasting relationships. Although each of us will eventually follow different paths, the unique experience of going through law school and the bonds we created with one another will follow us long after graduation.

Friday, December 7, 2018

My Advice: In Law School, Use The Processes That Work Best For You

The biggest law school myth is actually somewhat true. When starting the process of applying to law school, you start hearing about how you’re going to get buried in work. And about how the deluge just keeps going until the day you retire. That’s not totally a myth. The work is tough, and it can certainly get overwhelming.

But that truth goes hand-in-hand with another one: That law school is a different experience for each student. If you are applying to law schools now, you might be imagining, for instance, that you have to change who you are, and how you think, just in order to get by. But the truth is that a big part of the process of learning to be a good law student is finding your comfort zone – the place where you can adapt to the kind of work you have to do without feeling that you need to change the processes you already use.

For instance, I really took to heart all the advice I got from professors during orientation, about the Cornell method of note-taking, and how to create outlines for my courses, and all the essential elements of the case briefs I needed to write for every single case I read. I’m glad I listened carefully, because that advice helped set expectations of the kind of work I’d be doing, and made me understand the “standard” approach to law school.

But some of those processes felt awkward for me. I’m not good at taking notes by hand, for instance. And I can get bored if my note-taking process becomes too routinized. I realized I had to find the best note-taking style that worked best for me, and I had to write briefs that were useful later when I was studying, but that didn’t take me hours to put together. I made outlines that were color coded and full of emojis and written in my own goofy dialect.

This “comfort zone” approach centered on the realization that I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel – I could use the processes I’d honed in four years of undergrad and seven years of professional life to understand what I was learning. These were processes I felt comfortable with; processes that I knew worked for me.

My best advice, then, is to not get too caught up on the “myth” that law school necessarily molds your brain to one type of thinking. All kinds of people become lawyers – quiet people, assertive people, analytical people, creative people. The key is to figure out how to succeed by using the strengths you already have.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Debunk A Law School Myth

One law school myth that I was told before attending was that I wouldn’t be able to succeed without a regular study group. This was a major concern for me my first year because I had a hard time finding students in my classes with similar learning styles and schedules as me. However, I learned pretty fast that I actually preferred to work through material alone for the most part! I learned more effectively this way and then I study with others close to exam time just to confirm material and go over practice problems. Although study groups can be very helpful, and arguably essential, for some people, I learned that I just wasn’t one of those people. And that’s okay!

I was told that I wouldn’t be able to succeed without regular study groups, but this turned out to be completely untrue for me.

Monday, December 3, 2018

If You Want To Go To Law School, You Must Have A Law Background

Most of my friends who wanted to attend law school were majoring in Political Science, Legal Studies and Criminal Justice and many of them managed to land internships with judges or attorneys during and after college. I however chose a different path. In addition to not majoring in either one of those majors, the career opportunities I pursued were for the most part non-law related.

After I was admitted into law school, I was concerned that I would not be as prepared as my classmates with a legal background. Fortunately, it has been a whole two months since classes started, and up until now I have not felt that my lack of legal expertise has hindered my ability to understand and follow what professors are teaching. I have, however, come to appreciate the perspective my non-legal pursuits have provided me. For example, between college and law school I volunteered at a rape crisis center, where I had the opportunity to learn how to best listen to, and advocate for, survivors of sexual violence. I feel that background allows me to bring a different perspective to the class when we are discussing the approaches and shortcomings of the criminal justice system. I also feel that if I chose to pursue a career in criminal justice, this perspective would be an asset.

So, if you, like me, are terrified to start law school with no legal background, breath- it’s fine. You will be fine. I wish someone would have told me that a long time ago- it would have saved me a lot of panic.

As a disclaimer: While I did not have a law-related major or law-related career prior to coming to law school, I made sure to conduct extensive research about the legal field. I also made sure to talk to as many lawyers as possible about the legal profession to decide whether it was a good fit for me. I strongly recommend anyone who lacks a legal background to do the same before committing to the exciting adventure that is your 1L year.