The Months Leading up to 1L
The majority of you visit MSS each day because the LSAT currently owns what used to be your free time. One of our students recently confessed that she had a dream that took place entirely at an LSAT test center. She begrudgingly admitted on her beginning course survey that “the LSAT is all up in my subconscious and shit.” In other words, you aren’t thinking about law school applications yet, let alone actually preparing for your first year of law school. I was in your shoes last year. For now, don’t worry about the application process, specific law schools, financial aid, or six-figure debt. I will now completely contradict that statement by giving you a quick rundown of what you can expect in the months leading up to that beast known as 1L.
Before we proceed, let me set the scene for you:
It is April 2012. Despite the fearless Mayan predictions, the world is still very much intact. Glenn Beck is no longer on television. The Lakers are gearing up to begin a “four-peat” with Brian Shaw at the helm. More importantly, you have been admitted to several law schools. With the first deposit deadline looming, you decide to get real and narrow down your choices to your two or three favorites. The others will wait for your $500 check, but it’s too late…you’ve moved on. Here is what to do next, in the following order:
#1) Visit your top law schools:
There are two ways to do this. The first is to schedule a tour and a class sit-in on a random day of your choosing. The second way is to attend the official “Admitted Students Day”. The truth is, you may want to try both approaches. If you pick a random day to visit campus, you are going to get a much more “authentic” picture of your life in law school. There will be a very nice tour guide who will show you and a handful of others around campus. The other students may or may not have been admitted yet. They may simply be entertaining the idea of law school. The result is that you will probably have a more honest tour guide. You should feel comfortable bringing up any questions or concerns you have about specific programs, student life, the current state of the legal market, etc. etc. Try to sit-in on a first year class. Two weeks ago, I sat in on a 1L contracts class at Law School “X”. The atmosphere in the room was pretty serious with finals approaching, and there were only two or three other students who were observing. In other words, I received a nice, clear picture of the competitiveness of the student body, and the content of the curriculum. Maybe I’m sick, but I was actually engaged the entire time, and I could easily visualize myself beginning my legal education there in the fall.
Last week, I attended the official Admitted Students Day at Law School ‘Y’ (both of these schools must be new to town, you’re thinking). It was an all-day event, and I was there with almost 100 other admitted students. These events are definitely a great source of information, but you are certainly going to be getting the hard sell. The 1L Procedure class was clearly geared more toward the prospective students, and every speaker, dean, and student panelist certainly had rose-colored glasses on. I actually learned quite a bit and was impressed with almost all of the current students and faculty, but you always have to keep in mind that admitted students day is not exactly business as usual.
#2) Contact the Financial Aid Office:
Law School is a tremendous investment. If you have been admitted to a top 20 law school with no scholarship or tuition reduction, you can usually leverage this into a nice wad of cash from a lower ranked school. While most institutions consider each student’s scholarship eligibility while reviewing their application, it doesn’t hurt to do a little negotiating. It’s great practice.
Also, it is important to realize that “Financial Aid” is not the same thing as a scholarship. Financial aid simply means you are able to borrow a fat loan from Uncle Sam, since most of us don’t have $60,000 lying around to pay for our first year of law school and other expenses (like eating). It is important that you look at your award letter very carefully. It seems obvious, but you would be surprised…
#3) Decide if law school is really for you:
This is by far the most important step. You will read a lot about the dismal legal market, and the divergence between supply and demand in the market for lawyers. You should also be aware of what your life will be like as a lawyer. Talk to lawyers who your parents know. Talk to current law school students. Talk to random strangers on the street. Get as much information as you can. Simply having a law degree isn’t automatically going to put you in a corner office with a six-figure salary anymore, but it certainly can. Don’t go into this decision because lawyers on TV seem to have it made. At the same time, don’t be dissuaded by all of the cynics if it has always been your goal to be a lawyer. Do your homework.
Speaking of homework, the LSAT is less than 8 weeks away. Get after it…