Don’t walk alone — books for aspiring law students

Don’t walk alone — books for aspiring law students
As a student about to enter law school, I have hundreds of questions. At any stage — especially deciding to go and then choosing a school — students will likely have questions. For those who do, there are a couple of books you can read to find the answers you’re looking for.
What is the LSAT? How can I do well on the LSAT? Where should I go to school? What will I learn in law school? How can I maximize the chances of getting the dream job I want? Wait, what jobs are out there for lawyers? Hold on. What does a lawyer even do? What is law? Am I suited to be a lawyer? Will the first year of law school be hard? Will second? Third?

Those are only some of the questions you may have.

In today’s technological world, most people will naturally start with a Google search for “law school,” “first year of law school,” “getting into law school,” or some such variation. Your search might quickly lead to, Canadian Lawyer 4Students, the web site of Osgoode Hall Law School, or a company advertising prep courses.

The Internet is, of course, not the only source of information. Some will turn to a family friend who is a lawyer, others may have friends or family currently in law school or who went through the experience. Still others may walk into a law firm and get a minute with a lawyer, or show up to the chambers of a judge at a local courthouse. The last two are fairly unlikely. But what other sources are there?

Many of us, and I was guilty of this myself, might neglect the age-old building of public access. Yes, I’m talking about the library. After being admitted to law school, I recently came across two books worth reading. Books may be a non-traditional — yet paradoxically traditional — way of obtaining information.

The first book is aptly titled, The Law School Book: Succeeding at Law School. I found this gem at a local library in Waterloo, Ont. The book is co-authored by Osgoode professor Allan Hutchinson and Pam Marshall. It is uniquely written from a Canadian perspective.

With chapters like: “So, You Want to Go to Law School? The Inside Story” and “Get a Real Life: Living Through Law School,” a major part of the book is dedicated to helping readers create realistic expectations about their educational experience. In the first chapter, the authors begin by “Exploding the Myths.” Reading this, I was thrilled to see a professor deconstructing myths such as “a law degree is a meal ticket for life” and “law school is all theory and no practice.” In fact, the authors inform the reader that the chapter “. . . offers a glimpse at law school — its structure, courses, and mind-set.” After finishing the chapter, I certainly felt more informed about the law school world.

Even if you think you know everything there is to know about law school, the book offers more. With other chapters such as “Let’s Get Jurisprudential: The Study of Law,” “Stand and Deliver: Doing a Moot,” or “In the Belly of the Beast: Writing Exams,” the text addresses different elements that every student will encounter. I’m confident that every reader who picks up the book will find an answer to a burning question. I sure did.

The second book provides insight through a different lens — students themselves. Robert H. Miller originally published Law School Confidential: A Complete Guide to the Law School Experience: By Students, for Students in 2000 before the dot-com burst. The 2004 edition was revised and updated. Citing the dot-com boom as a major reason for “disappointed entrepreneurs scurrying for the safe harbour of graduate school,” the author notes, “Today it is harder than it has ever been to get into law school.” While this observation is of the American climate, there are factors in Canada that indicate the same is true here.

While Hutchinson and Marshall’s book exposes the reader to a glimpse of law school, the latter walks students through the experience year by year, step by step. The author begins by challenging the reader with “A Realistic Evaluation of Your Fitness for Law School” and proceeds all the way through to “The Final Hurdle — Strategies for the Bar Examination.”

Miller describes the journey through law school: “Law school is a hard-edged training ground, meant to take the world view of each law student and shake this world view to its foundation.” While this may sound frightening — I thought it did — many will likely embrace the challenge. By travelling across the U.S. and consulting with professors, graduates, and partners of Manhattan firms, Miller collects an abundance of information every reader can benefit from.

While it is entirely naive to think law school will be a walk in the park, after having read these books I feel more prepared and assured that I’m not alone in this journey I’m about to begin.

Steven Bodi is a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University who has enrolled in the M.A.(Economics)/J.D. combined degree program at Queen’s University Faculty of Law in the fall.

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