This post was written by a former Blueprint student and current practicing lawyer.
Law school is not just a big investment of time and money, it’s a life-shaping experience. To ensure that experience is positive and healthy, there are a few things that any prospective law student should do. There is some overlap between each of these, but that’s to be expected.
1. Spend more time thinking about the schools you would actually go to.
So many of us just blanket apply. Don’t do that. Really think about what type of law you wanna do. Think about where you wanna practice. If you want to practice in California, don’t apply to George Mason. You want to put yourself in a position where you can find a job come graduation. GMU is a great (bites tongue) school, but only if you wanna practice in the Virginia area.
2. Only apply to schools you think you’ll go to.
I know and felt the deep urge to apply to as many schools as I could. I think when all was said and done is spent over 1000 on applications alone, and applied to 21 or 22 schools. Silly. Absolutely silly. I would have been much better off if I focused on three of four schools, tailored my application to each school, and visited each school. It would have cost me roughly the same amount of money, it would have increased my chances of getting in to each of those schools, and it would have made me take the whole application process more seriously.
3. Take the application process more and less seriously.
When you are in the research phase, you must take it more seriously. Many people I hear are applying to law schools that they don’t know the first thing about. Leme ask you this: if you knew you were going to spend $100,000 on a car, would you buy one without taking it for a test drive? Hell no. So why would you do the same thing here? $100,000 on a legal education is getting off cheap nowadays, and yet prospective law students are largely not taking the application process seriously.
And if you apply to a school and get in, you absolutely must visit the school. I would say I met maybe a third (I’m definitely on the high side) of the students that ended up as 1Ls at the school I go to. That is ridiculous. If you don’t visit a school before you go there for law school, I have no sympathy for you. Talk to the career services people, talk to the students, talk to random students if you do visit. The recruitment programs at schools pick their favorites to give tours, they don’t pick the embittered average law student.
That said, take the visit less seriously. If you go to a school, relax. The students there are no different than you are, and if they act like they are, don’t go there. Actually be yourself, don’t put on this “this is what I think a law student acts like” facade. Nobody likes that guy. You don’t even like that guy. If you have the “pleasure” to sit in on a class, keep your mouth shut. Sit there, and don’t say a peep. You are likely the only person excited to be there. Remember: anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion should you decide to go there. (I’m so sorry about that law joke, I couldn’t help myself.) The chances of you saying something intelligent, pertinent, and not annoying to every student in the class is zero. What you want to happen is for someone to go “Wow, that was really insightful, you should go to law school.” And that has happened to precisely zero people in the history of ever.
4. Ask a 3L.
Too often law students ask to be put in touch with a law student at a school they are interested in and they get put in touch with a 1L. Ask to speak to a 3L (especially if you are there on a tour.) First, the 1L is as lost as you are. Second, a 3L is much more adept at knowing what the market is like for jobs when graduating from the school, and s/he will know how many friends are employed, what career services is like, etc. Third, the 3L is likely to have more time to actually talk. The 1L’s are generally much more concerned about grades, and their classes are way harder (generally). Fourth, a 3L is much more likely to give you an honest assessment, and is the only person who is capable of giving you an assessment of their entire law school experience.
5. View the law school application Process as a three or four year endeavor, not a six-month sprint.
**This is the big one, but I promise, if you actually follow the advice here, you will guarantee yourself a happier law school experience, a happier/easier time finding a job, and you will have an unbelievable amount of confidence for your all-important first year.**
Calm down. Breathe. Read. Yes, you want to go to law school nownownownownow. All that does is guarantee that the best law school you get into this application cycle is the one you will go to. This does not mean that this is the best law school that you can possibly get into. If you were to slow down, keep some shitty job (if you have to) for a couple years while you really find the best law school fit for you and your future career, you will be a thousand times better off. Yes you will be “postponing your life.” To which I respond, so what? Postpone away. A couple things will happen:
A. You may find a job outside the law that you actually really like and realize that the law is not what you think it is.
B. You get yourself into the best possible law school you can get into. Take and retake the LSAT. Really devote yourself to getting up into the 160’s or 170’s. It is a learnable test. Take it enough times and you will get up there.
C. You will be able to do some self reflection. If I were to break it down into percentages of my fellow 2013 graduates: 40% would say they didn’t really know this is what they wanted before taking on $150,000 in debt, 58% are lying, and the final 2% did the required research. (That 2% somehow correlates to the 2% that have good gigs after law school.)
This may sound like a lot, but law school is a huge commitment. 50% of marriages end in divorce, but law school debt lasts forever-ish.