How to Succeed in Law School
Law school success can be defined in many ways—graduating, getting a job, good grades, creating lifelong relationships—among other key accomplishments. The most successful graduates focus on all of the above.
If you are applying to law school, or in the middle of it, put yourself in the best position to succeed.
Tips for grades and exams
Perhaps the key to a successful academic experience is winning the law school mind game. Much of the mind game, however, involves allowing yourself to think about things outside of law school. Keeping law school in perspective will help you excel.
Once you delve into classes, place an emphasis on effectively managing your time. Reading all twelve pages of the dissent may score you gunner points, but will it help with the exam? Doubtful.
Everyone has their two-cents on how to master exams and you get can rich with all of these tips on how to master law school exams. My two-cents? Sometimes the obvious answer is correct—but always look for red-herrings. The best defense against both is showing your work. Regardless of your answer, if you can show how you got there, you are bound to do reasonably well.
Make the most of the experience—do not minimize it
Law school is not Las Vegas—what happens in law school does not stay there. Your professors might become judges one day—and they will remember that you slept through class everyday. Your classmates will become co-counsel, opposing counsel, and referral sources after law school. Do your best to make friends during law school. The more people you know, the more it will help your legal career.
You will undoubtedly need references during and after law school. Professors are the logical choice, so make an effort to get to know them. This involves more than asking a question after class. Not only can professors help you learn their material, they tend to come in handy during job searches.
Grades are just part of the equation. If you do not get straight A’s, there are plenty of other ways to make yourself an attractive job applicant.
Develop practical skills
One way to move past bad grades is to acquire practical skills and practical experience. Law schools are trending towards more practical classes, but you need to make a concerted effort to develop practical skills to compliment your logical reasoning.
If your school offers trial skills or trial practice—take it. Immerse yourself in clinics. Taking a judicial externship instead of ancient european law will be much more helpful in the long run.
If you end up working as a law clerk, make the most of the experience. Show up everyday like it is a new job interview and take advantage of opportunities—rather than shying away from them.
Make yourself stand out
Your GPA is one line on your resume—you need more than that to stand out in this job market. If you can create a niche within an area of law—go for it. Independent research and writing classes are a great way to delve into an area that is not covered in class. If you are on law review or a journal, write about a hot-topic in an emerging area of law.
Another option is to pursue a concentration in an area of law. It does not make you an expert, but it definitely helps during your job search.
The goal is to walk into an interview and demonstrate that your knowledge of a particular area will be an asset to a firm—an asset that not many new graduates possess.
If you can make good on at least some of these ideas, you can give yourself an advantage over your classmates—get to it!