Monday, December 17, 2018

Debunk A Law School Myth

I was 100 percent convinced I would have zero friends in law school.

This was not because I love being home by 10 pm, or because most of the time I will opt for takeout and 90’s films.

I thought I would be completely on my own because every person I talked to that had attended law school told me that law school WASN’T a place to make friends. Their logic was premised on 1.) everyone in law school secretly hates each other and everyone is just fighting to be at the top of their class and 2.) I was from out of state and didn’t have any undergrad or pre-law school friends in the area.

Of course, I pondered this insightful advice that was being given to me (most of the time without me asking for it). I frequently found myself construing cost-benefit analysis’ in my head. They went something like this: “law school is expensive, but hey I’ll get a good job! But what if I go insane? You know because I have no friends. Also what if I hate my job? Well maybe I’ll still make decent money, but back to the being completely isolated thing, not sure I can do that…”

It went on and on like this, until I just rolled my eyes at the last middle-aged man who told me “to rethink the law school idea”, and said “thank you, but I’m going.”

Maybe Loyola is different than other law schools, or maybe everyone was lying to me, but I most definitely have friends here. During orientation, a professor told me that her three best friends to this day were the people that she sat next to during her 1L year.

No one has lied to me or tried to trip me up on an assignment. My experience thus far has been highly collaborative. For the most part everyone is willing to help everyone, students and teachers alike.

It is true that we are all technically competing to be at the top of our class, but I learned quickly that law school is a marathon and a little social interaction goes a long way. Plenty of people will tell you not to go to law school, sometimes you just need to roll your eyes.

You will have friends in law school,

Especially if you come to Loyola.

Friday, December 14, 2018

LLS Pressure Cooker: Dispelling the Myth

We have all heard the famous “Look to your left and then look to your right” story.Believe it or not, law school is NOT out to destroy you. The amount of collaboration, positivity, and fun that permeates Loyola has consistently surprised me. Professors and students alike encourage an open and supportive environment where students can find joy in their work and have fun while learning the law.

The professors and staff do an incredible job keeping things fun. Prof. Levenson for example welcomes us to each criminal law class with upbeat music from showtunes to classical rock. On more than one occasion, she has invited students to dance in class. She also keeps us grounded in the humanity of the law, both in its flaws and its empathy. Even after subjecting a poor soul to intense scrutiny on a particular issue, she will ask the class to applaud the student’s effort. As we have learned, there are very few absolute answers in a law school lecture. What matters is the attempt to make an argument.

The students at Loyola are just as incredible. We all work together keep our learning experience open and positive. Virtually everyone is willing to help with an outline or lecture notes. I have never been turned away by anyone if I had a question about an issue discussed in lecture. One person in my section lost her laptop at the airport along with all of her notes and all of her course work. When the class found out, every single person volunteered to share their notes. A few even offered her a spare laptop! Everyone works hard and wants to succeed but, at the end of the day, we are all in the same boat so we might as well row along together.

1For those who haven’t, the punchline is that only one in three people are able to cope with the stress and workload of law school to make it to graduation.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Debunk A Law School Myth

Being an LLM student is challenging and exciting at the same time because I have never studied in a foreign country before. Since day one of law school, everything is absolutely new and different for me! Especially because I am from a foreign country, I have heard a lot of stories about going to law school in the United States and one story I heard repeatedly is that you do not have friends in law school because everybody is so competitive. I also have heard that everybody goes to class dressed up in business attire. Well, none of these stories are entirely true – at least from what I have seen. Law school is naturally a competitive place, but I feel that Loyola Law School has the friendliest competitive environment of all. In my experience, I have classes with different sections and even with evening students, so I get to meet and study with every kind of law student, and until now all of them were nice and friendly to me, offering help with anything that I need. I think that is so important because having a good environment makes everything easy and we feel that we are not alone in this path that is law school. My biggest fear as an international student was to feel alone and to feel that I did not know what was going on, but I never felt that way at Loyola – and this has to do not only with the students, but also all the staff and professors (everybody is just SO nice!)

And about the dress code, well, no, it is definitely a myth that people go to law school dressed up in business attire. There are some people who dress in business attire and others who do not. It is school, just dress however you feel comfortable! There are people with all kind of styles, which shows how diverse Loyola is. This is definitely one of the things that I love the most about Loyola. It is good and important to see that our campus is a place that the students feel comfortable to be who they truly are.

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.