Alumni Guest Post: Some Pearls of Wisdom from a Part-Time 1L

Lauren Parry graduated from UMass Amherst in 2004 with a degree in History & Legal Studies.  She is now a first year law student at Rutgers School of Law Camden in Camden, New Jersey in the part time evening program.  She kicks off a new occasional series for the Pre-Law blog—alumni reflecting on their application, law school and lawyering experiences.

1.        Do you really want to go to law school? Have you done soul searching and researched just what being a lawyer will mean, and just how demanding law school is?  Law school is not undergrad and it can be very frustrating to figure out how you are doing when your only grade is based on a 4 hour final examination or a graded memo (your first year writing assignment) that you spend every waking moment working on.  I took 5 years off and I know that I am doing the right thing, but if I had gone right to law school out of UMass I don’t know if I would have been able to handle all of this work and expectations.  Working in  the “real world” gives important perspective that can be crucial to your understanding of the first year legal topics.

2.       The waiting process is an extreme experience in itself. Just because you don’t hear anything right away does not mean the admissions committees have forgotten about you—there are a lot of applicants (especially this year) and they give every application serious thought.  I submitted my applications in October and heard my final decision in mid-March.  Don’t discount that the next few months will be tense and your friends are going to start getting sick of hearing you say “I just want to know!”  Try to accept there is nothing more you can do and enjoy this time now; you are about to have NO free time, enjoy it now.

3.       Keep your friends and family close. I cannot stress enough how the support of my husband and my friends keeps me going.  I have a lot of friends who have moved to a new city and are so engrossed in preparing for class they do not have any friends who understand what they are going through.  First of all, make friends!!  Even if you are just sitting around studying together, no one wants to feel alone.  Some people can do this alone, but it is much more pleasant to have a support system.  Oh, and if you’re married, your spouse will most likely be given the advice they are about to be “single” for the next year.  It is really sad to watch everyone go do fun things on lovely fall days while you are kept company by your computer and books.

 

4.       Check your ego at the door. No matter how fabulously you did before law school, you have to be prepared to face your demons.  No paper writing at 2 am the day before it is due; you have weeks of review of a 5 page document.  No detail is too small, every word, punctuation mark, and citation matters.  Be prepared to accept that you might be really good at writing but legal writing is completely different from anything you’ve done before.  If you can’t read your own work objectively then you are not going to do very well.  Also, you are most likely not going to get all A’s and that does not mean you are not smart, can’t handle law school, etc.  It is supposed to be hard and getting a B is a good grade.

 

5.       Most important:  Keep perspective. Remember who you are, what you love to do, what makes you an individual.  Keep it in the back of your head and remember that working hard now means more of a reward in the future.  Run your own law school race—do the best YOU can.  You are going to feel pressure and stress, and as my Dean reminded me, you can only do the best you can do and that is all that is expected of you.  Your professors, advisors, upperclassmen, etc. all want to help you succeed so talk to them!  Oh, and exercise, it really is important to blow off steam.  It makes you feel better and forces you to take a break.