I have readers email me every now and again, asking questions about what law school will be like for them. I'm always happy to answer any questions, atleast with my personal, biased opinion! Here are a few questions I've had lately, that may or may not help those of you out there look at law school!
How did you pick a school?
A little background, I did my undergrad in Oklahoma (I'm from Nebraska). For law school, I got into University of Nebraska, Creighton, University of Oklahoma, and Denver. I like the midwest, and I wasn't ready to venture very far since I really wasn't sold on the idea of law school. My boyfriend lives in Denver, and I love Colorado, which was my draw there. Oklahoma was familiar to me, and Creighton and UNL are both in Nebraska where I am from. In reality, they were all ranked about the same. Denver costs $50,000. Nebraska is $12,000 and Creighton and OK both were like $24,000. They both matched the price at Nebraska though. I was torn for a bit between them all, but I'm glad I did Nebraska. I picked it soley on price (in-state tuition!) I'm glad I did NE, cheap football tickets for students, I wanted to live in a different city (I'm from Omaha, so UNL was my first Lincoln experience) and I liked getting the "state school" experience, which I did not get in undergrad.
Its not great reasons for going. But I'm going to come out with a whole lot less in loans. If it had been more expensive, I probably would have dropped out without seeing it through....because I didn't know if I wanted to be a lawyer my first 1.5 years of law school.
How many schools did you apply to?
I applied to 5, and got into 4. It really depends on how flexible you are with location. Don't apply anywhere you dont actually want to go...that is just a waste. But do apply for backups. Try a range of rankings. Do a few safety schools, and a school that is ranked higher. I applied to 4 schools ranked the same, and one significantly higher.
How much free time do you actually have first year?
Allow me to say, I was a fabulous student in undergrad, as was 99% of your in law school class. We were all top of the class, but your first year you have to decide if you're going to kill yourself studying or learn alot and still make time for you.
I really couldnt have kept myself in school if I didn't make time to do somethings I wanted. Yes, my grades could be better if I spent 99% of my time with my nose in a book. I'm not the very top of my class but I have a wonderful clerkship that allows me to have a good worklife balance, which is what I will want when I graduate. It was super hard to not be the top of the class my first year but once I accepted it, I was so much happier.
The whole thing is, its going to be what you make it to be. First year I always tried to take some time off for myself after class. Others stay in the library studying til it closes.
I do not, however, have a very active social life (compared to undergrad). I don't drink, so I'm not out on the weekends, my boyfriend lives out of state, and I don't hang out with many students. I budget my time accordingly.
You'll have so many hours in a day and you'll decide how to use them! I was told first year to try to treat school like a 9-6 job. Study in between classes and an hr after, then go home and relax. I liked that idea, most weekends were spent studying from 5-10 and more during finals time. You'll just figure out what works for you! I would not suggest a job until 2nd year though, that would be way too stressful! Etsy takes alot of my time but I could cut back in orders when needed!
How was the LSAT/How did you study?
Ah the LSAT. I'm a terrible example of what to do. I never really thought I'd end up here, but didn't know what else to do. I took the LSAT in between my junior and senior year....on a whim. I didn't study, I had no idea there were 5 sections on the test, and I just went for it. I wanted a score for a backup incase I decided to do this.
Honestly, it worked great for me. I got a medium-ish score, that got me into 4 out of the 5 schools I applied. Honestly, I cant remember anymore. haha It was a middle score for alot of law schools.
How can I prepare?
If it is the summer before you start- JUST RELAX! Enjoy your life right now.... It will change. Spend time with friends, see family, read books and relax. Your brain just won't be able to shut down once you start, weekends will have the dread of homework looming.
If you still have a year before law school, that changes things just a little. You have an entire year before school. As for right now, you'll want to be building really good relationships with about 3 teachers, as you'll need awesome recommendations. If there is a pre-law class at school, you may want to take it. It wont help you any any of your classes persay, but it will atleast give you a little understanding of what you will be getting into. I was a business major, and took a business law class. My professor for that wrote a recommendation, she was a JD, so I think that may helped...couldn't hurt atleast!
Another silly thing- I'd suggest watching a few lawyer shows/movies. I'd never watched a lawyer show in my life. haha. I feel like because of that, I was a little behind. I had to learn who the Plaintiff and Defendant were....and very basic things first year that alot of teachers don't realize the general public doesn't always know. Although they aren't like real law practice, you'll atleast be a little more familiar with terms. I read John Grisham books now- which I LOVE! I still can't watch lawyer shows (I dont like murders haha) but its a little more fun when you're going through first year and recognize a couple of terms.
How tough is finding a clerkship in school?
Clerkships are tough. There is no question about that. The school isn't always very helpful with them if you aren't in the top 20%. You may have to consider unpaid government work. I was really lucky this summer. I got a wonderful clerkship with a firm cared alot about your personality, not just your grades. They want people that can TALK to clients, and be sensitive while they are going through a tough time in their life. A majority of firms around here wont even pick up your resume if you're not the top 10%. They ask you to not even apply. You CAN find them. First year is the hardest to get clerkships, 2nd year was much easier. Alot more of my friends have them now.
Jobs will be tough when you graduate too, but you CAN find a job, you just have to try! Clerkships are the best for that. Alot of places you clerk will want to offer you a job when you graduate if they have a position open!
What is the best advice you can give someone applying to law schools?
TAKE THE LSAT EARLY! APPLY EARLY! I cannot stress this enough. I took the lsat the summer before my senior year, which gave me plenty of time to apply. All my applications were submitted in December, and I was accepted into all of my schools in January. I think that helped ATON! I knew of other students with better LSAT scores than me, a better GPA than I had in undergrad, that got waitlisted at first to the same schools I had already gotten into. They waited til Feb/March to apply, and I'd been accepted in January. I think that makes a HUGE difference.
These opinions are all my OWN. I am not saying my way is right, I'm being honest about my experience. Take it for what it is worth! As always you're welcome to email me with questions, and I'd love to do what I can. I had absolutely no one to talk to before school, and I was terrified. I didn't know what to expect, and I was someone had given me a little advice.