Alumni guest post: 1L at NYU Law

Our occasional series of guest posts continues with Sam Litton, a 2008 UMass alum. Sam kindly took the time to answer some common questions students have for alumni in law school. Have more questions for Sam?  Please feel free to post them in the comments, and I’ll pass them along.

Q: What’s your name, major, year of graduation from UMass, and law school you’re attending?

A: I graduated in 2008, and majored in Political Science, Philosophy, and Legal Studies, which sounds slightly more impressive than it actually is.  They share a lot of Gen Eds.  I’m currently a 1L at NYU School of Law.

Q: Where else did you get in?  What made you choose NYU?

A: I also got into UC Berkeley, Columbia, Georgetown, Duke, and a few others. Harvard wait-listed me. Yale sent me the nicest rejection I’ve ever received.

I chose NYU for several reasons. First, the loan repayment assistance program at NYU is fairly generous. Second, it has a strong public service emphasis. Third, I wanted to stay in the Northeast. Finally, their deadline to accept my financial aid package snuck up on me.

Q: Have you been happy with your choice? Why or why not?

A: I’m pretty happy at NYU. I really like the culture here; it’s not the cut-throat atmosphere people often attribute to law school. There’s a pretty strong sense of camaraderie. For example, I’ve missed class before and people have given me their notes.

I also like the emphasis on public service at NYU. Most of NYU Law’s graduates will go on to work in the Big Law Firms; however, the school has a huge number of resources available for those who don’t. Just as important, the public service office has a fairly substantial presence.

Finally, NYU is really strong in international law, which is one of the areas I’m interested in.

Q: What have you enjoyed most about your first year?

A: Law school is difficult, but in a good way. I like the challenge it presents.

Q: Has the work load been greater or lesser than you expected?  How would you compare it to what you did as an undergrad?

Law school is much different than undergrad. The format, to start with, is different. During the first year, all (but one) of the courses are in a large lecture hall and are graded based solely on a final exam. In a sense, this is like the courses I took freshman year, but harder.
The type of work is different, too. It’s mostly reading, but you need to have a much greater level of understanding, and the text is much denser.

I would definitely say, though, that I’m busier in law school than I was in undergrad.

Q: What are you doing this summer?  How did you get that job?  How helpful was the placement office in securing your summer internship?

A: This summer I’ll be working for the UN Economic, Social, and Cultural Program in the Trade Policy Section. I’ll be in Bangkok, Thailand.

To be honest, the placement office (here it’s the Public Interest Law Center) didn’t have that much to do with getting the job. The office does maintain a database of reports interns have written in years past about their summer jobs. I looked through those, e-mailed the supervisor directly, and got the job.  It is possible, though, that being from NYU was helpful.

Q: Do you have any good advice for those who are either about to start the application process, or those who are headed to law school in the fall?

A: I think the best advice I can give for people entering law school in the fall is to try and remember why you went to law school. It’s very easy
to get swept up in the law firm track, and it’s important to keep in mind what it was that made you come to law school in the first place.

For people thinking of applying to law school, I think the best advice is to really think hard about why you want to go. It’s a big time and money commitment, and if you don’t actually want to become a lawyer, then it’s a waste of time. It’s probably not a good idea to commit three years and thousands of dollars if you just want to stay out of the job market for a while or because you think that, as a lawyer, you’ll automatically make lots of money.