Before Going to Law School, I Wish I Knew…
As a follow up to the popular article “What I’d Wish I’d Known Before Becoming an Attorney,” we asked successful attorneys to go even further back by asking: What do you wish you’d known before diving into law school? Turns out, concerns about debt and future career choices plague us all! You can view the entire article here or view a summary of the answers below.
- “Consider a Cost/Benefit Analysis When Choosing a law School” - Florina Altshiler, Russo & Toner, LLP. Florina recommends considering a cost/benefit analysis when choosing a law school, stating that she was shocked by the low pay offered both then and now by the interesting public interest and government positions. She eloquently states, “lawyers are uniquely positioned to make a difference in people's important affairs” and that law students should “make a purposeful decision to work in an area of law that excites you.”
- “Have a Technical Background Before Going In” - Scott Aurnou, The Security Advocate. Scott’s main focus is cyber security and privacy, but he admits he was a lawyer first and then a technologist. He believes it would have been great to have had a more of a technical background before going in, and that a stronger background is something that could benefit a lot of would-be law students today.
- “Reading is Not Nearly as Valuable as Doing” - James Auslander, Beveridge & Diamond PC. James called out the “default approach” to law school, and states that the most valuable learning occurs in doing the “practice” of law. He recommends taking advantage of clinical opportunities and interesting or “unconventional” summer positions to garner plenty of hands-on experience.
- “Investing Time in Self-Care During Law School Pays Immediate Dividends” - Laurie J. Besden, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers. Laurie emphasizes the importance of self-care and “maintaining an overall well being.” Laurie reminds us all that regardless of the competition, “the only person you need to exceed is the person you were the day prior.”
- “Take Some Time to Figure Out What Inspires You” - Erica Dubno, Fahringer & Dubno, Herald Price Fahringer PLLC. Erica’s experience taking a few years between college and law school to intern at the Labour Party headquarters in London, work as a paralegal, and even backpack through South America helped her to understand what it was she wanted to get out of law school and her legal career. She believe that in order to achieve your full potential, it is extremely important to take time to figure out what inspires you.
- “Never Go to Class Unprepared” - Eileen Libutti, Lewis Johs Avallone Aviles, LLP. Eileen emphasizes the importance of preparation - in law school and in life. She advises that law students treat their time in school as they would a job. It’s excellent preparation for the real world and helps a student better attack their work. She also points out that studying when it’s a review is far easier than when it’s new material - and that is definitely true.
- “Just Chill Out” - David N. Feldman, Duane Morris LLP. David’s advice was both self-explanatory and extremely important. Sometimes, law students just need to take a deep breath and relax!
- “Be Aware of the Debt” - Elizabeth Hallinan, The Greenfield Project. Elizabeth also draws attention to the crushing debt that law students may incur, noting that it has affected lives in many ways beyond that of simply a job choice - it can even affect when people choose to get married, due to multiple incomes being taken into account.
- “Understand the Value of Developing Business Skills” - Peter Halprin, Anderson Kill. Peter’s advice centers on the non-legal aspects of a law career, most notably business skills including negotiation, problem solving, and project management. He even notes that if he had realized how important these skills were, he might have worked in a business discipline prior to law school (though students also have the opportunity for in-house internships, which may also offer business insight).
- “Marketing and Business Development Can Begin in Law School” - Owen McKeon, Fisher Broyles LLP. Owen’s insight is potentially some of the most astute, particularly in the digital age. Marketing and business development skills are more important now than ever before, and honing these skills can - and should! - begin in law school.
- “There is No Off-Switch” - Andrew Witik, Tressler LLP. Andrew reminds us that not all lawyers thought they were living in a millenial world. He wishes he had been able to anticipate that there would truly be no rest for the weary; clients want (and therefore have) round-the-clock access to attorneys, making it nearly impossible to ever truly leave the office for the night.
Written by Shaun Salmon
Shaun is the Director of Content at Lawline. She holds a JD with a certification in Intellectual Property/Entertainment & Sports Law from Seton Hall Law and is admitted to practice in New York and New Jersey. In her free time, she coaches a high school dance team and choreographs the school’s musical. She is also a passionate advocate for animals and strives to cultivate Animal Law programs, among her other endeavors with the company.