COLLIN TAKITA: Well, hello, everyone. And welcome to the LawHub Webinar Series. My name is Collin Takita, and I am the director of prelaw learning here at LSAC. It is my job to provide you all with engaging and insightful learning opportunities just like this one. And today we have a great program planned for you. Today we’ll be dispelling some misconceptions and shedding some light on law school and what it’s really like. A panel of current law students is here to share their insights and experiences on some of the things they wish they had known before law school started. So, in other words, right around where you are right now.
So, they will share their real experiences with you, both good and bad, and give you an honest look at your first year of law school. With that, I’d like to hand things over to the exceptional moderator for today’s program, Evan Didier, assistant dean of admissions and financial aid at Wake Forest University School of Law. Thank you, Evan, for being with us today.
EVAN DIDIER: Thank you, Collin. And it’s my pleasure to be moderating the panel today. So, good morning, good afternoon, and good evening to you, depending on where you are in the world today. And so, it’s my distinct pleasure to introduce our four student panelists today. They are all 3Ls at various law schools here in the United States of America. And thankfully, since they’re current law students, their knowledge is going to be a little more up-to-date than mine is. My law school days are a little bit behind me in terms of being a student. So, without further ado, I want to introduce our panelists today. So, I’d like to start with Fito Andre, who’s at Vermont Law School. Fito, if you can introduce yourself.
FITO ANDRE: Hello. Good afternoon. My name is Fito Andre. I’m a third-year student at Vermont Law School.
EVAN: And then next we have Lacy Ashworth.
LACY ASHWORTH: Hi, I am Lacy Ashworth. I am from California. I am currently a 3L at the University of Arkansas School of Law.
EVAN: Excellent. And then Collin Heard.
COLLIN HEARD: Hello, everybody. My name’s Collin Heard. As you just said, I’m from Dallas, Texas, and I’m currently a 3L at the University of Arkansas as well.
EVAN: Excellent. And then last but not least, Megan Pravda.
MEGAN PRAVDA: Hello. Good morning, good afternoon, good night, depending on wherever you’re watching this from. I’m Megan Pravda, I’m a 3L at the University of Miami School of Law.
EVAN: Excellent. Well, thank you again, all of you, for joining us today, and congratulations on almost making it entirely through law school. At this point, I imagine you can actually count the number of weeks and days left now, at this point. It goes by very quickly sometimes. So, before we get into the substance of the webinar today, we actually have a poll question. So, we’d like to ask, when do you plan to enroll in law school? So, you should be able to see that poll option in just a second, and you can indicate there what’s your term of entry that you’re planning to enter, because we just want to get a sense of where people are at in their law school application process today.
And so, we’ve got a number of the responses coming in. So, we have a lot of people who looking to enroll within the next year, fall 2022 or spring 2023. And then we’ve also got about another 42% or so who are looking for entry sometime in the year beyond that. And then we’ve got about another 10% total who are looking in one of the other years, aren’t quite sure what they’re going to do yet, which is totally OK, because hopefully this webinar is going to give you some insight into life as a law student, and you’ll be able to get some better ideas of what it is you’re looking for.
And so, if we can move ahead here to our first question for today. So, we’re going to go down the panelist list for this one. So, we’ll start with you, Fito, and then work down. Did you go straight to law school from college? Do you wish you’d done it another way? And were you happy with that approach you took? And then of course, if there’s any interim activities you did, then we’d be happy if you could share that as well.
FITO: Thank you. So, I didn’t go straight into law school. I took two years off and I worked at a law firm down in Stuart, Florida. It was a civil litigation firm where I worked as pretty much an assistant handling discovery matters. Would I have went straight into law school? I would say no, because law school is so intense, I think I needed a break from undergrad, and I was also an athlete, so that made it even worse. But, yeah, that’s my journey to law school.
EVAN: Excellent. And then, so I guess a related question on this is, when did you start applying to law school? Because I know you took two years off, and so your timeline for when you did test studying and then getting your applications together.
FITO: Yeah. So, I got my applications and I took the LSAT right after undergrad, and I just didn’t think I was ready for it, and so, I just waited to apply to law schools.
EVAN: OK. Very good. So, you got the LSAT out the way earlier on, then came back to the law school application part a couple years later. That sounds great. And it’s certainly not atypical for students to take that approach as part of it. LSAT scores are good for five years as part of that. So you can always do exactly what Fito did, where you take it right toward the end of undergrad. And then you have a few years to do some other things as well. So, then, next panelist would be Lacy, and then your pathway to law school from undergrad.
LACY: Yeah. So, I did my undergrad in Flagstaff, Arizona, at Northern Arizona University, and I just went straight through to law school. I did take the summer right before law school and I had the opportunity not to have to work, and I had saved up and I went on a Europe trip, and I just rejuvenated in that way. It was my decision to just go straight through, because I felt that I was in this school mindset and I just wanted to get the school out of the way and then start my career. And I didn’t know necessarily what I would’ve done if I would’ve taken the time off in terms of work, just because I wasn’t quite sure in what I wanted to do. So, I took that approach.
EVAN: And so, it sounds like you had an enjoyable summer experience doing Europe and that you would do it again if you were doing it again.
LACY: Absolutely. I would do it again. As Fito was saying, it’s exhausting, I think, to go from four years at university and then to another three years of law school, and law school is exhausting. And so, to take that summer break just to not work and to be able to travel a bit was the rejuvenation that I needed if I wasn’t going to take any time off.
EVAN: Excellent. And then, Collin, did you go straight through to law school or take some time in between?
COLLIN: I took some time. I took a year in between. I was a student-athlete in college, and funny enough, I thought I was going to go professional. So, I did not start studying for the LSAT during that last year of undergrad. And I’m really glad that I took that year off. I worked for a security company, as an assistant manager for a security company, and I’m really glad that I did, because it helped me mature a little bit. And I think some of that maturity was very necessary for law school. So, it helped me out in the long run.
