I mentioned in this earlier post about my experience visiting a law school open house, and that there were three things in particular that made me feel as though the school I toured was the right fit. As I have said before, it’s important for everyone to find what is important to them in order to determine which school is best for them. For me, the standout features that put the school to the top of my list were: the friendliness of the students and staff, the focus on experiential learning, and the dean’s speech. They were factors that I couldn’t have experienced if I hadn’t visited the campus. I have elaborated on each of the three things below.
- The friendliness of students and staff
In another recent post, I shared how the friendliness of the student body changed my college experience when I transferred to a large, public university. Overall, people were much friendlier than the previous school I had attended. I was much happier at the new university and a more dedicated student as a result. While at the law school open house, I was reminded of my undergrad experiences as I watched the interactions between the law students, faculty, and prospective students. My personal experience that day was very influential — during lunch, one of the law professors sat at my table specifically to answer any questions that we, as future law students, might have. He also offered his insights on law school, the university, and a career in the legal field. It felt like personal time with the professor rather than a forced interaction manufactured by the school. It’s hard not to think, if he’s sharing his personal time now, does he not do the same thing for his students? And of course I want to attend a school where the professors are accessible and take personal interest in their students.
- Focus on experiential learning
Experiential learning is the fancy term used by law schools to say “learn by doing.” As prospects in the law school landscape and legal job market continue to nosedive into oblivion, some schools are changing their way of teaching. While law schools are traditionally infamous for use of the Socratic method, a few schools, like the one I toured, are now placing emphasis on experiential learning. This is a good thing! After the financial crisis, many
companies and law firms are no longer offering on-the-job training because it’s costly and time-consuming. The most competitive candidates already have experience and can begin working with little direction on their first day. The hands-on learning you do during law school can benefit you during your job search and the subsequent hiring process. Since this is all part of a career change for me, I want to get right to work after graduation. And the best way to do that is by being as competitive of a candidate as I can be — part of which means having solid legal work experience prior to graduation. I believe the school I toured will help me to achieve that.
- The dean’s speech
The open house concluded with a speech from the dean. She shared her personal experiences of attending law school and working in the legal field. The dean stated that, during her first court appearance as a practicing attorney, she was so terrified she could barely stand up or speak. She credited this to a lack of hands-on experience during her time in law school. A reason, she said, she strongly supported this particular school — because it emphasized creating capable lawyers with its focus on experiential learning. The dean also spoke of her experience as one of the first women to ever argue in front of the Supreme Court. She did so in support of civil rights and liberties. It was clear from her speech that she had a long and successful career. The dean’s speech was inspiring — it’s hard to remember that she is probably the exception rather than the rule, but it still serves as motivation. That day, I also saw her as a representative of what the school embodies and values. And since those things were what I was looking for and more, the dean’s speech helped to solidify the feeling that yes, this was indeed the school — the right fit for me.
[Thank you to NCVO for making the “working together” image available for reuse. And for clarity’s sake, the woman in the last photo is not the dean of the law school I visited, but thank you to Greg PC for making the image available for reuse.]