Law School: Attaining a license to serve

According to Bloomberg Business, law schools are receiving fewer applications from prospective students, resulting in law schools having to choose whether to reduce their class sizes or lower their admission standards. It appears to be getting harder for prospective students to make the financial and time commitments required by law school. This news report reminds me of when I was a first-year law student (what is called a “1L”). Back then, my law school’s admissions office asked me to describe my experience of being a law student. I was asked for this description to help educate prospective students about what they could expect from attending law school.

My 1L description of law school for the admissions office

You may be wondering for yourself what law school is like. From my prior perspective as a first year law student, I described acquiring a law degree as attaining a “license to serve” and provided the following analogies:

  • Law school is like learning to snowboard. Although you will start out on a gentle slope, you will find that both feet being strapped onto a board will result in constantly falling flat on your back. It is a tiring and painful experience until you learn to catch your board’s edge and move on to steeper slopes. As a beginning law student, you will find that your response to a professor’s question will inevitably fall flat, which will leave you frustrated. Although you will read a tremendous load of cases, it will take time for you to catch a judge’s meaning. Over time, however, you will begin to master the material and will gracefully snowboard down the law school mountain.
  • Law school is like a kindergartner going to a candy store. Although the store has so many sweets from which to choose, the child only has a small amount of change. No matter what candy the child buys, the youngster will leave the store feeling as if there are other treats that should have been selected. [Law School] has more opportunities than you can possibly have time to do. Take a look at the number of clinics that are offered or try looking at [the law school newspaper] to choose which of the many speaker-lunches you would like to attend in any one day. No matter how many activities you choose to do, you will always feel as if there is one more you should have done.
  • Law school is like a telescope. If you look through it upside-down, everything gets smaller and further away. But when you look through the telescope the way it is meant to be, objects that are distant become clearer and closer. If you look at law school upside-down, you will worry about grades and become self-focused through competition. Looking at law school the way it is meant to be, you will build a community of friends and learn how to serve.
  • Finally, law school is unlike anything you will have ever done before. If it were easy to describe, the analogies would not be necessary. I advise you to talk to as many lawyers and law students as you can. Discuss your goals and expectations with them so that you are prepared for all that law school has to offer.

If you are interested in going to law school, I hope these analogies provide a useful first-year-student perspective for you to make your decision regarding entering this service profession.

The privilege of serving people at an impasse

Speaking of attaining a “license to serve,” it is a privilege for me to be a mediator who can serve my community by helping people resolve their conflicts. It is an honor to assist people who are at an impasse because, as William Ury advised in his book Getting to Yes with Yourself, “Life is too short for these mutually destructive conflicts that consume people and their families with stress, tension, and a huge loss of resources.”


Image: “Law & Order” (CC BY 2.0) by Paige

Source: Kitroeff, Natalie. “The Best Law Schools Are Attracting Fewer Students.” Bloomberg Business. Bloomberg L.P., 26 January 2016. <www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-26/the-best-law-schools-are-attracting-fewer-students>.