1. Know Your Rights
Ever heard someone say, “Is that even legal?” Come to the rescue with an educated answer. Knowing your rights as a citizen, employee or tenant will come in handy before you make an assumption and accidentally cross the line.
2. Contest a Ticket Like a Boss
After law school, you’ll finally know how to dispute that pesky parking ticket. Most people just give in and pay fines because they don’t feel like reading the fine print or going through the trouble of writing a convincing explanation. However, learning the ins and outs of the law—and how to use it to your advantage—is just one valuable thing you’ll gain from a law degree. You’ll no longer have to groan when you see that white slip neatly tucked under your windshield wiper or panic when you see flashing lights in your rearview mirror. Even though going to law school doesn’t mean you’re above the law, it will teach you how to stand up for injustice.
3. Make Any Agreement Iron Clad
Did your friend agree to build you a professional website in exchange for LSAT tutoring? A law degree provides you the legal writing skills to make any contract binding, even a friendly agreement between pals. Avoid those conflicting interpretations like when your friend swears he only agreed to a couple lines of code.
4. Become an Interview Snob
Andrew Metzar, a 2009 law school graduate, said that law school was extremely helpful in helping him through the job interview process. “You have to teach yourself or learn how to be a good interview, sitting across from someone and presenting yourself in the best and most favorable way possible, which I guess is an extension of what you’re trying to do as a lawyer as well,” he said.
5. Convince Others
Do you and your girlfriend disagree on whether or not robots are taking over the world? Do you and your best friend fight over which posters best represent the vibe of your apartment? Does your boss think you’re slacking when you think you’re overworked? Law school will teach you how to approach conflicts with different types of people, how to understand their mindset and how to deliver your points of view. This will position you to win any argument. A law degree won’t ensure that you’re always right, but it will teach you how to convince others that you are.
6. Get Real World Experience
Law schools offer externships or legal clinic programs to give students an experiential education. Kristin Moore, a third year law student, already works directly with clients, which gives her a sense of real cases she’ll experience in the future. For Moore, it’s her favorite part of law school.
7. Negotiate a Raise
You will, without a doubt, graduate from law school knowing how to handle any argument like a pro. It will also teach you that nearly everything is negotiable—including that starting salary. Studying law will help you see both sides of a situation in order to craft a top-notch counterargument.
8. Be Purposeful
Studying law trains students to speak with conviction, act with poise and write with purpose, which filters in to all aspects of their lives. “You’re just a lot more intentional in your actions and your thinking,” said Moore. “You’re thinking about strategy and about outcomes a lot more than I think I did before I went to law school.”
→ Be purposeful about your law school application by attending a free Law School Forum held by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Each Forum features live workshops that demystify the application process, including a session with the LSAT creators. If you were nervous about how to tackle your personal statement, the Forums will break it down for you. The insider-knowledge will ultimately enhance the quality of your application.
9. Expand Your Views on Diversity
Law school exposes you to varying viewpoints, some you agree with and some you don’t. “I grew up in Kansas so it’s not a very diverse place,” Moore said. “Going to a school that’s known for its diversity was a really intentional move for me because I wanted to learn about the law from a lot of different perspectives.”
10. Know How to Act When Disaster Strikes
Being a law student prepares you to plant both feet firmly on the ground while the walls are caving in around you. The high-pressure environment and multi-faceted curriculum of law school force you to think fast and deal with problems rationally and in a timely manner. “(Law school) teaches you to anticipate potential disasters to sort of appease them or mitigate them before they occur,” Metzar said. Keep calm and get a law degree.
11. Speak Klingon…aka Legalese
Going to law school is like learning a new language. You will learn not only concepts and theories that are completely foreign to you, but begin using jargon you’ve never used before. “My legal dictionary was my best friend,” Moore quipped. Similar to learning a different language, it starts to flow naturally the more you practice. Expect to graduate fluent in the language of law.
12. Experience Endless Learning
Law school epitomizes the age-old adage “the more you learn the less you know,” which can really put things into perspective. “You keep learning,” said Jackie Stanley, recent law school graduate. “Part of law school is to help you recognize and admit what you don’t know and figure out how to know it.” Being a law student teaches you that it’s okay to not know.
13. Join a Community
In law school, your classmates become your friends and your friends become your family. While you may think a law school classroom has a thick layer of competition, it has a much thicker layer of camaraderie. “We share outlines, we share resources, we share ideas and I really, really enjoy that,” said Moore.
14. Get Out of Your Lease
Law school will undoubtedly teach you to know your way around any kind of contract whether it’s an employee contract or a rental agreement. Once you go through law school, you’ll realize that not all contracts are as binding as when Ariel relinquished her voice for a pair of legs in The Little Mermaid. Knowing the ins and outs of a contract make them less daunting. “Even though I’m not an attorney that deals with a real estate contract on a day-to-day basis, when it comes to leasing an apartment I have a wealth of knowledge I can draw on to make sure that the lease isn’t putting me in a terrible position in case something goes wrong at the apartment,” Metzar said.
15. Get a Leg Up in the Job Market
Law school provides the confidence and credentials for any job, even if a law degree isn’t required. The analytical and communication skills go beyond the courtroom. If you decide to explore a career outside of law such as business development, consulting or recruiting, a law degree speaks volumes on a resume.
16. Strengthen Your Intellectual Stamina
Let’s make one thing clear: law school is not for the faint of heart. Metzar claims that the key ingredients to getting through law school are stamina and intellectual curiosity. “To do it properly, you’ll be going to class and studying 12 hours a day, all week long,” he said. Over the course of the semester, students start to fade as the courses get more and more rigorous. Don’t let your spark of curiosity do the same. Law school rewards those who stay inquisitive and tenacious.
17. Think Like a Lawyer…Duh
Law school will teach you think analytically and assess various sides of an issue. Moore said that attending law school has taken her critical thinking skills to a whole new level: “You’re not just thinking about simple things, you’re thinking ‘How could that be legally impactful?’”
18. Depend on Yourself
Although law school provides a great sense of community, it also teaches you to be self-reliant. Goodbye group projects—law school forces you to pull your own weight. It feels liberating to discover all that you can accomplish solo. Being independent and figuring things out for yourself are some of the biggest gifts that law school inadvertently offers.
19. Feel the Ambition
One of the main reasons students push themselves to succeed in law school is the environment teeming with determination. Law school gives you the opportunity to meet people who will challenge you.
20. Make a Difference
Provide legal aid to those who really need it. Whether you need to help out your friend caught in an unjust situation or defend someone who has wrongly been convicted, a legal background can really help save someone’s life. You’re like Superman in a suit and tie. Even though you can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound, you are a symbol of hope for the masses that has the power to right the wrongs of the world.
21. Know How to Pick Your Battles
There will be plenty of times in both your professional and personal life when you’re totally and utterly wrong. Law school teaches you that you can’t win ‘em all. You’ll learn what’s worth fighting for and when it’s time to throw in your cards.
22. Ease into the Real World
Law school provides a transition from the wild world of college to the wild world of life. Stanley describes the atmosphere of law school as one-part college and one-part real life. “You’re sort of being eased into real life in a fun way,” she said.
And here is a volatile response from an Above the Law contributor Joe Patrice, Joe, why are you so angry?