EVAN: So, now, where did you go for undergrad, and what sport were you doing?
COLLIN: I ran track at the University of North Texas.
EVAN: OK. Very good. I was about to say, where I’m at right now, just wanted to make sure it wasn’t a rival school somewhere, but yeah. So, it sounds like you also thought that it was a good idea to take the one year off and that’s what you would do again, too, if you’re going through the process again.
EVAN: Excellent. And then we have Megan.
MEGAN: So, I also took time off prior to enrolling in law school. I had graduated undergrad in three years, as opposed to four years. And because of that, I took three years off from school and I worked at a private academy near me, because I really wanted to get some real-world experience and just exit the educational realm. Although I worked at an academy; I know the irony. Prior to enrolling in law school, I felt that that was really helpful for me. It gave me a bit of, I guess you could say, reality check and I think it helped with the discipline that I needed once I finally did end up enrolling in law school.
EVAN: Excellent. Well, I would say, I assume academy would be grade school, then, of some sort?
MEGAN: Yes, definitely. Definitely.
EVAN: Well, I’ll say we’ll have to connect a couple years from now when you’re practicing as an attorney and see if any of those skills translate into managing clients, to managing children in a way sometimes. Sometimes I think there’s more overlap than probably, maybe, you would expect.
MEGAN: Especially in family law, I would definitely say there’s an overlap.
EVAN: Excellent. Well, I think that raises a good point. You’re bringing up family law. So, we have our next poll question here, which is, have you taken any law school courses as an undergraduate student? And so, you’ll be able to answer yes or no on there, and whether you’re planning to if you haven’t already as well.
And it looks like actually, the vast majority of you have actually taken a law-related course as an undergrad. So, it’s about two-thirds of you have, and then the remaining group, it looks like about 80% of the people who haven’t are hoping to do that before they graduate, though, too. So, I think that’s a very interesting result, and I think that will lead into the first question. So, let’s start with Megan this time, actually, on it. And so, what was your favorite 1L course in law school?
MEGAN: I think my favorite 1L course had to have been property, which is not a very popular choice. Most people would probably say it’s criminal law or torts, because those have more interesting cases, but I have always wanted to go into property law. Prior to even enrolling, I knew that’s the area I wanted to be in, real estate and all of those sorts of transactions. So, I was definitely the really annoying person in the class, always raising their hand. So, my professor was, “OK, we have to go to somebody else now, give somebody else a chance,” but yes, property law, 100% my favorite class. So, if anybody has any questions about that, I’d be happy to answer.
EVAN: Excellent. And then Collin? Favorite 1L class?
COLLIN: I would probably say property as well, just because of the relevance of it. Hopefully one day I can own a nice tract of property. So I thought it was something that I could get a lot of use of. I don’t want to go into criminal law. Or maybe contracts. Contracts was interesting as well.
EVAN: OK. OK. And then Lacy, favorite 1L class?
LACY: It’s very interesting, first of all, to hear Collin’s answer, as we were both in the same section for 1L. My favorite was torts. I think the professor makes a big difference in a 1L class. I’m largely interested in criminal law, but I really liked torts because of the elements. And it just seemed to vibe with the way that I thought, and I thought it was just really elemental, and the cases were interesting, and it was, I think, fairly easy to understand. And it was the first class that I took that I really felt like I knew how to outline for myself and learn well. And so, that was definitely my favorite.
EVAN: Excellent. And then we still haven’t gotten to my favorite course, so I’m going to hope Fito’s going to maybe say it here.
FITO: Yeah. I’m sorry to the rest of the panelists, but I would have to say civil procedure, only because of the professor and how clear she made it. Also, with my background in civil litigation, as I worked at the firm, it just seemed so concrete to me, and which, I’m sorry for the panelists. I know it was really tough for a lot of my other classmates, but civil procedure, it was awesome.
EVAN: Well, it’s always good to have someone who actually appreciates civil procedure as part of it. I think it’s, as you were mentioning, sometimes a little bit more challenging in terms of people liking it as a subject area for their 1L coursework. So, I guess this would lead into my next question. I’ll open this up to the panelists, whoever would like to respond. So, what was a typical day in the classroom for that course, or any of your 1L courses? I’m going to do cold calling if we ... Fito?
FITO: Yeah. So, the typical day, you come into the classroom, and as a 1L, you come into the classroom and you have all your notes ready, and you’re hoping that you don’t get called on, even if you know the answer, but the way the Socratic method works is professors, we go through cases and the cases that you’ve read. And so, the professor will ask questions, but you’ll never know who they’re going to ask the question of. And so it’s basically a cold call and you’re just sitting in class their entire time, trying to pay attention, but also worrying about whether you’re going to get called or not. So, it’s a stressful situation as a 1L, because you’re not used to it, but it’s very rewarding, because it keeps you on your toes and it keeps you motivated to do the readings.
EVAN: How about our other panelists? Does that sound similar to your experience? Megan?
MEGAN: I completely agree. Oddly enough, cold calling is something that I had no experience with before law school. And it does vary by professor. Some just accept you raising your hand; others will try to terrify you in the class. I had one professor, he was my civil procedure professor. He would have the person who was lucky enough to be cold called stand up, as if they were behind a podium, and answer whatever question was thrown their way. And it was terrifying at first. So, every day you never knew who was going to be cold called. It was completely random. So, I remember every day I had civil procedure, I was so nervous. I’m like, please don’t be me, please don’t be me. I don’t know enough about personal jurisdiction today. Please just let me be.
