Getting to Law School and Beyond…

Law school brings people from various places and backgrounds and sometimes we forget just how different we all are. As students we are continually asked about what area of the law we are interested, however, we are rarely asked why we are interested in law in the first place. I thought it would be interesting to know why some of my classmates decided to attend law school, why they chose Florida State, and what they considered to be their ideal job after law school. I was surprised by their responses and how many different responses were provided. During my inquiry, I presented the following questions:

  • What made you want to attend law school?
  • Why did you choose Florida State University College of Law?
  • What would your ideal job be after graduation?

The following are the responses that I received:

Tia Huntley, 2L

  • Since I was a young girl I had always wanted to be a lawyer. In fact, my mom has video proof of this. I was in a little miss pageant and was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and I answered that I wanted to be lawyer and a judge.
  • I chose Florida State because it seemed like they truly wanted me to attend their school. Although I was accepted into other law schools, I felt a better connection here.
  • My ideal job after graduation would be to work at a smaller firm dealing with family, criminal, and personal injury law and one that sees their clients as people and not just a windfall or “just another case.”

Trevor Ruff, 3L

  • I chose law school because of my experiences and interests with international relations, Model United Nations activities and I wanted to find a way to change the world.
  • I chose Florida State because it provided a great value combined with a great education.
  • My ideal job would be a corporate transactional lawyer working on mergers and acquisitions.

Allie Akre, 2L

  • I really always knew I would come to law school. It was just part of the plan.
  • I chose Florida State because I wanted to practice law in Florida and to take advantage of the College of Law’s location in the Florida’s capital city.
  • My ideal job after graduation would be a federal clerkship.

Jaycee Peralta, 3L

  • I wanted to be more prepared before entering the “real world” and I determined that a legal education would help me.
  • I felt that I needed a different atmosphere from my undergraduate experience. I visited Florida State during the spring semester of my senior year and fell in love with the College of Law!
  • My ideal job would be working on research and writing at a public policy interest center.

April Zinober, 2L

  • My father and I have very similar personalities. We are both very outgoing, like to learn new things, and work hard. My whole life, I watched him enjoy his job and the work he did. In family car rides, we always played U.S. President Trivia, so I grew up interested in the political process and the way all branches of our government worked. Going to law school just seemed like a natural fit for me.
  • When I walked onto the Florida State University College of Law campus, I felt that same “click” that I did when I first walked onto my undergraduate campus. I also value the close personal relationships I have with other students and with my professors. Our professors actually care about us and go out of their way to make our law school experience interesting. Being in Tallahassee also provides incredible opportunities for us as students. Coming here for law school is was truly the best decision I could have made.
  • I was fortunate enough to receive a summer clerkship with a national firm and I will be placed in their litigation department. Ideally, I would love to be asked back for a full-time career position as part of their commercial litigation team when I graduate. I have also considered eventually working in the U.S. Attorney’s office, and I believe that starting out with a national firm will help me make the connections I will need to make that career move if I so choose.

Samantha Parchment, 3L

  • I initially applied to Florida State because of its overall ranking and because it is a “top value” law school.
  • After attending several open houses and admitted students day events at different law schools, I felt most at home at Florida State. When I visited I also met Professor Linford, who not only followed up with me after my visit, but was also very helpful in providing me with information about housing and school options for my son.
  • My ideal job would be to work in a small law firm with no more than three partners, so that I can learn the ropes and make partner myself!

Zachary Pechter, 2L

  • I always thought law school sounded interesting, but I actually decided to attend while clerking at a major law firm during my summers as an undergraduate.
  • Florida State was one of my top two choices and the culture at the College of Law was the determining factor. I can still vividly remember my initial tour of the campus with a Student Ambassador and also enjoyed meeting and talking with professors and hearing about clinics, externships, journals, and other co-curricular opportunities. Everyone here is so nice and helpful and the environment is so much more healthy and fun than what I had experienced at other law schools.
  • I would like to work in the public companies and securities practice group at the law firm I worked for during my undergraduate summers. I really loved it and even had a better time last summer when I had the opportunity to work as a Summer Associate. I will be doing that again this summer and will hopefully get a long-term offer when I graduate!

