I was a member of the Interscholastic Moot Court Board while I was a student at Seton Hall Law, and I competed in three moot court competitions during that time. Moot Court enables students to compete against other schools to learn how to present issues and mock arguments before panels of practitioners and real judges. The students get scored on their performance. Through Moot Court, we learned the essential skill of presenting our case, speaking persuasively and clearly before an appellate panel. The process involves getting questions from professors and practitioners, who probe the issue that the students are to present before the mock appellate panel.
Students walk out of law school, for the most part, in a similarly privileged position: with one of the most respected degrees and earning potential beyond what most of the country could dream. We do not all walk into law school so privileged. At Seton Hall, I know just as many students whose parents are attorneys as students whose parents never received a Bachelor’s degree (a group which I am included in). Accordingly, the journey through law school looks different for each student: some enjoy the ability to work non-paid internships, while others work weekends at coffee shops and restaurants.
Attending law school is equally challenging and fulfilling. Speaking as a (very) recent alum of Seton Hall Law’s evening program I understand the pressures and uncertainty that every student feels, especially in today’s legal market.
There is always that nagging feeling you aren’t doing quite enough to ensure the journey ends with whatever success you hope to achieve. These challenges are daunting enough to a full-time student whose primary responsibility is to go to class and do the reading. Evening students, like myself, feel the same anxiety; we just happen to have career or family obligations on top of it.
(Post updated August 24, 2017)
Welcome to the third post in my series intended to provide guidance to law school applicants looking to submit a standout application. Once you have tackled your personal statement and secured outstanding letters of recommendation, it is time to stand back and look at the “pieces” of your law school application objectively. It is helpful to view your law school application as a puzzle to be understood by the readers (those evaluating your potential for success in law school and in a legal career).
In most cases the readers will only get to know you from the items in your application file. There will be no interview and no other way to assess your potential. So, stand back and objectively determine – with everything that will be seen in my admissions file, what raises questions? What are the missing puzzle pieces to understanding why I am a good candidate for admission?
(Post updated August 4, 2017)
Now that the December LSAT has passed, we have begun getting questions about how Seton Hall Law handles law school applications with multiple LSAT scores, whether someone should include an addendum explaining an increase or decrease in score, and whether they should retest. Let’s tackle that last question first…
Well, it’s that time of year again. With the holiday season comes law school exams, and the anxiety that inevitably comes along with that. It is important, however, not to let stress carry you away. You have worked hard all term. Think of exams not as a trial but as a chance to demonstrate your mastery, to show your professors just how much you know about Contracts, Civil Procedure or whatever else has filled your brain over the last few months.
Plagiarism — the use of someone else’s words or ideas in writing without proper attribution — is one of the easiest ways to ruin your academic or professional reputation. Just ask Senator John Walsh, whose Master’s degree from the United States War College was rescinded after it was discovered that he copied large portions of his final thesis without attribution. Or Benny Johnson, the BuzzFeed writer who was dismissed after Twitter users pointed out dozens of examples in his articles of “sentences or phrases copied word for word from other sites.”
As a law student, being scrupulous about avoiding plagiarism is particularly important, as a plagiarism violation could be used as evidence of poor “character and fitness” when you apply for admission to the bar. For lawyers already in practice, plagiarism can be grounds for professional discipline.
(Post updated August 7, 2017)
Now that you have written a superb personal statement, I want to focus on another aspect of your law school application – Letters of Recommendation (LOR) are another way that an otherwise average application may rise above the pack.
Although you do not have control over what your letter writer(s) may write, you certainly have control over ensuring that you select the individual(s) with the most relevant and positive things to say. Ideally, your recommender(s) should speak thoughtfully to your strengths and, if necessary, address any weaknesses your application may reveal.
It is also important that your choice of recommenders ‘makes sense’.
Law students hoping to practice in the area of Family Law can position themselves to achieve that goal by following this advice. While no one thing will guarantee a successful career in one specific area of the law, a combination of multiple experiences and associations will make the likelihood of employment in that area increase. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Tip #1: Build your network.
Applying to graduate school for a master's degree can feel daunting, particularly if you are a mid-career professional who hasn’t been in the classroom for a while. Most graduate schools will require that you submit a personal statement as part of your application, but don’t be intimidated by the task.
If your goals of returning to school include developing new skills to better position yourself for new or expanding opportunities within your industry or related industry, a compelling personal statement can be the key factor in the school’s decision to admit you. Graduate schools desire diverse students with a variety of personal, professional and educational backgrounds.
Think of the graduate school personal statement as your opportunity to distinguish yourself from other applicants and to highlight something that the admissions committee would not otherwise know about you.