Travis G. Black August 2019




School is starting back up again this month, and it reminds me a lot of my time spent in law school. I remember that season as some of the more challenging years of my life; law school wasn’t what I expected. There are probably very few young people who are prepared enough to understand law school and what it requires, and there are even less who know what to do once they have that law degree. For those determined to go to law school, the most important thing to keep in mind is how different the schooling will be from anything they’ve experienced before. Both in high school and college, the assignments, tests, and projects assigned were largely straightforward. Students went to class, learned about the subject, studied, and put their new knowledge into practice. In law school, students are tasked with learning concepts and laws to near perfection on their own. “For those determined to go to law school, the most important thing to keep in mind is how different the schooling will be from anything they’ve experienced before.”

Law school has a very Socratic method of teaching. This means that students will need to form their own understanding about the subjects presented to them based on continual questioning from their professors — who provide very few answers, if any. I remember when I learned about burglary and the five different elements that go into it. In common law, burglary is the breaking and entering of a dwelling in the nighttime with the intent to commit a felony therein. When broken down, we have the first element, the breaking; the second element, entering; the third, the dwelling; the fourth, during the night; and the fifth, the attempted felony. A student might be presented with a hypothetical case where a person broke into a garage that is unattached to a house and where nobody lives. It’s up to the student to determine if the garage counts as a “dwelling.” Here’s the problem: The professor isn’t going to give a lecture about the different elements that are required for a structure to be classified as a dwelling. The students have to learn this information themselves by researching the multitude of different cases in which juries and judges have decided what a dwelling is — and repeat this process with the other four elements required in a burglary. It’s this form of mental exercise that makes law school challenging and requires careful study of every subject. Once a student accomplishes their goal and finishes law school with a degree, they’re then faced with taking the bar exam. In

order to pass, most people will have to take additional courses that can last eight hours a day, five days a week, for anywhere between 8–12 weeks. If they pass, they are faced with finding a job in their field. Many new lawyers cannot start their own practice right away, so they must work with or for another attorney who is in the field they studied. When students tell me they’re planning on going to law school, I always counsel them as best I can. I encourage them to study a subset of law that is unique or to follow a field they have plenty of knowledge in already. If a student plans on going into an area of law where there are already many, many attorneys practicing, it may be extremely difficult for them to get the job, and it won’t be financially rewarding. By pursuing a career in a field that is unique or less common, students will give themselves a better chance to succeed. The most essential element for anyone who is planning to enroll in law school, and one which I highly recommend, is to speak to a practicing lawyer in the field they are interested in. By doing so, they will gain confidence and direction, whether that is their initial choice or if they change their mind. An experienced lawyer can not only help prepare students for working in the field, but they can also help them decide which school is best. –Travis Black

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