But it did help me. It helped me be less afraid of answering the questions later on in the semester. And I’m a much bigger talker in my classes this semester than I would’ve been compared to 1L year. But, yeah, other than that, so, cold calling was a really big part of the day, wondering if I was going to be it. Like I said, not necessarily every professor is going to be that way. And my professor, respectfully, was a little bit of an oddball. So, I don’t think all professors are going to be having you stand up at your seat and recite the answer to whatever question.
But I got into a really good routine 1L year. I would wake up at a certain time. I would have my breakfast. I would go to class. I would get there at a certain time and I had my notebooks ready, I had my laptop ready, I knew how to write my notes. I think time management had never been so good in my life until 1L year. It was amazing how put-together I was.
EVAN: Excellent. And then, actually, this will be a good follow-up question, I think, for our panelists. So, we referenced cold calling, but if one of you wanted to walk us through what that process is actually like to be on the receiving end as a student, just for those of us on the webinar who haven’t had the good fortune or misfortune to experience that yet in life.
LACY: So, how it worked in my classes, we were assigned cases and the professor would just at random say, “OK, this case, Ms. Ashworth, what’s the holding in the case, or what are the facts of the case, or just walk me through this case.” And so, I think that that was a learning curve that I had to figure out in reading these cases of like, OK, well, what is the professor even looking for? What is the holding? What facts are even relevant? And they piggyback. If you didn’t have the answer, you say the wrong answer, like, OK, Mr. Andre, go ahead and what do you think about this? And then sometimes, like in constitutional law, I might get, like, what do you think about this deeper issue?
And so, that type of cold calling would happen as well. So, just on-the-spot question regarding holdings and how that applies, and then also cold calling in the sense that tying it back to, OK, personal jurisdiction that we learned last week, how does that apply in this case? So, it causes you to have to remember a couple weeks before and things like that. And so, I think that that’s a little bit nerve-wracking, especially when you’re discussing matters that you talked about a month ago and you’re not there yet.
EVAN: And I think actually we have a couple questions in the Q&A about the Socratic method. So, the cold calling ties into the Socratic method, just as you were saying, Lacy, sort of when they keep digging down into the particular case, and you feel like you’re getting less and less sure about what the answers are to the questions along the way. So, that would be the back-and-forth of the Socratic method as part of it.
And then that’s the in-classroom-experience part of 1L year, and then you certainly hear a lot, and this is, I think, true of basically all law schools, law school exams are a very important element of law school, particularly 1L year of law school. I think at some places there may be a midterm exam, but at many of them, most, if not all of your grades can be based on that one final exam at the end of the term for each class. So, my question to each of the panelists would be, how and when did you prepare for law school exams? And let’s start with Collin on that first.
COLLIN: Awesome. Let me lower my hand. So, I’m an interesting person, and law school is very difficult, and I love it. So, preparing for law school exams, I remember especially for my contracts, that was going to be our last one. I remember at least a few days before, we had a few-day break between our final exams. I would wake up in the morning at around 8 o’clock, and then I would go to the law school and me and my friends would spend literally the entire day, from 8 to 5, studying, going over our outlines, rewriting them and making sure that we understood all the different material that we learned throughout the course.
And the best way to do that, to prepare for exams, is not waiting until the end of the semester, like Lacy was saying with torts. It’s outlining throughout the semester, especially on weekends, going over material, making sure that you’re knowledgeable about what all’s going on. And even, if you need help, to ask the professor, because you don’t want to get to the last couple days before the final exam and you’re asking all these professors these different questions, like: What are the elements of a contract? How do I figure out whether or not there’s valid consideration? Just things like that.
EVAN: And then I think, Lacy, you had your hand up too.
LACY: No, but I can speak to Collin. This was kind of interesting for me, because a lot of people, I think, in law school, that first year, they study in groups. And I just want to say that that was I think something that I did that I later found out that was not my learning style, to study in groups. And so after my 1L year, I studied individually, actually after my first semester. So my second semester of 1L year I studied individually, and I found that that was a lot more my style, and it definitely impacted my grades in a better way.
So, just keeping in mind, I think, for exams, I studied by myself in undergrad, but I think I felt this pressure in law school because everyone talks about group study, which is a great thing. I had people I would bounce questions off of, but that wasn’t my predominant way of doing things. And I just had to reminisce on things on my own. So, just keeping in mind that there are different ways to study that 1L year, and finding that as soon as you can, will benefit you in your grades.
EVAN: Excellent. So I think that brings up a good related point for all of our panelists. How much time did you spend reading outside of class for a typical class on a typical day, and then how much time did you spend studying for the class outside of the classroom time as well? And we’ll do Fito and then Megan.
FITO: So, there’s a science to the reading outside of the class. So, you’re supposed to spend about, I believe it’s three hours, or two hours, per credit hour that you’re taking. So, you’re taking a three-credit class, you’re supposed to take six hours to do outside reading. However, in the beginning, it’s probably going to take you longer, because, as we all spoke about, for the Socratic method and you’re trying to answer questions and you’re trying to understand how to read the case and what facts are important and actually what is a holding and the rationale, so it’s going to take a little bit longer in the beginning, but as you start to understand the law and how the cases are evolving, it’s going to take you a little bit shorter time. So, yeah, that’s how I would answer that.
MEGAN: I agree. You can’t lie. It’s going to be definitely information heavy, especially your 1L year. You’re going to have to put in the time to study. It’s not going to be those undergrad or high school exams where you could just cram a little bit the major concepts the night before and think you’re going to be fine. You’re going to be having some esteemed professors and faculty that are going to be teaching you all of these classes, information-dense classes. And they’re going to know if you’ve put in the work and read everything that you’ve had to read, but it may seem overwhelming, the amount of information that I’m making it appear that you’re going to have to learn, but as long as you have a good schedule for studying, then you will be fine.
