My most recent Dinner with the Dean was incredibly fun and relaxed - the upperclass students and I know each other well by now. The first part of the night we shared about the insecurities caused by the economic divide – the challenges of going to school when you feel you have fewer resources than your classmates. The conversation was actually started because Seton Hall Law is establishing a Food Pantry for students living with food insecurity. And that got us talking about resources for students who don’t have a professional wardrobe, for which we also have sources through the Office of Career Services.
The Weekend JD program is now about half-way through its second successful year, and with two classes having gone through the admissions process, with a third in the works, I thought it would be a good time to reflect back at the questions I’ve received during this time. Here is a list of the most frequently asked questions I’ve received in the last 2 years.
Prospective law students have always been interested in the bar passage success rates of schools they’re considering attending. After all, while a law degree is a prerequisite to taking the bar almost everywhere, passing the bar is a prerequisite to actually practicing law in almost all states.
What a fun night I had last week with a One L study group from section A. For those who don’t know, the first year class is always divided into sections that stay intact for the entire first year for every class – so essential that everyone gets along! Most One L students join four or five others for a “study group” that helps each other with outlines, exam prep, and general morale. So, this particular group is one of the nicest, most interesting, and eclectic group of people I have had dinner with in some time.
One student is originally from Syria, though his father currently lives in Oman and his mother in Maryland – since the war in Syria he has become a libertarian – skeptical of government, seeking to protect his freedom from government interference. And yet, he is open-minded enough to be close friends with his study partner who is a self-described socialist who majored in Economics at the University of Vermont and served as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer – we had a great conversation about whether Medicaid should pay for housing. This section A study group is rounded out by a woman from South Carolina (who took her Syrian classmate home to experience his first US Thanksgiving) and a New Jersey native with a Master’s Degree in Political Science who works for his father’s construction company during summers.
Law school is one of the most demanding academic challenges that a student can face. Reading dozens of pages to prepare for class, learning a new way of critically thinking and carefully writing, searching for valuable work experience, and establishing relationships with fellow students and professors require lots of time and attention. When thinking about my own law school experience, as well as my experiences with students to date, there are a few key themes that seem crucial to success:
I loved law school. I had great teachers, I made great friends, I was challenged daily with the material we learned in class, and (most importantly) I met my wife. It was a glorious time. And to all of the 1Ls, you’re in for the time of your life.
To help you through your journey over the next three or four years, I’d like to share some tips and words of wisdom that I wish I had when I was in your shoes.
Every great law school fosters an environment where students are allowed to pick a side and argue their position. However, one thing that remains constant in the minds of every law student is that the rigor of law school can be a lot to balance. Whether it be juggling class readings, moot court, work, family, or other commitments, the load can often times feel insurmountable.
So why would I suggest adding the SBA to the mix? The answer is simple.
I encourage my law students to notice what successful law students do and to adopt these behaviors. Savvy learners realize that professors want you to succeed. Professors use a class syllabus and class policies to guide you toward success. Early on in each course, note the professor’s office hours and best contact method. Why? The professor is inviting you to engage with the material outside of class time—take advantage of this invitation.
Imagine this scenario. You read all of the assigned cases for Contracts, highlighted the parts that seem important in different colors, and even skimmed the notes and questions following the cases. That means you are prepared to effectively participate in class, right? Not quite.
Lawyers are leaders, whether in the courtroom, the boardroom, or on the political stage. But being an effective lawyer requires more than a mastery of legal terminology and knowledge of the intricacies of our justice system. It requires keen leadership, expert acumen, and strength of judgment. It requires the ability to fashion a vision for the bigger picture and, more importantly, the ability to create a desire in others to adopt that vision. And yet studies show that lawyers lack the critical leadership skills that are necessary for success, including stepping out of established comfort zones, embracing collaboration, and cultivating empathy.
The Leadership Fellows Program seeks to change that by providing law students with a unique opportunity to develop effective leadership skills.