The Law School Decision, Looking Back: Attorneys’ Reflections

As undergraduate students with a pre-law major or membership in a pre-law society, you no doubt have heard how critical it is for you to make a sober and reasoned decision about whether you want to go to law school, and, perhaps more importantly,  whether you want to be a lawyer. It is rightly framed as an important decision, but it is one that people handle in different ways.

Below, six attorneys from different legal fields discuss how they felt and what they thought when making the decision to go to law school. We ask them for one piece of advice they wished they had known, or heard, when they were younger and facing this monumental decision.

Participating Attorneys:

Tony Munter: A whistleblower and False Claims Act attorney in the DC-metropolitan area, who primarily handles qui tam actions fighting fraud against the government. For more information about Tony Munter and qui tam actions, click here.

Kaveh Miremadi: A federal criminal defense and OFAC sanctions attorney. He provides clients with compliance, requests for reconsideration, SDN list removal, risk assessment, and internal audits. To learn more about Kaveh Miremadi’s background and OFAC law, visit this page.

Edward Tayter: A Maryland criminal lawyer who focuses on traffic and drunk driving cases, including DUI, DWI, driving while suspended, and restricted licenses. Information about Edward Tayter is available here.

April Cockerham: An immigration attorney who works out of DC. She represents clients in deportation proceedings, family and humanitarian-based petitions for visas and asylum, and Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) applications for domestic abuse victims. More information about April’s background and practice is available here.

Peter Biberstein: A personal injury and medical malpractice lawyer who represents clients in Virginia and DC. He handles a variety of personal injury cases, dangerous product cases, and disability claims. Visit this page for more information on Mr. Biberstein.

Terry Eaton: A DC and federal criminal defense attorney who handles white collar and government investigation cases. He is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, and he was also a commercial litigator. Learn more about Terry’s background and practice here.

What one piece of advice do you wish you had known, or heard, when you were younger and facing the monumental decision of whether to apply to law school?

Tony Munter: Unfortunately, I think it is a much more difficult environment for young people attempting to get a law degree now to make a career through the law than it was when I was younger.  Now law degrees cost much more than in the past, and the legal market is much more competitive. Therefore, an analysis of the costs and benefits makes sense.  It would be most helpful to know what area of law a young person wants to pursue and or what other skills or job experience a person can add to a law degree. One thing that is almost impossible to prepare for is the degree to which going to law school, any law school, will take over every aspect of life. It’s a major commitment.  So, think about what you will do with the degree when you finish. It may not work out the way you plan but even a bad plan has more chance of a serendipitous result than no plan.

Kaveh Miremadi: Be true to yourself and focus on an area of law that interests you.  Don’t let yourself be distracted by the people in law school who think there is only one path to success.  Identifying and then acting towards your true interests will help you succeed and find a satisfying career.

Edward Tayter: The best advice that I can give for deciding whether or not to go to law school is to really understand what the day-to-day work-life of an attorney is.  Very little of a lawyer’s work is correctly portrayed in popular media.  It’s extremely important to know what you are getting into, before committing three years of your life and tens of thousands of dollars of your money to a legal education.

April Cockerham: Do an internship or get a job in the legal field before you start and consider where you want to be after you graduate when choosing a law school. Often, the friends and connections you make while you’re a law student can be extremely important when you’re starting out as a new lawyer. If you’re really committed to ending up in a particular geographic region, it’s definitely something to take into consideration.

Peter Biberstein: Go work for a year or two before going back to school. Work experience will make you more a more marketable candidate, will give you a better perspective on life, and will provide a financial cushion for your future.

Terry Eaton: If I could go back and give my younger self some pre-law school advice it would be this: take your time, relax, breathe, and learn to smell the roses.  I spent way too much time in law school obsessing over grades and wondering if I was smart enough.  The zero sum game of cold calling on students in law school lectures and high stakes all-or-nothing final exams only breads the ultra-competitive law student behavior Scott Turrow famously characterized in his book One L.  It turns out that law school is not random and the people who study hard actually do make good grades.  I truly wish I had spent more time exercising, having a good diet, and spending time on the weekends with my family.  My law school grades were good and at graduation I had earned a federal clerkship followed by a job at a prestigious and big Washington, DC law firm.  Had I slowed down and enjoyed my experience more, I don’t think the outcome would have changed one bit. Mark Twain said it best: “I’ve been through some terrible things in life, some of which actually happened.”  My advice to future law students is to study hard, but take time out for yourself to enjoy life.  Believe me, you’ll be happy you did it.

Submitted by: Oliver Krischik

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Law School Interview Information

As the law school application period ramps up, applicants may wonder which law schools conduct interviews.  Well, most schools do not offer interviews as a portion of the application process.  However, some schools, such as Northwestern, offer and encourage interviews, while others offer interviews on an invitation only basis. We’ve created a handy tool for you–a spreadsheet outlining which schools provide interviews, and in what format.

Generally, if a school offers an interview program as a part of the application process, participation is strongly encouraged.  For similar experiences at schools that do not offer an interview program, applicants may be interested in a campus visit.  Campus visits will not be considered in the application process but still provide valuable insight into the schools.  Speaking with students, sitting in on a class and meeting some of the faculty will aid applicants as they narrow their choices.

To prepare for an interview: research the school, be able to answer any questions about yourself, and practice interviewing.  If any applicants are interested in practicing interviewing, please contact Career Services to conduct a mock interview.  The experience presents a wonderful opportunity to eliminate nervousness and receive valuable feedback.

To access the law school interview information spreadsheet, please visit our Compass page.

 

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Social Media and the “Grandma Test”

As application season gears up, applicants often wonder what they can do to stand out in the crowd of aspiring students.  In most circumstances, applicants focus on personal statements, résumés, letters of recommendation and other such materials as places they ought to “stand out.”  However, in the age of the internet, applicants often overlook a place where they may stand out in a negative way: social media.

Do law school admissions professionals really use social media to research applicants? The short answer is yes. Some admissions deans will see something interesting on your resume and search for more information. Many times a law school that is considering offering an applicant a large scholarship will do a little due diligence by looking that person up online. If a law school looked you up, would they see something that might make them question your judgment and professionalism? Some professors will even do a quick search before writing a letter of recommendation.

Social media can be a medium through which applicants illustrate their interest in a school, highlight their extracurricular involvement, or simply comment on their daily life.  More often than not, however, social media accounts can harm an applicant’s prospects more than help.  An easy way of discerning what should be on your social media accounts is the “Grandma Test.”

Ask yourself: would I want my Grandma to see this [post/photo/tweet]?  You may be thinking – my Grandma doesn’t use social media so I am all set.  Not so fast.  Admissions offices, prospective employers and many other gatekeepers of the “real world” do use social media.  So, imagine a conservative person in your life that you want to impress, and work through your years of tweets, posts, uploads, etc. deleting anything that falls on the wrong side of professionalism.  Picture of you drinking?  You are not exhibiting your social skills – delete it.  Post or tweet expressing your displeasure with an undergrad professor?  You are not simply exhibiting your constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech – delete it.  Continue this process until all of your profiles pass the test.

Social media faux pas can result in apologies from large businesses or individuals losing their jobs.  Do not let your social media accounts hold you back from advancing your career prospects.  Do not rely on strict privacy settings to protect you because it does not always work out that way.   A quick tip for all those who plan on applying to law school: clean up your social media and make sure it passes the “Grandma Test.”

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