Law school isn’t easy, but officials at area law schools want prospective students to know that even though there are challenges, there are immense rewards.
According to Jessie Hill, associate dean for academic affairs and Judge Ben C. Green professor of law at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Law in Cleveland, and Michael Borden, associate dean of administration and associate professor of law at Cleveland State University’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in Cleveland, incoming students should prepare to spend more time studying than they did in undergraduate programs.
“Students should be ready to spend a lot of time focusing on school,” Hill said. “One of the things I see is students come in and aren’t familiar with reading legal cases. It’s a skill you need to focus in on because you need to read very carefully. You’re looking for very specific things. The first year is very rigorous and some places, it’s a very competitive environment.”
Borden said incoming law students should prepare to learn a “different kind of information.”
“Students are there to learn a new way of thinking, reading, reasoning and a new way of expressing themselves,” he said. “And that is a process – a process different from what they have engaged in their prior academic experience.”
Both professionals said they’ve seen law schools change over the years.
“One of the big changes, even in the time I’ve been at Case, is that law school has a more practical focus,” Hill said. “It’s more focused on getting students ready to go into practice. So, by the time they graduate from law school, they have real work experience.”
Borden said, “It’s kinder and gentler. There was an old-style way of doing things that started to change in the 1990s. Professors have stopped behaving that way in recent decades and there is a greater appreciation that the intimidation and the anxious environment is not a proper one for learning.”
Hill and Borden said skills gained in law school can also apply to other fields.
“There are certain skills that employers value, like good writing and oral communication,” Hill said. “But one of the reasons law school is such a good option is because the degree teaches you to logically think through problems. A Juris Doctor is incredibly valuable in a lot of contexts. The field is constantly growing, and new career paths are always popping up.”
Borden said, “It’s important to know how to think clearly and logically, know how to see a problem from multiple perspectives and being able to shift between the big picture and the minutia. But you should also have emotional intelligence, a zeal for justice and be hard working in nature.”
Hill said before students worry about getting a job, the most important thing to remember is to study for the bar exam.
“The thing about law school is students get through the schooling, think they are done and then remember they have that last big exam,” Hill said. “Study for that bar exam. Focusing on that is important, but beyond that is we’ve been trying to get students to have real-life experience outside of schooling.”
Borden suggested students take a wide look at their options and said it’s a good idea to network before and immediately after graduation to begin reaching those goals.
“Not everybody gets a great job out of law school and students need to have the perspective that it could take three to five years before that happens,” he said. “So, work with that objective in mind and know you might not get there right away. You should also network as much as possible. The Cleveland legal community is great for that.”