For example, I would come home every day during the semester 1L year, and I would relax for 30 minutes, wind down a little bit, have some time to myself, maybe get a little snack. And after about half an hour, I would start studying for whichever courses required studying. After I finished studying for one course, I would take a break, eat dinner, maybe go to the gym, because if you keep going for hours and hours and hours on end every day, you will get burnt out and it’s not going to be fun.
Especially your first year of law school, you don’t want that to happen. You want to do great, right? So, it’s a matter of finding a healthy balance for yourself where you don’t feel like you’re going to have a mental breakdown and say, “I’m done. I can’t believe I just wasted all this money in law school. I hate reading.” And you want to be sure that you never get to that, and also you absorb all the material you need. So ,again, don’t think it’s going to be, “Oh, no, I got home at 3, I’m going to be studying for another 12 hours tonight.” It’s not going to be that bad, but you’re going to have to put in some work.
EVAN: Excellent. And so we talked about the 1L year, so, I guess I’ll have two related questions to ask as you reflect on your 1L experience. And the first question is, did you meet your own expectations of yourself in terms of academic performance by the end of 1L year? And then, tied to that would be, what did you find most surprising or challenging about 1L year? Maybe something that you weren’t quite expecting to be the case, but something nonetheless that became an important aspect of your 1L experience. And so, if we could get started with Collin on this one.
COLLIN: Yes. I did not reach my expectations coming into 1L year. And that ties into my answer to the next question. Through undergrad and through high school, everything was kind of easy and I could get good grades without really trying that hard. And so, I didn’t attend a panel like this, so I thought law school was going to be along the same lines and I was just going to be able to make it through, be an A student and all those great things. And I remember my first semester of law school, I’m at the library, it’s about 10 o’clock. And I called my dad. I was like, “Dad, law school is not easy.”
It was a little bit of a humbling thing. But as everybody has said, it is definitely doable as long as you set a schedule, set a routine for yourself, and just know that it’s going to take that extra effort, those long hours of reading cases, especially beginning as a 1L, because everything’s not going to click the same. And it’s just a little bit of a learning curve, but I think that was the most challenging aspect, is just realizing the hard work that it was going to take.
EVAN: Yeah. Well, I think that’s a great reflection. I think many people encounter it. And so, I’m also glad to hear that you came to that fairly soon as part of it and that you’re still here as a 3L right now, so clearly it worked out pretty well. Lacy?
LACY: Yeah. So, kind of like Collin, I just went through high school and undergrad, being in honors, I’m sure as most of us are going into law school. After that first semester, I thought that I knew the material going into that first set of exams. And even professors reassured me that I knew the material and asking them questions, but the grades just didn’t come out as I had anticipated. And I had a pretty low rank after that first semester of law school. And I think that you’ll find out whether they’re important to you. Ranks seem to matter in law school. And then going into that second year, COVID happened, and it was a no-GPA change. They did pass or fail. And so, there was no real time to improve. And that was a terrible experience for me.
And it really taught me how to continue to strive. And what was important about that semester is I stopped doing things for grades and I started doing things to learn them, to learn the material. And I learned more that second semester, when there were no grades, than I think I did that previous semester. And then all throughout law school, I’ve just continued to improve my rank, but I think I’ve learned a lot more. And so, I just wanted to say that for everybody who gets in who maybe doesn’t do as well that first semester, that you can go from a low rank to being in the top ranks. I think everybody makes you think if you don’t do well 1L year, you’re not going to get a good job, you’re not going to be able to get a clerkship, you’re not going to be on law review. And that’s just completely not the case. And it was not the case for me. So, just keep that in mind. And I wish that I would’ve done that earlier. You’re going into law school to learn the law. People are going to make you think that grades matter more than a lot of things, or they’re going to put you up against each other. You’re already having to do it with your LSAT score.
So, just keep in mind, you’re there to learn the law. Really put in the work to learn it. Don’t put in the work for ranks. And I think that the latter will find its way. So, I wish I’d learned that earlier. I also think that once I got involved with law review, once I got involved with trial competition, adding those extracurricular activities my second and third year really helped my GPA, rather than not doing anything like that my 1L year. And I wish I would’ve just gotten involved with trial competition earlier, whatever I could have gotten involved with. So, I think that those things matter as well.
EVAN: And I think that’s a very valuable perspective. And for those of us in the audience today, you’re referencing ranking, but for most law schools, not quite all, but for many law schools, you’re ranked against the class that you’re in for the exam that you’re taking at the end. So, it’s not quite so much your absolute level of performance, but how you are relative to your classmates in that class.
And that can be very different than the undergraduate experience, which is probably a little bit closer to the absolute level of mastery versus the “relative to your peers” level. And that could be a change for many people. And so I want to get all the panelists on this one. So, Fito, 1L academic performance expectations and then anything you found surprising or challenging.
FITO: Yeah. To piggyback off of Lacy’s answer, that was awesome. I did hit my 1L, at least my first semester, benchmarks that I wanted to hit. However, that’s only because I was humbled during midterms, in which my professor, she allowed us to drop. That midterm was crazy. I think I got ... yeah, it was a crazy number that I got on my midterm. And it was just simply because I didn’t know how to write a law school exam. I think I went in and I knew the material and I could answer questions in class. And I was one of those students who, every time I was called, I had the right answer. But when it came time to write it down, I never looked at the past exams and I thought I had it all together.
So, I got humbled, and I was devastated, and I talked to my professor, and he told me it’s all about writing it down. You can have it in your head, but if you can’t write it down, it doesn’t do you any good. And so, my advice to you prospective law students are: Never get too high or too low when you get a bad grade or you get a good grade, because the next semester’s going to come, the next exam’s going to come, and you got to perform on all of them. And that’s the way I hit my benchmarks, is because I was humbled.