Lauren Vagnoni, 3L

  • I chose to attend law school to pursue my dream of working in criminal prosecution. My father was an attorney and though he practiced civil law, he encouraged me to pursue law school after I argued with him about a criminal law issue at the age of 12.
  • I chose to attend Florida State for several reasons: First, class sizes are smaller than other top state law schools. Second, I was impressed with the number of student organizations at the College of Law and about how welcoming the students are. Third, I was very excited to hear about the criminal law clinic that was available for certified legal interns interested in criminal prosecution.
  • My ideal job right after graduation would be to become an Assistant State Attorney or an Assistant United States Attorney.

Aline Bryant, 2L

  • I decided to attend law school because I saw a law degree as something that could help provide me with a stable, interesting career even if I decide not to practice law.
  • I chose Florida State because of its welcoming atmosphere. When I came to Admitted Students Day everyone made me feel welcome and seemed to really enjoy what they were doing here.
  • My ideal job after graduation would be as a political analyst or as an in-house counsel for a company.

Felisha Grizzle, 3L

  • After graduating with my bachelor’s degree, I found myself interested in public policy and human rights. Before I left for a trip to Egypt, I applied to a few masters-degree programs, but once I was abroad, I determined that I really wanted to be more deeply involved and actually practice law.
  • I chose Florida State after attending an Admitted Students Day event, walking around the campus, and meeting deans, faculty, and students with my parents. It was a wonderful experience. Everyone seemed so enthused to be at the College of Law and everyone was so welcoming and helpful in getting me over my pre-law school anxieties.
  • My ideal job would be part-time creative director for a haute couture fashion house and a stay-at-home wife/mom with my husband when he is in the off-season of his professional athletic career. If that does not happen, I would love to work with the United Nations Environment Programme, Charity Water, or UNICEF and do volunteer work abroad with Islamic Relief.

Ashley Parker, 2L

  • I chose to attend law school because it is something I always wanted to do and because I always wanted to help people.
  • I chose Florida State because they made me feel welcome. Unlike other law schools I visited, it seemed like they wanted me here as much I wanted to be here. I was not made to feel like I was coming just to pay my tuition. They really seemed to care.
  • My ideal job would be to work for a company as in-house counsel, but I would also like to work for the State Attorney’s Office.

Kevin Alford, 3L

  • I have wanted to be a lawyer since I was a child. My aspirations were to get a business degree, attend law school, and go into corporate law.
  • I attended Florida State because of its location in Tallahassee. As a Florida State undergraduate I had come to recognized many advantages of remaining in the state capital for law school, not to mention not having to relocate!
  • The perfect job for me would allow me to specialize in law related to churches while also educating people on their constitutional rights.

Rachel Pringle, 3L

  • I applied to law school because I did not know what I wanted to do and I knew I wanted to obtain some sort of graduate-level education. Law was the program that most fit my interests.
  • Why Florida State? Because of it’s location in the state capital and because I love the campus. During a visit and tour I was able to meet some of the professors and students and they were so nice. This was reassuring because I had heard negative things about the environments at other schools and knew that I did not want to end up at a school that I would not enjoy for the next 3 years of my life. I can definitely say that I am very happy with my experience at Florida State.
  • I would love to work in a government agency and have had the opportunity to intern at a general councils’ office. I would also like the opportunity to work with the State Attorney’s office to utilize my mock trial experience and then possibly enter private practice.

Joey Coleman, 3L

  • I took several introductory legal studies courses as an undergraduate and wanted to better understand how the legal system works. I also wanted to use my writing skills as an educated man of law.
  • I chose Florida State because of the affordable cost of attendance, the high bar passage rate, the College of Law’s reputation, and because I had been a Florida State undergraduate.
  • I would like to be an entertainment lawyer because this combines my interest and undergraduate major in music and law.

Monica Carusello, 2L

  • I had always been passionate about education, loved working with children and thought that I belonged in the classroom. However, after working as a substitute teacher in Miami and serving a year with City Year in a fourth grade class in Washington, D.C., I realized that my passion and skills could be better applied outside of the classroom. I decided to pursue a law degree to help me better represent and champion the needs of children in under-served communities and to learn what I can do to make a difference in public education.
  • I chose Florida State because of its prime location in Florida’s state capital, excellent national ranking, small student body, and joint-degree offerings. I definitely made the right decision!
  • I think my ideal job after graduation would be clerking for a circuit court judge in the family or juvenile law division.

