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Words of Advice for First-Year Law Students

In a few weeks, thousands of students will embark on their first year of law school. For these students, the next three years will prove to be a pivotal chapter in their careers. Ilya Somin, a Professor of Law at George Mason University, recently offered a few words of advice for entering law students on how to make the most of their law school experience.

CAREFULLY CONSIDER YOUR FIELD

The decision of choosing your law specialty is an important one. This decision, Somin says, helps lay the foundation for your future career. Thus, Somin stresses the importance of thinking carefully about what options you have available.

“There are many ways to find out about potential options,” she says. “But one place to start is to talk to the career services office at your school, which should have information about a range of possibilities. Many also often have databases of alumni working in various types of legal careers. Talking to these people can give you a sense of what life as a practitioner in Field X is really like.”

BUILD YOUR NETWORK

Connection matters in nearly every industry. Law is no different. Somin says one of the best ways to approach your law school experience is to get to know as many of your classmates and professors as you reasonably can.

“No matter how brilliant a legal thinker you may be, it’s hard to get ahead as a lawyer purely by working alone at your desk,” Somin says. “Many of your law school classmates could turn out to be useful connections down the road. This is obviously true at big-name national schools whose alumni routinely become judges, powerful government officials, and partners at major firms. But it’s also true at schools whose reputation is more regional or local in nature. If you plan to make a career in that area yourself, many of your classmates could turn out to be useful contacts”

In addition to building a network with your peers, Somin recommends connecting with professors as well.

“They are sometimes harder to get to know than students,” she says. “But the effort is often worth it, anyway. And many of them are actually more than eager to talk about their work.”

One of the best ways to approach networking, experts say, is to not approach the task like networking.

“Don’t think about your networking meetings as one-offs. Instead, think of them like branches in your networking tree,” Ashley Heidemann, of The National Jurist, says. “At the end of your meetings, ask your connections if they have any recommendations for someone you should reach out to based on your interest. And just like an actual tree, you should cultivate your network by maintaining your relationships and checking back in as appropriate.

MAKE SURE YOUR PLAN IS RIGHT AND JUST

Lawyers play an integral role in fighting for justice and liberty in our society, Somin says. And while your job doesn’t have to be purely right and just, it shouldn’t be one that “exacerbates evil.”

“What lawyers do can often cost innocent people their liberty, their property, or even their lives,” Somin says. “It can also save all three.”

Sources: reason, The National Jurist

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