Top Law Students Share Their Biggest Lessons From Law School

On Keeping Perspective…

Peter Donohue of George Mason University

Peter Donohue of George Mason University

“I have learned the importance of a lawyer’s discretion.  What I mean by that is largely summed up by the statement “sometimes the best advice you can give your client is that your client does not have to sue simply because he can.” I have realized that lawyers can wield tremendous power to destroy or to heal the lives of those they represent, and those they will oppose.  On the one hand, a lawsuit can destroy a family’s business or create a lifetime of divisions within a community.  On the other, it can be the only way for an injured person to be “made whole” when she has been wronged.  The law can be a weapon, yet it is also the bulwark of freedom and order in our society. Recognizing that a balance and tension exists between those two concepts, and discussing it with one’s client, is, I believe, essential to being a good lawyer.”
– Peter F. Donohue, George Mason University School of Law
“The biggest lesson I gained in law school is to keep life in perspective. Grades, rankings, and the big job are important; but family, friends, and happiness should be your first priority.”
– Chase Millea, Arizona State University, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
“Be true to yourself.  There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to life or law school.  Set your own priorities and savor those successes.”
 – Julia Haigney, George Washington University Law School
“Your work ethic and the relationships you develop with people are far more important than your grades.”
Manmeet Dhami, University of Washington School of Law
“That the law is never the only solution to a problem and may not even be the best solution.”
– Christine Kim, Duke University of Law
University of Minnesota's Christopher Ortega

University of Minnesota’s Christopher Ortega

On Becoming A Lawyer…
“There is rarely a cut-and-dry answer to anything.  This is one of the cliché cautionary tales they tell you when you come to law school—but it is true, and I have personally come to grips with this reality in a substantial way. Before law school I consistently took absolutist positions on most issues (a product of my training as a Model UN debater I think), but I am learning now to cast aside false dichotomies of black and white and to discern shades of grey. Part of my struggle now is to avoid getting lost in the nuances and to stay cognizant of the dictates of common sense.”
– Dane Shikman, George Washington University Law School
“There are always two sides to a story. Never cease to seek the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
Christopher Ortega, University of Minnesota Law School
The biggest lesson has been that education leads to empowerment. When individuals are unaware of their rights and lack the tools necessary to advocate on their own behalf, equality under the law is impossible, attorneys can therefore play a crucial role in improving the quality of our society.”
– Kaylee R. Gum, William & Mary Law School