Joseph Salzverg, 3L

  • I had always thought about attending law school but became motivated while running political campaigns and dealing with individuals in the legislative process. I found that the individuals who were armed with a law degree proved to be the most successful and dynamic, so instead of becoming a lobbyist I decided to pursue a law degree.
  • I chose Florida State because of its location in Florida’s capital city. For the type of law I want to practice, Tallahassee’s location provides endless possibilities.
  • I would like to work at a law firm with a strong governmental affairs practice as an associate and lobbyist. Ideally, this firm would have offices in South Florida and Tallahassee.

Anika Boyce, 2L

  • I wanted to attend law school because my mother is a judge and I have experienced the legal field my whole life. In my senior year of high school I also determined that being a lawyer would bring personal fulfillment as well as allow me to use my talents to help the most people.
  • I chose Florida State because of its reputation as a top law school in Florida.
  • My ideal job would be to be the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS).

Chancey Smith, 2L

  • I chose law school because I wanted to have more career options and many people told me that I would be able to do anything with a law degree.
  • I came to Florida State because the staff in the Office of Admissions was so friendly and helpful. I applied from overseas during a long backpacking trip and they were very comforting and understanding of my situation. I also felt that the College of Law had a very interesting international law program.
  • I have no idea what kind of job I want. I just want to find a job that allows me to be happy, that is challenging and dynamic, and where there is an opportunity for advancement and growth.

College of Law student ambassadors. Alejandra Berlioz, 3L

From Honors Legal Scholars to the College of Law

I was accepted into the Honors Legal Scholars program in the spring of 2012, during my junior year at Florida State. I was overjoyed to know that I had been accepted because of the many perks of being a member. Now, a 2L, at Florida State University College of Law, I cannot stress how beneficial my experience as an Honors Legal Scholar was.

First, members of Honors Legal Scholars who achieve a Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) score of 162 or higher and who have an undergraduate grade point average of 3.6 or higher are automatically admitted to the College of Law when they apply. This benefit definitely excited me, because I knew I wanted to remain at Florida State and attend the College of Law. Second, as an Honors Legal Scholar, students are able to attend events hosted at the College of Law that help prepare and introduce them to the admissions process, the law school curriculum, and much more. Third, being a part of Honors Legal Scholars allows members to network with each other and to share their experiences with the law school admissions process or preparation for the LSAT. I was fortunate to be able to take advantage of all three of these benefits, and also a much more!

Because I became an Honors Legal Scholar so late in my undergraduate academic career, I knew I wanted to do as much as I could. During my senior year, I attended every Honors Legal Scholars event offered. Each event was roughly an hour long and featured a law professor, visiting judge or attorney, or a law student who addressed a different topic. These events were my favorite part of an Honors Legal Scholar because after matriculating as a student, I already felt an instant connection with some of the professors and students I had met and all of the events helped me prepare for law school.

Networking is such a crucial part of being an attorney and Honors Legal Scholars provided me with the opportunity to begin speaking with people interested in or practicing in the field of law. I still remember meeting other students and talking with them about their experiences at my orientation luncheon. Some were freshmen and sophomores who were just starting to think about their careers, while others were upperclassmen, like me, navigating through the LSAT and admissions process. This networking turned out to be invaluable, because after speaking with three other students about an LSAT preparation course, I was convinced to attend, and was ultimately pleased with my results.

The program is designed to address the questions you will have about law school, gives you the tools you will need to be more knowledgeable about your responsibilities as an applicant, and makes you aware about what the College of Law expects of you as an admitted law student. I would encourage anyone who is eligible to apply to do so and anyone who is participating to take advantage of the opportunities the program provides. I only wish I would have applied sooner, because I know it would have benefited me even more!

?????????????????????????????????????????? Shelby Loveless, 2L

A Letter to My Younger Self – It Has All Been Worth It

Dear Brooke,

It is your senior year in college and I remember how that felt. You are anxious, you are scared and you just took an LSAT prep course. Although you did not feel like you learned as much as you could have, your test scores have vastly improved. You have also met two amazing people who will also be attending law school next fall. Because all three of you will be attending different law schools, enjoy their company now and know that this common experience will only strengthen your relationship in the future.

It is hard not to be anxious, but know that you have sent in the applications and it will seem like an eternity before you get your first letter. Just remember that good things come to those who wait. Try not to be too sad when you receive your first denial letter. Remember that although you liked the idea of attending that law school, things do happen for a reason. You will still frantically check your phone for missed calls from Mom and Dad with voicemail messages saying, “A letter came in the mail for you!”, but there will not be any missed calls. You will refresh your e-mail inbox up to 20 times a day just to make sure the Internet is still working. You will run to your mailbox with butterflies in your stomach only to find flyers for the local Chinese restaurants inside. Do not lose hope. This too, shall pass.