EVAN: Thank you for that. And I think you mentioned the midterm there and how you’re able to drop the grade. We had some questions in Q&A. So, for most of your 1L courses, somewhere between 90 and 100% of your grade in the course is going to be based on that final exam at the end of it. Sometimes there are midterms, as Fito was saying; they can be worth some percentage of it. There’s usually not going to be too much in the way of participation grades or other things along those lines.
I will point out, for those of you thinking this is a great opportunity to skip class, there are class attendance requirements on top of that. And aside from that, as Megan is shaking her head and we’ll get to Megan just a second, this is also going to be a very bad idea for your exam, not show up to your classes, too. And if nothing else, you’re probably paying very well to attend the classes. So, please do that. But if we can go to Megan, actually, about your 1L academic performance expectations and anything you found challenging or surprising.
MEGAN: Sure. Prior to 1L year, I always imagined that I was a fantastic writer. All of my essays in undergrad and such, straight A’s, but I learned very quickly in my legal writing course, and I also had midterms, on my midterms, that I am not as good a legal writer as I am a typical essay writer. And so I had to figure out how to adjust my writing skills to fit law school really, really quickly, or I was not going to do very well at all. And that was a bit of a wake-up call. I will admit in, in my writing courses, I was a little cocky in the beginning, because I thought I was so fantastic. And then, when I realized that I was just getting average grades on my drafts and my legal writing course and on my midterms, I was thinking to myself, am I really bad at this? What’s going on? Why am I doing so medi ... what is this mediocre work? I’ve never done this in my life! We have what’s known as dean’s fellows in our courses, and they’re basically TAs, teaching assistants. And so, I would meet with my legal writing TA or dean’s fellow once a week. And we would go over all the work and I would figure out, hey, what am I doing wrong? What am I doing right? And then, after a while, I was finally able to grease the wheels and get into the legal writing how I was supposed to. And I think that really helped with writing my final exams, because one thing you will realize is, law school professors don’t like to read your essays. They like to get it over with as quick as possible.
So, keep it short and sweet, parsimonious, that’s all they want. That’s one big thing I will say. Don’t go off on these tangents in your law school essays. They don’t want to read it. Just imagine you had to read 50 or 100, however big your class is, essays, and grade them all. Would you want them to be very long? Probably not. Aside from legal writing, I really did like my torts class, and I thought that I was going to do really well on my torts exam. And I actually ended up getting a C+, which meant I got a C+ in the class, and I’ve never gotten a C in my life. So I was really heartbroken about that. And I thought my law school career was over. That’s it.
I wasn’t going to get any actual grades for my 1L spring semester due to COVID; everything was pass/fail. I was like, this is it. I’m I’m going to fail out. I’m going to be the bottom-ranked one in my class. Now I’m on track to graduate with honors this semester. So, don’t let anything rocky that happens your first year in law school determine how the rest of your law school career is going to be, because it can change. Law school 1L is a totally different animal. Just get through it, survive, try to do the best that you can, but if you cannot do the absolute best, get the straight A’s that you want, which I don’t know very many people who got straight A’s 1L year, if you can’t do it, don’t let yourself get beat up about it. I promise you’ll be fine and you will end up thriving.
EVAN: So, thank you for that. And I think that’s, again, very valuable insights. And so, I want to change gears a little bit, but it also touches on something that you brought up. And so there’s the law school, academic side aspect of your law school experience, but then you’re still a human being and have a life outside law school, certainly, or at least we hope you have a life outside of law school after 1L year at least, as part of that. So, we have a Zoom poll question for the audience, which is, do you expect to be living with or near your family members? And that’s going to tie into some of our later discussion here on the panel today. And it seems like there’s a pretty good variety of people in different sorts of situations. So, it’s about evenly split between people who will be living with or near family members, as well as people who will not. And then we’ve got about another fifth of the respondents who have indicated that they’re not quite sure yet, but maybe it will depend on where they get into law school and where they decide to attend.
But law school is definitely a very significant commitment. And I think it’s very important that people continue to maintain their lives outside of law school as part of it. And so, I guess my first question for the panelists, which is a short question, but I think a weighty answer, is how did you balance family and social life with the academic demands of being a law school student? Particularly 1L year, but as Megan was alluding to, also in your subsequent 2L and then your current 3L years too. And so, yeah, if we could start with Fito.
FITO: I think the biggest thing for this, and this is a really tough question, because it is subjective. However, I think the biggest thing to balance family life and the intensity of law school is letting your family know that law school is a huge commitment. And I think the first thing is telling your family how expensive law school is and how you have to stay focused. They will nod at that. I think the balance is necessary; however, I think you can’t only lean on your law school studies.
You’re also going to have to lean on your family, for not only for financial reasons, but you need someone to talk to. You need people to support you, because it is so tough and it is mentally challenging. So, the balance for me, I think I just told my parents and my family, hey, my phone’s going to be on “don’t disturb” from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at night. If you want to call me after then, I may answer, I may not answer. If I don’t answer, I’ll call you back on the weekends. So it was mainly Monday through Fridays I would study, and then I would probably try to talk to my parents or my family on the weekends.
EVAN: And then Lacy.
LACY: Yeah, I worked out. I would do marathons before I got to law school, and I tried to a train for a half-marathon during my 1L year. I probably wouldn’t recommend that, but after my 1L year, like this year and my 2L year, I would go to the gym and just do a few miles. And I thought that was a good release. I think what I had to learn my 1L year was maintaining a social life that would be beneficial to me in terms of talking to family and people that would rejuvenate me rather than take more.
I think sometimes you’re pressured to participate in law-school-related outside activities that might actually take a little bit more, because it still feels like you’re in that school mindset. And so, I would do those things and I didn’t quite feel rejuvenated. And so, finally I learned, like, OK, this is what I need to do for myself to feel rejuvenated and to maintain a social life. I need to talk to people outside of the law school, talk to my family who’s outside of the law school, and also work out while also staying involved. But don’t rely on that or I personally couldn’t rely on that for the rejuvenation piece. So, just kind of find what works for you in terms of maintaining your sanity throughout law school.
