I knew in the summer of the “law school admissions cycle” that I was going to “take the LSAT and go to law school.”
I understood these as the basic steps of going to law school, but honestly, I didn’t know much more than that.
I had one or two friends that had gone to the local law school, and from an external perspective, that’s what they did, so I figured that’s all there was to it.
Now, if that sounds naïve to you, you’re right.
If you knew what this process looked like before diving in, or had a mentor or tutor or family member who’d “done this” before, that’s great. If this post doesn’t resonate with you, that’s fine. This is about my ignorance and how I found "success" in both the admissions process and law school. In no small way, it's a function of my privilege that I landed at a prestigious place like Harvard Law School despite that ignorance.
That said, I grew up on a small family farm in rural Nebraska, went to high school with 46 of my closest friends, and had never met anyone that had gone anywhere but the two local law schools. I say that to detail the root (ha, farm joke) of my ignorance, but also in the hope that somebody reading this might have a similar background and feel validated in both their pursuit of law school and their confusion. My success had always stemmed (ha, farm joke) from having a community that supported me, and I sorely lacked that as I started to pursue law school.
As I prepped for my first LSAT, I stumbled on the LSAT prep subreddit, and from there I found r/lawschooladmissions. At first, it was so overwhelming it almost made me give up the idea of going to law school altogether. The jargon, the timelines and deadlines, admissions strategies, everything was so foreign to me that I just about shut my laptop and didn’t look again, writing off the whole process. It took about a day of perusing the subreddit to see that not only did I not know a bunch of stuff about the process, but I didn’t even know what I didn’t know.
The admissions process is an incredibly confusing game that’s mostly unknowable. You’ll be happy to know that law school is the same.
My ignorance, literally a day before blissful, was now terrifying. “Take the LSAT and go to law school” wasn’t much of a plan, I found out. Honestly, the reason I stayed on the subreddit was because there was a healthy dose of memes and more than a few people talking about how dumb they felt. As I relied more and more heavily on a random reddit page I’d stumbled across for high-level admissions advising, it started to feel like maybe the admissions process isn’t meant to be easily understood. Two years of being at law school, and I know that has to be the case. The admissions process is an incredibly confusing game that’s mostly unknowable. You’ll be happy to know that law school is the same.
From day 1 on campus, it became apparent yet again that I didn’t know anything about the place I was at or what law school really was. I didn’t know where the cafeteria was. Honest to God, I didn’t know there was a cafeteria. I stumbled across it in the 2nd week of classes when like, half my classmates were up there eating lunch. I had classmates that knew the best professors, the best way to study, how decisions in a circuit were binding on district courts (I found out what district and circuit courts were). Invariably, these classmates had someone in their circle that had done this before, been to this school, or were just so smart they knew how to figure it all out (go read Riley’s post to see how a smart person would tackle these problems). I, on the other hand, am stupid. I got to law school because I found an internet community that took in a dummy and gave him the tools, guidance, and encouragement necessary to succeed.
What has made you successful so far in your life will translate to law school.
After 2 years of law school, I’m still stupid. That said, what has made you successful so far in your life will translate to law school. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel in law school. I’ve only ever “succeeded” when I felt like I had a community of people that cared about and invested in me, because I wanted to validate that investment. I navigated the admissions process by finding a community. I’ve navigated nearly 2 years of law school by trying to do the same thing. I don’t know if it has “worked” but I know I have classmates who(m?) I care about and that care about me. I know by having that community I don’t outright hate law school, and I honestly think I might’ve even learned like 3 or 4 things. If finding community is how you succeed, do that. If it’s something else, do that.
Committing to any life-changing event is stressful, and choosing a law school is no exception. I urge you NOT to pick a school based solely on (1) where you’re accepted first, (2) the school’s rank, or (3) because you feel like you “should.” Of course you want to attend the best school possible, but it's critical to ensure that school is a financial, emotional, and logical fit. So take a deep breath and enjoy each acceptance before diving into those hard questions!