A couple months will go by and you will celebrate your birthday with family and friends, just like you do every year. This year, however, will be unforgettable. You will receive a call from a familiar area code. It will be the call for which you have been waiting and you will cry. You will be so grateful that all the hard work you put in over the last four years, the time you spent working part time at a law firm, and all of those hours spent in a LSAT prep course have paid off! You will be so relieved that all that worrying is finally over! On that Friday night, you will celebrate “22 and FSU” with family and friends because you WILL be attending Florida State University College of Law! Enjoy this time…you deserve it!

?????????????????????????????????????????? Brooke Tharpe, 2L

My Transfer Experience: Simple, Straight-Forward, and Seamless

For any prospective law student who is interested in Florida State University College of Law, but for one reason or another will begin their law school journey somewhere else, do not give up. When it came time for me to apply to law school, I felt that my chances at getting into a law school ranked in the top 50 were limited. My grades were fine, but I had some difficulty with the LSAT, despite taking it three times. So, in my case, I was happy just to get into any law school.

I started at a small, private law school and was immediately stunned by the amount of work I was assigned. Despite this, I worked very hard and when I received my grades I was happy to see that my efforts had paid off. Halfway through the second semester of my 1L year I started to seriously consider transferring and started researching schools. I knew about Florida State’s great reputation, and as I looked closer, I was immediately impressed with the College of Law’s employment numbers, faculty, and facilities. I contacted the Office of Admissions, and the more I learned, the more I felt this was the right place for me.

The Office of Admissions staff explained how the transfer process works, what I needed to do to apply, and they provided me with clear instructions, checklists, and deadlines to make the process as smooth as possible. I was surprised at how simple it was. Coming from out-of-state, I was also pleased to learn that I could also be reclassified as a Florida resident for tuition purposes after one year and the Office of Admissions provided me with instructions for this process as well.

I finished my 1L year and decided to apply as a transfer student to Florida State. I was thrilled when the Office of Admissions called me to tell me that I had been admitted. A few days later I visited the College of Law, made my decision to transfer, found an apartment, and started to make my plans to relocate to Tallahassee, Florida.

The transfer process during my first semester at Florida State was seamless. The College of Law does a great job making transfer students feel at home and gives us every chance to succeed. This includes the opportunity to compete for positions on journals and the Mock Trial and Moot Court teams. Not all law schools offer these types of opportunities to transfer students. There were also numerous student organizations for student involvement, more than at many other law schools. I immediately joined the Transfer Student Organization, and met other students with similar situations to mine.

Now that I have graduated, I consider my transfer to the College of Law to be the best decision I could have made for myself and could not be happier with my experience. I received an excellent education, and will always be grateful for having been given this opportunity. I encourage all who are interested in Florida State University College of Law, including potential transfer students, to give it a serious look. For those students who may be starting at another law school, know that it does not have to be the end of the road!

??????????????????????????????????????????  Wil Sinor, Class of 2014, Attorney with Jemison & Mendelsohn in Montgomery, Alabama

Honors Students Thinking About Law School Should Consider the Honors Legal Scholars Program

Undergraduates at Florida State University who have been accepted into the Honors Program may apply for the College of Law’s Honors Legal Scholars (HLS) program. Unlike other honors programs geared toward undergraduates, HLS is administered solely by the College of Law. The program is open to students who are interested in exploring or attending any law school, but is also designed to showcase the College of Law and encourage honor students to consider remaining at Florida State. Participants who remain in good standing are automatically admitted to the College of Law if they maintain a 3.6 grade point average or higher, receive a score of 162 or higher on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), and stay out of trouble.

As a program alumnus, I would recommend that anyone who is interested and eligible to submit an application. HLS provides participants who are exploring the possibility of attending law school with access to the College of Law’s students, facilities, faculty, and staff. Individuals who participate, and do more than the minimum required by the program, will get the most out of the program. By the time one is ready to graduate they should have a firm idea of whether or not they want to attend law school.

Shortly after I was selected, I was assigned a mentor who was a current student at the law school. Being a freshman at the time, this gave me the opportunity to comfortably ask the silliest questions about law that only a freshman could come up with. Through my entire time as an undergraduate, I was sent invitations to countless panels and events, which for me included an event with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. We were also invited to study in the “lawbrary”, more properly named the Research Center, and were encouraged to sit in on classes.