EVAN: And then Collin.
COLLIN: Yes. So, as I was saying earlier, I am from Dallas, and I intentionally went to school out of the state, but not too far, because I wanted to, it sounds terrible, but I wanted to get away from my family. Because I love them so much, I knew that if I went to law school in Dallas, that’d be just a distraction and I wouldn’t be able to put as much effort into my work as I needed to. And so then, also, going to law school, I didn’t expect to make friends. I thought I was just going to be at the library day in and day out and be that A+ student that I thought I would be.
And then one weekend I was studying and all of my friends were out, and that’s when I realized I don’t have as much of a balance as I want to. And so, that’s when I started trying to really actively work on that balance between yes, setting the priorities, which is school, but also having some kind of outside life and having a hobby, which, like Lacy, is working out. I love to work out. It clears my mind.
EVAN: Excellent. And Megan.
MEGAN: Yes. I’m living at home now, during the pandemic, but before, in 1L year, when I was living in my apartment in Miami, it was a couple of, well, about an hour and a half away from home. So, I was a little too lazy to commute during the weekend. So, every day before bed, have a nice glass of wine, as long as you’re 21 or over and can legally drink and it’s fine, please, I do not need any sort of liability here. I would FaceTime my mom, we’d have a great chat and unwind during our however long talk. It was really nice to catch up with her, see my dog on FaceTime. That was a huge win. And I would be constantly texting with my family or my friends from home, just to sort of stay in that world and not be completely enveloped by law school.
And, like Lacy, I was also a gym nut. My apartment had the best gym ever. I’d just spend forever on the elliptical. I’d have a textbook in front of me, or an iPad if I was doing an e-book, or Netflix, whatever floats your boat. And it really helps keep you sane. If you have family and you don’t want to lose touch with them, make sure you keep in contact, take half an hour out of your day to say hi to your mom, FaceTime her, drink a glass of wine, then have a little bubble bath.
EVAN: Excellent. And so, I have two more questions I want us to cover now, and then we’ll also get to some of the Q&A questions as well. So, we certainly talked about the “outside of law school” aspect. And Lacy alluded to this a little bit earlier, but did you participate in any student organizations in law school, and then what was the nature and extent of that participation? Let’s start with Collin on this one.
COLLIN: I do intramural sports. That’s my favorite thing that I do and I’m part of. I’m the vice president of the Sports and Entertainment Law Society, as well as the Black Law Students Association. And so, my role and capacity in those is making sure that all the members are on the same accord, assisting the president in anything that they need to do as far as setting up events, setting up meetings, meeting with faculty and advisers.
I definitely think being part of groups and organizations is a great thing, but oftentimes people realize that even with that, you have to have a balance. You can’t overserve yourself and get in all these organizations because it’s going to look good on your resume, because then you won’t have time for your studies or for other aspects of your life that need attention. So, I think it’s important to be involved, but don’t overinvolve yourself.
EVAN: Excellent. And then Fito.
FITO: Yeah. So, I’m involved in a lot of different things. I’ll probably miss some things. I am a part of the the Black Law Students Association. I’m a part of SGA, which is the Student Government Association, in which I’m a student trustee for my school, which is pretty interesting. I’m on a journal as well. Yeah. But similarly to what Collin said, don’t stretch yourself out too far, because you’ll miss out on your studies. And being involved also helps you to network, and you just never know who you’ll meet and the relationships you’ll build with the student body.
EVAN: Excellent. And Megan.
MEGAN: I became a law school ambassador for my school, which they have, I don’t remember what it is now, but at 1L year, it was weekly events at different times of the year where they would have incoming law students, or prospective law students as well, and we would show them around the campus. We would sort of give them tours of different classes. We were allowed to peek in on different courses that were being held so they could sort of get a firsthand feel of what things were going to be like.
Now it’s a little different. With COVID, my university says let’s just have a Zoom and we’ll give a great slideshow. But when it was in person, it was really cool. We allowed them to tour the libraries and just see the entire campus and give them an idea of what to expect coming into law school. In addition to that, I’m on the law review for my school, so I do a lot of articles that I write and I edit. And that definitely keeps me busy. And let’s see. I think that’s about it for now.
EVAN: But it sounds like a pretty full calendar of commitments.
MEGAN: I’d say so.
EVAN: And then Lacy.
LACY: Yeah. As I mentioned, I’m an articles editor for my law review. And so, I did that my 2L year, and I have participated in trial competition, which I really liked. Those are my extracurriculars. I’m externing at the United States Attorney’s Office. I had the opportunity to extern at a state prosecutor’s office last semester. I really recommend externing, because I was able to argue in front of a judge. As far as organizations and your extracurricular activities, I think something that I wish I would’ve known before signing up for some of the extracurricular activities that I did, and not signing up for others, was just to really take a look at what extracurricular activities would benefit me in the long run for what I wanted to do. For instance, law review is really good for a lot of reasons, but also for judicial clerkships.
And I knew earlier on that that’s not something that I was going to pursue right away, whereas I knew I wanted to be a trial attorney. So, I wish I would’ve went into board of advocates and gotten more of those experiences in the courtroom. So, I’ve really appreciated and taken a lot from each of my extracurricular activities, law review included, but definitely wish I would’ve taken an assessment of what extracurriculars do I need to do better in what I want to do outside of law school.
EVAN: And so, the last question, and then we’ve got one or two Q&A ones I think we’ll cover as well. So, LSAC offers LawHub, which is a great resource for people looking for prelaw resources prior to entering law school. But what would you, with your benefit of hindsight and almost three years now of J.D. law school student experience, what would you recommend as good resources for people to help prepare themselves for law school, either academically or just for the time management, lifestyle balance, anything along those lines? And we’ll start with Fito.
