Law School Advice From A Seasoned Lawyer
In the coming week, law schools will be filled with 1Ls. Many may be feeling anxious. Maybe even excited.
Ken White, an experienced and successful practicing lawyer, recently penned a few pieces of encouragement for new law students on Popehat—a legal blog.
Nothing Beats Practical Experience
One of the best ways to learn about law is to see it in action.
Aliza Kaplan, a professor and director of the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic at Lewis & Clark Law School, says law clinics are the best way to know what an actual lawyer does in the field.
“In a law clinic, you’re doing everything that a real lawyer does under supervision, along with getting classes and trainings,” Kaplan tells US News.
White encourages new law students to take advantage of clinics, practicums, and internships during their time in law school
“Nothing beats seeing how law is actually practiced. It helps you get a practical grip on what you might like to do, and helps you see how what you’re learning applies to an actual legal career,” he writes. “Plus it’s a crucial way to meet people and open doors.”
Know The Basics
As boring as they may seem, foundational courses are the building blocks to success in your field of law, White says.
“I really didn’t want to take Corporations and found it dull, but I use that knowledge all the time in civil and criminal litigation,” he writes. “I fled from Secured Transactions but soon learned that I would have benefited tremendously from it. Law and legal norms are everywhere and interdependent, and the theory that you can get by in your specialized area without all of the basics is usually wrong.”
Write, Write, And Write
Writing is a critical skill for all lawyers, regardless of the field they choose to pursue.
Kirsten Davis, professor of law and director of the Institute for the Advancement of Legal Communication at Stetson University’s law school, says every lawyer will need to do at least some writing in their day to day job.
“In all practices of law, you’re going to be writing. You’re going to be writing emails and contracts, as well as litigation documents,” Davis tells US News.
White encourages students to practice their writing skills whenever they find time.
“Write every day — an assignment, a blog post, a substantive email,” he says. “Speak every week — a debate, a podcast, an oral argument. Writing and speaking comfortably and effectively will always be useful no matter how you practice.”
Make Friends—Not Enemies
You’ve competed this entire time to get to where you are. You’ve outperformed your fellow students on exams, written better essays, and scored higher marks.
Yet, White says, seeing your fellow peers as friends will do you better in the long run.
“Law school culture often wants you to hate, resent, and fear your fellow students and see them as competitors,” he writes. “Resist. Make friends with, and be friendly with, different people. You’ll learn from them. And you’ll hate law school if you buy into the cutthroat narrative.”
Read more of White’s advice at Popehat.
Sources: Popehat, US News, US News