Top Law Students Share Their Biggest Lessons From Law School

William & Mary's Kaitlyn Chounet

William & Mary’s Kaitlyn Chounet

And those relationships extend to their classmates. Forget the popular depiction of law students as climbers who’d knife their peers in the back to get ahead. Instead, they often served as sources of coaching and support for high achievers like the University of Washington’s Tomer Vandsburger. Over time, Vandsburg explains, such relationships increase in value. “One of the most important factors in professional success is developing a strong network around you,” he maintains. “My peers have helped me succeed in courses, find internships and jobs, and to give back to the law school community. I know that my professional network is the most important thing I will take away from law school.”
Well, maybe second most important, says William & Mary Law’s Katie Chounet. For her, the biggest takeaway from law school could be summed up by this cliché: “Fake it ‘til you make it.”
“Confidence goes a long way,” she emphasizes. “Even when you don’t feel confident, if you can project confidence, people will find you more likable and trustworthy and have far more faith in what you’re saying. In the practice of law, those traits are often just as important as legal knowledge and argumentation.”
Here are some additional hard-won lessons from this year’s top law students:
On Classmates…
“My classmates are all incredibly intelligent people. Whenever I see that one of them can do something better than I can, I try my best to learn as much about it from him or her that I possibly can.”
– Robert Rossi, Boston College Law School
Boston University's Kelvin Chan

Boston University’s Kelvin Chan

“One of the most fascinating things about law school is that students come from all walks of life. Because there is no required undergraduate degree, law school are truly able to attract a diverse student body. Consequently, law school has taught me that you can learn just as much from your peers as you can from a professor’s lectures.”
– Firas Adam Abulawi, University of Texas at Austin School of Law
On Getting Class Work Done…
“As a part-time student, I learned that the less time you have the more efficient you are.”
– Zeynep Elif Aksoy, George Mason University School of Law
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that an ounce of strategy can be worth a boat load of hard work. I spend much more time now thinking about what I should do and how I should do it before deciding to pour time into something. Law school can challenge you to deal with big problems and limited resources. I’ve come to respond by taking a careful step back to plan before acting.”
 – Kelvin Chan, Boston University School of Law
Northwestern's Jarrett Burks

Northwestern’s Jarrett Burks

On Developing “Grit”…
“Law school is hard, and anyone who tells you otherwise is crazy! But I have definitely learned to never give up.  (I know, cliché.)  Especially during your first year, law school will challenge you mentally and emotionally.  In order to excel (or even perform decently), you will have to give up certain freedoms (like your social life) to an extent.  I live with and close to many friends from undergrad and it was hard to say no sometimes.  However, every choice I made helped me get to where I am today, and I couldn’t be happier! Don’t go too crazy though, you have to keep yourself sane!”
Tania ElBayar, USC Gould School of Law
“The biggest lesson I have learned in law school is to live unafraid. At Stanford, I lived in constant fear. Fear of failing. Fear of change. Fear of the unknown. While in law school, I learned that in order to allow growth, I needed to step into my fears. Given the high costs of law school, I could not afford to live in fear. With every class that I raised my hand in, with every dumb question or answer I gave, with every embarrassing moment, I learned to step into my fears and obliterate them. This does not mean I am not worried of making mistakes, failing, or new experiences. I just now know I have what it takes to embrace each experience.”
– Andrés Cantero Jr., USC Gould School of Law
“The biggest lesson I have learned in law school has been how to communicate passionately while still being able to make clear and succinct points.”
– Jarrett Burks, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law