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Transitioning from Workforce to Law School

Transitioning from Workforce to Law School

by Mark O'Brien

I remember the first challenge I faced when I began law school.  Should I get a high capacity backpack with lots of pockets and compartments, buy a professional-looking briefcase, or just stick with my simple messenger bag?  This probably doesn't sound like a big deal to most students, but I wasn't like most students.  For the first time since 2004, I was in college again.  I hadn't even purchased a backpack since Pres. Bill Clinton was still in office.

Making the transition from working prior to law school required a bit of adaptation.  I had to reteach myself what it was like to read textbooks, attend classes, prepare for exams, and be part of a collegiate community.  It wasn't easy to do while simultaneously mastering critical core concepts such as torts, contracts, federal rules of civil procedure, and legal writing and research.  It took discipline and focus.  But ironically, that's where I felt having work experience gave me an advantage as a law student.  Thanks to my prior work, I had developed the skills and mindset I needed to be successful.

Anyone on a career path knows the importance of the big picture, attention to detail, networking, and professionalism, among other qualities.  In particular, my work helped helped me learn to take comprehensive notes, think analytically, and break down complex materials into easy-to-understand pieces of information.  To help the law school experience feel less foreign, I approached it like a job: I arrived at the SUCOL building by 8:30 every morning; treated my class readings, lectures, papers, and exams as though they were work projects; and planned my day by setting aside time for tasks to chip away at the mountain of work that comprised each of those projects.  I wouldn't leave until at least 6:30 at night, or until my tasks for the day were finished.  This dampened the culture shock of my first semester and turned it into something much more manageable and relatable.  It turned out a few of my classmates--who also had several years of work experience prior to law school--had the same approach.

It's no secret law school isn't easy.  And for the "non-traditional" student, the learning curve comes with its own unique challenges.  But whether it's been two years or 10 since you were a student, don't dismay.  You have tools at your disposal; why not use them to your advantage?  I found that the law school experience is as much an education in yourself as much as it is in the law.  With the right strategy, you can make a smooth transition.  Oh, and for the record, I went with the backpack.  When you see the size of legal textbooks, you'll understand why.  The good news is that SUCOL has lockers, so you don't have to break your back carrying all of your books with you.  Some of my classmates even chose to use suitcase-like bags that have a collapsable handle and can roll on the floor.  I hadn't even thought of that, but what a good idea.  Consider it another option.  See, choosing the right bag is more complicated than it seems.

Questions?  Find me on the Law Ambassador website.

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