As law schools are adjusting to the pandemic and making plans for the new normal, we asked some of our lawyer readers for their advice for law school students. Even as we set aside the challenges of the pandemic and distance learning, the truth is law school is difficult even in the best of circumstances. Here is what they had to share.
There is no way you will be as knowledgeable as the older attorney you face on the opposing side. The only way you will be able to successfully represent your client is to know more about the case and outwork the older lawyer. There is no substitute for hard work.
— Matthew Posgay, Shareholder at Coker Law
Find somebody smarter than you, and get them to study with you. As a general principle in life, I’ve tried to surround myself with people who were smarter or more capable. I look for people I can learn from, people who had different ideas and opinions than my own. I’m not good at coming up with things on my own, so I’d find someone who found a way to do something well — whether that’s in school, in business or in life — and I’d pattern my actions after them. I found that was an effective way to do better than I was doing on my own.
As a law student, you come in blind. You don’t know how to study the law or how it works, so it’s important to find someone who does. If you can find someone smarter than you, that will push you to do better. If you want to do well in law school, that’s what I’d suggest.
— Pernell McGuire, Phoenix Attorney of the Month →
We live in an increasingly interconnected society, fueled by social media and an endless news cycle. But at the end of the day, law is still a personal and small profession. Things we say, write, or do often outlive the moment, and maybe we later find out we were not as wise in retrospect as we thought we were at the time, or that others were not as foolish as we thought or said. Some things are easily forgotten or forgiven with time, but others are more lasting. Humility can be an elusive quality but is one that enjoys a long shelf life—and I say that as someone who at times struggles to attain it and retain it. I take guidance from words of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, who cautioned his colleagues attending the Council of Trent as follows: “Be modest when you are certain. Argue from authority cautiously. And consider the reasons on both sides without showing attachment to your own opinion.”
— Jacob H. Rooksby, Gonzaga Law School
Find mentors. Find champions, and find some that look like you and think like you. But also find many who do not look like you or share your background. We all need supporters, women and minorities especially. And, we need support from members of the majority.
— Melanie D. Wilson, University of Tennessee School of Law
Join the Conversation
Are you an active lawyer — in private practice, government or in-house? Share your advice for surviving (and thriving) in law school and after.