FITO: I think that there are a lot of prelaw programs that you can get into before law school, the summer before law school. I think law school, it’s a mind-boggling shift from undergrad. And so, it’s a different type of learning. There are a lot of people who ... I worked at a law firm before law school, and it’s just different. So, there’s a lot of different law schools that have prelaw programs. And I looked into those. There was one that I got into called CLEO, and it helped me tremendously. So, prelaw programs.
EVAN: Excellent. And then Collin.
COLLIN: Mine might not be as helpful, but I wish I would’ve asked more questions of people I knew that were either in law school or in the legal profession, because I did not do any reading of articles, I wasn’t in a prelaw organization. So, I limited the scope of what I knew about law school coming in. And that attributed to it being a big shell shock. So, I wish I had asked more questions of people that had gone through something similar to what I was trying to go through.
EVAN: Excellent. And then Lacy.
LACY: I would say getting involved in something like this. I wish I would’ve been on this call before going into law school. I am the first person in my family to go to law school. I don’t have any close family or friends that are attorneys, so I didn’t have anybody to ask those questions of going in. I was involved in a prelaw fraternity in school, but it’s just not real until you get here. And so, I think that I wish I would’ve used my adviser more my first year, and now I use her all the time, and I feel like I have more of the answers now than I did then, and I wish I would’ve just gone to administration and those resources that are provided to you and used those.
People have asked questions about outlining. I think that my adviser, if I would’ve gone to her earlier on, would’ve better helped me earlier on in outlining. And also using TAs in the law school. I don’t know if I took advantage of teaching assistants for my classes as much, but I think something like this is really helpful pre-law school to get some assistance.
EVAN: Excellent. And Megan.
MEGAN: Prior to getting into law school, I’m also a first-gen law student. So, I didn’t really know what to expect or how I should be handling anything. So, what I did was I would actually go on YouTube and watch firsthand little documentaries that law students would be posting — like a day in the life of a law student at so-and-so university. And they would take you through their day, their regimens, how they would interact with their peers and professors. It was actually really insightful. And I recommend doing that if you want to have a firsthand experience of what a law student would go through. Also, of course I wish I had something like this, where there was a panelist of 3Ls telling me what to expect and what not to worry about, but unfortunately I didn’t. So, you guys are all really lucky that you get this.
EVAN: And so, we had a lot of people ask variations of this question, so I wanted to make sure we cover it. But did you, and I realize COVID may have affected what would’ve been probably the answer, prior to COVID, to this question, but did you work at all while you were in law school? That’s either first year or in subsequent 2L or 3L years right now. And then, what sort of jobs were you doing? And I think particularly this is within the context of during the academic year and not just the summer. So, yeah, let’s start with Fito.
FITO: Yeah. I currently work right now as, I guess, an intern for a turbo machinery company and their in-house counsel department. And basically, I am working with them on intellectual property and ITAR-related stuff with export. The reason why I got it was because someone recommended me from my law school who I was on the journal with, but it’s something that I wanted to make sure I had experience with in-house counsel work, because I want to go on litigation, and similar to what Lacy said, doing externships and working in legal jobs so that you can know what you want to do and what you don’t want to do.
EVAN: Excellent. And then anyone else about working while in law school? Megan?
MEGAN: So, my 1L summer I was initially going to clerk for a judge in the 11th District in Miami, but with COVID, everything was shut down. They shut down the program. So, that got thrown in the garbage, but luckily I was able to find, in my hometown, this real estate firm that just so happened to be looking for legal interns for this summer. And I applied instantly. And they were saying, wow, we haven’t really actually gotten very many applications this year because of COVID. And I was like, well, I’m very much open to this, please accept me. And they did. And so, I have been interning for them for a while now, and I will be, post-Bar, working for them as an associate, which I’m very excited about. So, sometimes these summer job, summer internships that you get in law school actually turn out to be post-Bar careers, which is really neat. So, keep that in mind.
EVAN: Excellent. And then Collin or Lacy.
COLLIN: I’ll go. Well, so a lot of people try to work ... well, a lot of people ask me, when they’re thinking about going to law school, are you able to work during law school? And so, I was fortunate enough my first year, literally right before COVID, I got a job at our school’s library, and at the beginning, I loved it, because nobody really comes to the library, so I was able to do homework at work. So, it worked out to be a pretty good job for me, but I never worked a non-legal job. So, like a clerkship or internship. And I don’t know anybody that was able to do that successfully and do their classes. I would recommend trying to work in a field ... I recommend doing these internships, externships, clerkships during law school, because one, it gets you experience, it helps you in the field that you want, and two, it can also show you what areas of the law that you thought were really cool, but you don’t want to go to. So, that’s my [inaudible].
LACY: I didn’t. I wish that I would’ve been a law clerk, like at a prosecutor’s office, because I think that that would have helped me in my future endeavors. Law review takes quite a bit of my time, and some of these other things take quite a bit of my time. So, I’ve actually cleaned houses for some extra cash, but I have not had a full-time job while in law school. I would work over summer and then try to save that money. But I think it’s certainly doable. When I was externing at the prosecutor’s office, I was working with two law clerks; that was their job, and they had full plates of classes, and they did well academically. So I think that it’s doable with some sort of a part-time job for sure.
EVAN: Excellent. Well, we got I think a representative spectrum of experiences from this panel ,and as Collin was mentioning, do seriously consider how much things you’re trying to all juggle at once as part of that experience. And so, we’re closing in toward the end of the session. So, I’ve got one final question here that again is a short one, but I think has a possibly more weighty answer. And this is for each of the panelists. How has your identity impacted your law school experience? And do you have any advice for future law students here today? And I’ll give everyone a minute or two to, well, a minute or so to reflect on that, can give a minute or two, a minute to reflect on that before I start doing that cold-calling process we were talking about earlier.
