What I Wish I Had Known When I Started Law School, Part V

Posted on Categories Legal Education

I arrived late to law school. Not late in the figurative sense, as in “late in life,” but literally late. I had skipped orientation in favor of squeezing out the very last vestiges of swelter that passed for summer in Washington, D.C. I was overconfident — and I was late. These two particular traits plagued me for some time to come, and they proved antithetical to the practice of law. Why something so obvious was not obvious to me I do not know, but I repeat the story here as an incentive for current students to cultivate from the start much better habits.

Law school is not an easy endeavor. It requires rigorous attention to detail, thorough preparation, and psychological grit. Although I picked up on these themes, I entered the cocoon of a small and close-knit study group to do so. This can be an effective adaptive strategy, but there are many other methods of study and coping that are equally if not more useful. Find a method that works for you. And don’t shy away from challenging courses, or those you think you will never utilize. I very much doubted the career utility of many of the “business-oriented” classes, but I took them anyway and they proved to be among the most helpful in practice, since I ended up focusing on consumer law.

Gradually I also came to realize that there was life outside of law school and that it was I who was excluding it. 

I came to this gradual revelation principally through my involvement with Campus Ministry on the main campus (yes, there is a main campus, and you can become involved with all of the resources and opportunities Marquette University has to offer) and the wonderful friends I made there. They are still my best friends today. It sounds trite, but I did not enter law school expecting that I would graduate with a law degree and a set of lifelong friends. Extending yourself, building and cultivating relationships, and supporting one another will not only help you in law school, they will provide you with a much more fulfilling life. Older students, or those who were married, may already have known this, but I received a very large dose of this wisdom during law school. You can make your academic studies your first priority and build healthy relationships at the same time.

I also had no idea, or expectation, that I would begin my legal career as a volunteer for a legal services office. I had thought that I would work for the federal government. But despite the seeming humbleness of this beginning, it was a magnificent experience for me. Keep yourself open to surprise. Reach beyond the familiar and you may discover a way that is particularly suited to your skills, talents, and dreams. Pray to find what is deep in your heart, and pursue that desire, even if it may lead down a path that you didn’t expect. Realize that there is much, much good you can do as a lawyer — and that you have been specially chosen to learn about the law, so that you may do so.

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