With only about three weeks left until the first day of orientation, I’m feeling nervous and excited. After all the horror stories I’ve heard about the first year of law school, I’m especially cherishing the last few, care-free weeks of summer that I have left. Although I’m definitely not looking forward to the massive workload I’m about to accumulate, I’m grateful that I even have the chance to experience that massive workload (I say this for now…at least). There were multiple times during the last two years when I truly believed that I didn’t have what it takes to get into a decent law school. But, *spoiler alert*, I am about to attend the law school I was hoping to get into – and to get to this point, I’ve learned a lot. For the aspiring law students reading this post, I hope the lessons I learned can be of some help!
Just Because You Study A Lot For the LSAT Doesn’t Mean You’ll Do Well
The LSAT was different from any test I have ever taken. Unlike other standardized tests, like the SAT, ACT, MCAT, etc., the LSAT isn’t focused on what you know. For example, you could study ALL summer in let’s say, 2015, for multiple hours a week, and read A LOT OF BOOKS, and you STILL MIGHT NOT DO AS WELL AS YOU HOPED (any ideas who this happened to?!?!?!).
If you approach the LSAT like you do any other test (like I did), then you may not do as well as you hoped. I learned this the hard way during the summer of 2015. I self-studied without any guidance and became stuck in bad habits. Despite taking numerous practice tests and reading up a ton, my score remained the same for weeks at a time, and I only barely reached the score I needed for my desired law school. When I took my LSAT in October of 2015, it was far lower than what I needed. The entire process was incredibly exhausting and took a toll on my self-esteem. I had multiple emotional breakdowns and sometimes thought that I didn’t have what it takes to get into law school.
But…don’t let that scare you! After totally changing my approach to studying during the summer of 2016, my score dramatically approved and I walked away from my September LSAT with the score I needed. Here is what I did:
- I used a study schedule! For other self-studiers out there, I highly recommend the LawSchooli study schedule and all the books that it includes. It’s way cheaper than a class and it was super helpful!
- The LSAT Trainer by Mike Kim revolutionized how I approached the exam. If you can only afford one book, this is the book you buy. It taught me to approach the questions in a way that no other book did.
- Make sure to take days (or even weeks) off from studying! The first summer I studied for the LSAT, I studied every day for a few hours and was left exhausted. During my second summer, I got the score I wanted despite only studying every other day and taking a couple weeks off for vacation.
There is more out there than just the top 15
It is true that where you go to law school matters. For instance, (as my dean said in an address last year), if your future goal is to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice, going to Harvard or Yale may be preferable to the school I’ll be attending. However, that doesn’t mean that going to a school in the below-15 is fruitless (unless, again, you just really want to be a Supreme Court justice).
The fact of the matter is that not everyone can get the grades/LSAT score to get into a top-15 – and that’s ok! There are plenty of schools that don’t make the top 15 that offer great possibilities.
Take my school as an example. Despite not being a top-15er, my law school has a similar job placement rate to that of UC Berkeley. On top of that, my school has just moved to a beautiful new facility that is walking distance to the courts/firms in the area. While I can go on about why I chose the school that I did, the moral of the story is that name recognition is not everything. I wouldn’t recommend choosing a school too low in the ranks (because rank does factor in getting a job), but I wouldn’t lose all hope if you can’t get into the top-15.
Think About the Debt
During the reception at my admitted student’s welcome, I learned some great advice from a fellow attendee (who also happened to be the law school’s biggest donor and a big time lawyer). This attendee told us an iteration of the following:
If you have the choice between a top-15 law school and no scholarship, and a law school not within the top-15 but with a scholarship, go where the scholarship is. It will benefit you far more in the long run.
The attendee explained how leaving law school with debt severely limits the types of jobs you can take. This was important advice for me as I hope to start out as a trial lawyer in a government job (not exactly where the money is). I want as much room for experimentation as possible as a young lawyer, and the last thing I want is debt limiting my choices!
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for listening to me ramble! I definitely have a lot more to learn and I’ll be excited to share those lessons as they come. T-minus 25 days and counting!