COLLIN: May you repeat the question just one more time, so I make sure I heard it?
EVAN: So, how has your identity impacted your law school experience? And then, do you have any advice for future law students that are here today?
COLLIN: I can start.
COLLIN: So, in undergrad I was a student-athlete, like I said, so I’ve always had at least an ounce of confidence in what I’m doing. And I knew that hard work, while it stunk at the time, will eventually pay off. And I think that’s something I really had to keep in mind during law school, in the long nights and the tired days. I was working toward a goal. And so, I just had to focus on my “why.”
COLLIN: And so, that’s something that I think is really important, is just remembering why you’re going to law school and the goal that’s at the end of the tunnel, and just never lose faith in yourself. Sometimes you might feel down on yourself and you might question whether or not you really belong here, or if you can succeed in law school or in the future endeavors. Just believe in yourself. You’ve gotten this far.
EVAN: I think that’s very sound advice. And I think I saw Fito had his hand up, and I see Megan. So, Fito.
FITO: Yeah. So, my identity, I’m a Black man who is straight, Christian, ex-athlete as well. And I think my identity has impacted me. As an athlete, being able to accomplish everything I wanted to, and then coming to law school, where it’s really intense and it’s not easy to get what you want. I think my identity has really helped me and shaped me. Especially as a Black man in law school and being in a predominantly white school, I think I had a perspective of ... I thought that it was going to be difficult for me. And sometimes I doubted myself on whether I belong in this space, but how diverse my school is, it has helped me to broaden my horizons and to accept others as they come. And there are going to be so many different clients that we have to serve that look different and have different thoughts and mindsets than us. And so, it has really helped me to understand the differences in people and to diversify my thought process.
EVAN: Thank you. Yeah. That’s very insightful. Megan.
MEGAN: Prior to law school, I graduated with a psychology degree. That’s all I knew. I didn’t really know much about law going into it. So, my 1L year, I didn’t even know what a tort was. I just knew torts as those desserts, so I had to Google what a tort was the day before my first torts class. So, if you think you’re unprepared for law school, don’t worry, because I was probably in a worse position than you. If you don’t know what a tort is, just Google it, it’s fine. Don’t be embarrassed. I’m sure more people are going to do it than you think will. Humble yourself. Just humble yourself going in. Don’t expect to be the best of the best in every single class, because that’s going to be close to impossible.
You just have to take things as they come, accept them, take the good with the bad, and just keep moving forward. This is so cliche, but I promise you’re going to be saying the same things to 1Ls in the future, when you’re 3Ls on a panel like this one. I can almost guarantee it. Some more advice I have is, just appreciate the time that you have in law school. You’re really going to enjoy it. You’re going to make some great friends. And keep yourself open to all fields of law. You may think you want a certain field of law when you go in, or you might not have any idea what field of law you want to study. And I’m telling you, every year, they just keep adding more and more. I took trademark law, criminal law, AI and robot law — who’s ever even heard of that? These are all crazy. So stay broad, stay humble, and stay happy.
EVAN: Excellent. And then, so, we’ll give Lacy the last word on this. So, anything about your identity and then any advice for future law students.
LACY: Yeah. So, my identity is, I’d say I’m very Type A. I am a planner. I like to have things figured out. First of all, I didn’t have that figured out with law school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in undergrad until my junior year. And then, going into law school, I thought criminal law, but I wasn’t sure. And just learning that about yourself, of like, man, number one, you can’t be the best at everything like you think you’re used to being. Number two, you can’t plan everything. You have no idea how things are going to go. You can’t control everything in law school. And so, I think that that’s a significant part about my identity, that law school has really opened me up to just kind of try my very best and know that you can’t control everything.
And also, I think as Megan was saying, prepare not to know what you’re going into. I’ve done the same thing. I’ve taken all sorts of classes. I went in thinking I would do criminal law, and I’ve taken everything, did internships in different things, ended thinking I would go into criminal law, but I was glad that I at least ruled other things out. So, just kind of understanding that you can’t plan for all things, I’d say that. And then, advice for others in law school, I guess just stay true to yourself and stay open to taking different things, to doing different things, take opportunities as they come and just do some self-reflection before going in, I’d say.
EVAN: Excellent. Well, I know we’re at time, so I want to thank all of our panelists here today. For those of you who joined the call a little bit later, they’re all 3L students at various law schools in the United States. I want to thank Lacy and Collin, who are at the University of Arkansas, Megan, who’s at the University of Miami, and Fito, who is at Vermont Law School. And so, thank you everyone for joining us today. And I will turn the webinar back over to Collin Takita, our other Collin here on the call today, for some closing remarks.
COLLIN TAKITA: Yes. Great. Thank you, Evan. Thank you, Lacy. Thank you, Fito. Thank you, other Collin, though probably the better Collin. And thank you Megan, as well, for that incredible and insightful conversation. And I want to thank all of you for joining us today as well. We have done our best to answer as many of your questions as possible today throughout the program and through the Q&A, but we understand it wasn’t possible to respond to everyone. So, we want to encourage you, after the fact, to please feel free to email us at ambassadors@LSAC.org.
In addition, we are adding to the schedule of LawHub webinars. Depending on where you are in your law school application journey, I would like to encourage you to join us next week for the LSAC PLUS Program Q&A on Wednesday, February 23, or for the Scholarship Appeals and Financial Aid webinar on Thursday, February 24. If you’re don’t already have a LawHub account, be sure to sign up for one today. Look out for learning opportunities every single month, stay connected with LSAC on social media, and stay tuned for updates about those webinars, which I mentioned earlier, coming your way in March, April, and beyond, as well as more information about the upcoming Admission Unmasked and Law School Unmasked programs coming this summer. We look forward to seeing you all again, and have a great and wonderful day. Thank you.