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How To: Find Success in Law School

November 13, 2014

Ok. I admit it…I came to law school as an older student. So, sue me…wait, that was probably not the right choice of words. When I came to TJSL I thought, like most, that I knew what I was getting into and that I had mentally prepared for the rigors of the “1L of a year.” (By Professor Leah Christensen, if you are wondering).

When I came to law school and, frankly, didn’t do well the first year. I was somewhat blindsided by the amount of work and the speed at which we work. Now, I am used to it and even good at it.

So, what does a guy who is down on the entire law school experience do to make himself stay in the game? If you’re like me, consider this your “how to” article of the month and listen up. I did three specific things:

1. Get an Internship. I met my boss, friend, and mentor at a Criminal Law Fellows forum when he was giving a talk on the type of law he practices. I was struck by how frank he was about his law school education and his honesty and truthfulness. He sounded like he actually cared about law students as colleagues. We were more than just an audience to him. So, I went up to him after and gave him my card. We chatted a few times, and he offered me a job in his firm as a law clerk. Nothing has been better for my psyche than working in the field. Practice is much different than what we endure in law school. It is much more organic, collaborative, and interesting than the endless reading, outlining, and studying we get at school.

2. Find Your Niche. I found something I enjoy and that I am good at. I love to give oral arguments. No, really, I love it. If I could be in court for the rest of my career, I would. I am also good at it. I had a fair amount of experience with public speaking before law school, which helped, but I have really expanded my ability and skills in this area. I also found that my first real law school success was in an oral argument class. This was the next great boost to my confidence. The point of finding something you enjoy, and are also good at, lies within allowing yourself to be good at something. I was, obviously, not good at taking essay examinations. Then, I took an oral argument class and was embarrassed by what the professor had to say after each time I argued. I did, however, hear the things he had to say and took them to heart. He had a ton of really important experience and was praising my performance. Now, I try to take at least one oral argument class per semester, if I can. It’s my way of having a splash of good in between all the bad (so to speak).

3. Meet colleagues in the field, befriend them, and develop professional relationships. Doing this, allowed me to gain valuable perspective on what life in the law will be like after school and the bar. This perspective is great for me because I know that the job will be difficult and challenging, but equally as rewarding and valuable to the success in my future. It’s true that law school can be viewed by some as a three year hazing to get into the bar, and meeting people in the industry, on top of all that we do, can be daunting for some, and intimidating for others. However, I truly feel that making these friendships has really helped me see that my life after law school will be different from the life I live while in law school. It gives me hope and rejuvenates my faith that I am in the right place.

These three things were the keys that kept me here. Well, honestly, it was also my wife reminding me that we left our careers, rented our house, and couldn’t go back, so I had no choice but to move forward. But it was, mostly, these three things that made me find my pace at law school after a jarring beginning, and looking forward to a very stressful second year of school while being on academic probation.

Listen, the things we do are undoubtedly hard. We will all agree on that. My point here is, find what will make you take on the challenge and stay in the game that we call law school –and conquer it every day. There is no substitute for your motivation being extraordinary and your drive to succeed being high. The process all comes down to you versus you.