What kind of lawyer do you want to be? Believe it or not, you can begin to answer this question today. Not ten years from now or at graduation or even on your first day of class, but today. Today is the first day of the rest of your professional life.
We encourage you to consider the application process the beginning of your legal career. Law school is a professional school, and you should strive for absolute professionalism in each and every contact you have with any admissions office. Whether it be an email, a phone call, an individual visit or a conversation with a school representative at a law fair, impressions matter. In one email, one phone call or one conversation, you have the potential to dramatically impact your file’s consideration. Such contacts can often prove critical when schools make admissions decisions, particularly when choosing whom to accept from their waiting list, and bad impressions can often be extremely difficult to overcome.
However, professionalism should really impact every aspect of your application process. Get organized. Even if you’re not a planner, plan. For all its potential to affect large social change, the law is a detail-oriented profession. This is a field in which great importance is often attributed to a single word or a particular punctuation mark. Being a good lawyer is in many ways all about getting the little things right. For every landmark Supreme Court decision, there were briefs that had to be filed in a timely manner and in compliance with the Supreme Court’s formatting requirements. Behind every gigantic, international corporate merger, there were thousands of pages of contracts that had to be scrutinized, double-checked, re-checked, compared, edited and haggled over.
It may seem odd, but applying to law school is in many ways like practicing law. To get to the big, exciting stuff (trials, deals, mergers, oral arguments, for example) you have to do a lot (and I mean a LOT) of comparatively little things. Extending this metaphor to the application process, to get to the big stuff (acceptances), you have to do a lot of comparatively little things (personal statement, application questions, letters of recommendation, for example). Nevertheless, failing to do one of these seemingly trivial things can dramatically impact a trial, a deal or an application. For example, don’t think a a few hours matter? Just try to telling that to your client when a judge refuses to hear your case because your motion was late. Don’t think a single email can matter? Well, it can.
So, what kind of lawyer do you want to be? The choice is yours. In the coming days, we will be highlighting various aspects of the law school application and providing a few suggestions for you as you embark upon this process. However, we encourage you to remember that with these applications, you are beginning your life as lawyer. Simply by conducting yourself at all times in a professional manner, you can put considerable distance between yourself and your fellow applicants and impress upon an admissions office just why you would be a worthy candidate for admission. Remember, not everyone gets to be a lawyer, and why would you want to move through this process like everyone? Be someone. Be somebody. In short, be a lawyer.