Every month the HLS program also holds “members only” law-oriented events with admissions officers and law professors. I remember arguing the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act with Professor Seidenfeld at a round table discussion before the law was passed. Looking back now, that was probably one of the first times in my life that I was questioned on the mechanics of laws.

College of Law staff and faculty also provided me guidance as I applied to law schools throughout the Southeastern United States. First, they gave our group advice on how to prepare and when to take the LSAT. Then they gave us advice on actual application questions and offered to review our personal statements. I even had the opportunity to sit down with a professor, after I received my LSAT scores, who gave me an honest perspective about which schools I was interested in applying to and where he felt I could excel.

With an open mind I toured a few out-of-state schools and gave a second look at schools that made me offers. For me it ultimately became clear that Florida State had been my best option all along. As a current 3L, I could not be happier with my decision and I appreciate all of the help that the HLS program provided me during my journey. Since becoming a law student I have also been honored with the opportunity to mentor others who have become part of the program.

If you are a Florida State undergraduate, in the Honors Program, and have ever considered eventually attending law school, the Honors Legal Scholars program might be just right for you. If you have any questions about the program you should check out the HLS Web page at http://honors.fsu.edu/University-Honors-Program2/Honors-Legal-Scholars-Program or contact the Florida State University College of Law Office of Admissions at 850-644-3787 or admissions@law.fsu.edu.

?????????????????????????????????? Kelly Kibbey, 3L

Taking the Scenic Route – A Non-Traditional Journey to Law School

At 30 I decided to apply to law school.  A lot of people ask me what happened to cause me to make this decision. It all started when my brother was falsely convicted of murder. Wait, that wasn’t me.  That was Hilary Swank in the movie Conviction.

I’d rather tell her story because it has a strong narrative structure that everyone can understand. Avenging a family member is a good reason to go to law school; or become Batman.  It’s just a really great motivation for almost anything.

My own reasons are sort of idiosyncratic.  There was a Buddhist Monk, Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings, a Law and Order: Criminal Intent marathon, my best friend’s wedding, and a bad day at work. The details are a jumble of random events that defy logical explanation.  What I can explain is the more universal feeling behind my decision—I just wasn’t happy.

It wasn’t the type of unhappiness that results from a canceled Joss Whedon show or bad break-up. There was just this deep and fundamental lack of passion for my life.  I had a job in an office where I answered phones and played computer solitaire.  I also would work as a freelance writer on the side to afford fun stuff like a big screen television and orthopedic shoes.

This is where the list of random weird things comes into play.  A talk on the Buddhist concept of “Right Livelihood”, seeing my best friend and her co-workers talking about their job in video game design, and following along with the Kagan hearings on NPR at work…you get the idea.  I realized that it was easier to be passionate about your life when you were passionate about your career.  I had always been interested in the law and I was one of those people who read Supreme Court decisions for fun.

I still wasn’t sure if I was cut out for law school.  I had seen The Paper Chase and Legally Blonde and neither one looked like a fun place to spend three years.  The good news is that law school is not anything like you’ve seen in the movies.  It is a lot of work, but it is work reading legal cases and talking about them.  If you want to get a feel for what law school is like, just read any recent Supreme Court decision on a topic that interests you.

Did you like reading the case?  Would you mind reading five more every night?  That is the bulk of law school—especially during your first year.  You read cases and then talk about them.  You try to argue both sides.  You change the facts to see if it leads to a different result.  You learn that there usually is no right answer, just different answers based on different reasoning.

I appreciated school much more after being away from it for almost a decade.  Traditional students may see law school as something they have to overcome in order to get into the “real world.” Non-traditional students know that the real world is not fun and appreciate the classroom experience from a different perspective.  You’ll also get all of your professors’ out of date pop culture references and can chuckle as your classmates ask, “What’s a tape player?”

If you’ve read this far then chances are that you see yourself in my experience.  You’ve been away from school for a few years (or more) and are wondering if you can come back.  The answer is yes.  Not only can you go to law school, you can also be really good at it.

You don’t need a great reason to go to law school.  You just have to be passionate about the law.  Some people recognize that passion when they are a teenager or in college.  Some of us just take a more scenic route to making that decision.

If you would like to talk to a real live 33 year old law student, feel free to reach out to me at mdb11f@my.fsu.edu.  You can ask me any questions you have about what law school is like, how to pick one, or tips about the LSAT.

Image  -Melissa Becker, 3L