March 1, 2010
Advice from law students
In my role of Director of the Pre-law Center at UConn, I am noticing an interesting phenomena. I am in the process of arranging a law student panel for pre-law students here at the Storrs campus. I have been contacting the UConn alums who left their contact information with the school to see if they would be interested in participating. I am inviting roughly twice as many students as I need to fill the panel, with the understanding that a law student's life is busy and many won't be able to make it simply because it will take time away from studying. However, the students I have contacted thus far have been wonderful, enthusiastic, and want to help. In a time when we hear so much about law student depression, negativity, and apathy, it has been a joy to talk to these law students. I should note that these students are randomly chosen. There is no selection bias; I am contacting students who left contact information with the school before they started law school for reasons that had nothing to do with the Pre-Law Center. I don't know their grades. I don't know their job prospects. They did not leave the information for the purpose of being a part of a "Yeah! Law School!" panel. They don't have to respond to me, so they probably aren't giving me answers to rationalize their choice.
I have been pondering why it is that so many people respond happily--even when they can't make it--to a request to talk about the law school experience when the predominant feeling one gets from the news is that law students are miserable. The students I have talked to are happy with the choice they made, and would make it again, even in this job market.
This has led me to think about the conversations I have with students in my role as an ASPer. We see the students who are struggling and/or suffering. Many tell us they would not make the same choice again. We don't get the chance to talk to students who say they would make the same choice. One of my goals for the student panel is to ask them why; why do they find law school enriching? I think that their answers might be helpful for students who are struggling. I do not want to diminish or belittle student suffering, but I think there are parts of the law school experience that are easy to forget when one is struggling. I think there is something rewarding about law school that we might be missing, something that students still feel but don't readily express. Among the general (non-lawyer) public, there are a lot of trite responses about why law school is a positive life choice, and most of them involve money, career potential, or degree flexibility. Current law students know those responses are no longer accurate. But law school is a positive thing; I think we all could benefit from listening to students tell us why, in their own words. (RCF)
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