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Lessons from Law School

Before starting Holly Hall Supply Co., I was a corporate lawyer specializing in mergers & acquisitions, capital markets and private equity (it's more interesting than it sounds) for a large international law firm. There’s an old cliché that everybody loves law school students, but everybody hates lawyers.

It makes sense. For most people, needing or hearing from a lawyer is a sign that the proverbial shit is in close proximity of the fan. Law students haven’t been tainted with the stain of retainers or billable hours requirements and are more willing to give free, albeit likely wrong, advice.

Law school is a transformative period where the world becomes smaller as you fundamentally question and consequently learn why the systems around you are the way they are (shout out to the University of Texas School of Law). Here are a few things I wish I knew before I went:

  1. You don’t have to outrun the bear, just the poor bastard next to you
    Most law schools operate on a curve meaning that tests (usually only one per semester) are not scored objectively. Professors have a mandate to produce so many A's, B's, C's, etc. If the test is challenging, an 80% might get you an A. If the test is easy, a 90% likely won't get you an A (sucks, right?). If you find yourself in an exam that's hard, hope might not be lost because you’re probably not the only one struggling.
  2. Most everyone who thinks they have it figured out in the beginning is dead wrong
    There will be students in the beginning who, because of their college major or previous career, seem to (and insufferably make it known that they) have it all figured out. They throw their arm out of socket volunteering to answer questions from professors. They suck their teeth when fellow classmates fold under the pressure of the Socratic method. All that stopped after they received their first semester grades.
  3. “You was who you was before you got here”
    Heed the wise words of the poet Shawn Carter. Since freshman year of high school, I studied by reading the material, making an outline and then selling a copy to the highest bidder. I got to my first year of law school and I tried everything (commercial outlines, flash cards and whatever the hell a hornbook is) except for my tried and true. I struggled to keep up until I reverted to old faithful. Start with the tactics that got you there.
  4. If you're not sure you want to practice law forever, it doesn’t mean law school isn't for you
    One of the biggest challenges to leaving big law behind was a feeling of wasted time (3 years in law school) and opportunities (where would I be if I never went). Being a lawyer isn't for everybody (note the frequency of the "recovering lawyer" trope) but law school has some undeniable benefits beyond the ability to practice law. Most notably, (1) it has a credentialing effect (lazy people assume you’re smart) and (2) a lot of career fields value the way legal training prepares your mind.
  5. Getting the best grades doesn’t equal getting the best jobs
    There’s a pervasive mentality in law school that the students with the best grades and largest stockpile of accolades, such as law review editor and order of the coif (still have no clue what a coif is), get the best jobs. Firm minimum grade requirements serve as gatekeepers for a lot of competitive jobs but once you’re past that threshold, it's largely a popularity contest. Grades matter but so does attending firm sponsored events and keeping up with the practicing lawyers you meet along the way.

If you have any questions about my experience or thoughts you want to add, join the conversation in the comments below or email me at Justin@EightTwelveSixteen.com.

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2 comments

  • You left out that you would meet some of the best people ever and they would become lifelong friends. ?

    Ashley
  • This is gold! Solid and pertinent advice. As someone pursuing law school currently, i agree and will internalize this wisdom.

    George Smith

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