Three Things I Thought About Law School That Turned Out Not To Be True

Since the age of twelve I knew that I wanted to go to law school and become a lawyer. As the time grew closer for me to actually apply and attend, I became very anxious about what law school was like. The thought of law school was definitely intimidating and when I arrived I found out that some things I had believed about law school were not true:

You cannot maintain personal relationships while you are in law school: I believed that once you began law school you had to shut yourself up in a room and never come out. Contrary to this belief, I have not only been able to maintain existing relationships outside of law school, but also form new relationships with both my Florida State law school professors, my fellow classmates, and alumni.

The professors are here to make you cry: Before law school, I was under the impression that law school professors were there to tell you how wrong you were and to embarrass you in front of your peers. I have definitely found this not to be true at Florida State. All of my professors are genuinely interested in knowing how we view the material as well as how and why we reach the conclusions we do.

Trust no one: I thought that everyone in law school was focused on making it to the top of the class and would do whatever it took to get there. What I have discovered at Florida State is that while working hard to do the best they can, students also work together to help each other succeed. Whether it is through study groups, mentoring, or student activities, students maintain a very positive and collegial atmosphere at the College of Law.

What I have learned is that law school is not always what you believe it to be. What you read in books or even what others who have been to law school tell you will not always the case. In reality, your law school experience is what you make of it and each person will have an entirely different law school experience, whether at the same or at different law schools.

You will also face choices and how you prioritize things while in law school will affect your overall experience. One example is that if you feel that time spent with a significant other could be better spent studying; you may want to minimize or decide not to have a relationship while in law school. Before coming to law school, and even while choosing a law school, you should take the time to analyze what it is that you want from your law school experience and what areas of your life you want to maintain. If you do this, you will be able to find a good balance and ensure that your law school experience is not what you thought law school would be but what you want it to be.

Student Ambassadors for the College of Law Christina Colbert, 3L

Law School Presents Many Challenges, But Also Many Great Opportunities

One of the biggest things facing an incoming 1L student is adjusting to law school life and all of the associated challenges. The educational experience is very new and different. While it sometimes seemed like a chore to go to class as an undergraduate, I have never felt the same way about my law school classes. You may already have heard about some of the challenges you will face, but you may not have heard about some of the exciting opportunities you have to look forward to while in law school. With that in mind I thought it may be helpful share some of my experiences.

Challenges

Time commitment: The amount of time you will have to dedicate to your studies cannot be understated. You will find that you will have to dedicate more time in this area than you did as an undergraduate. Good time management is the key to success in this area.

Reading load: The reading load is tremendous compared to what you had as an undergraduate. Professors do their best not to completely overload you with the number of pages assigned, but it is still a lot. You may have three or four classes in a day, each with their own cases and briefs to read. You have to keep up with your readings because of the next challenge.

Cold calls: Professors randomly call on students in class to explain a case or to answer questions. It does take a while to understand how to read cases so that you can be prepared if you are called on in class. Once you have mastered this it will seem like you have learned a second language and only you and your fellow law school friends will understand.

Finals: Final examinations in law school are as tough as anybody has ever told you they are. Finals week is an extremely stressful time and will be very different from what you experienced as an undergraduate.

Opportunities 

Law student community: Being part of the student community at Florida State University College of Law is the most positive thing I have experienced since arriving as a 1L. Students are so nice to each other and everyone tries their best to help each other. You are also now among some of the best students in the country who all have the same goal that you do.

Legal community: Law school students, past and present, have all been in your shoes and know what you are going through. It is almost like a secret society, providing for an instant connection, whenever you are talking with another law student or attorney, and they all know and understand exactly what you are talking about!

Supportive faculty: The faculty is a tremendous help, both inside and outside of class. We are fortunate to have professors who are not only great teachers and expert researchers, but who also make themselves available to students. Take advantage of this!

Activities: Do not expect to just be sitting around studying all the time because you will have some free time and there are many ways to use it. You will have opportunities to gain work experience through externships and clinics and there are so many student organizations that you can join. Some of these activities provide for an opportunity to travel, including overseas opportunities. There are also concerts, sporting events, and other activities in Tallahassee and at Florida State that you will be able participate in. We are also only a short drive to some of Florida’s most beautiful beaches.

The best piece of advice I can give any incoming 1L is to work and play hard. It may seem like you are never going to make it through, but it does get better with time and practice. You will definitely be fine as long as you work hard, do what is asked of you, and always keep a positive attitude.

College of Law student ambassadors. Trey Howell, 3L

The Importance of Networking with Fellow Law Students

Law school is an overwhelming time for many students and it is easy to hide away in the library, studying for hours, without seeing a single person. However, the need to get out, network and meet people is critical for one to succeed in their legal career. One of the most understated, but most important things you can do as a law student for your professional career is to get to know the students around you.

Getting to know your fellow law students, their interests and passions, and creating strong relationships with them will take you beyond your time here, well past graduation, and into your career. After all, we are all going to be attorneys someday! From the bonds and relationships that you build during your time at the College of Law, will come a group of young legal professionals, all connected to each other through a common law school experience.

While law schools are generally competitive by nature, Florida State fosters an atmosphere of cooperation. The College of Law community is a very positive and welcoming environment, and this is a direct reflection of its students, faculty and staff. So, while competing academically and professionally, we do so within a support system of friends. This not only makes our time here much more enjoyable, but also provides us with a great opportunity for meeting and getting to know other.

The College of Law campus is also unique in the way that it encourages students to participate in various activities together, whether it is getting involved in a student organization, playing intramural sports, or attending the weekly Student Bar Association socials. These activities give you so many opportunities to make friends and foster relationships that may have otherwise not developed on their own.

It is also important to remember that already having the built-in support from friends and colleagues through law school will help you succeed as you begin and develop through your career. For me, joining an alumni network and knowing that there are hundreds of other attorneys out there that I can call on for help and support is a comforting feeling.

?????????????????????????????????????????? Rebecca Arends, Class of 2015

Networking Can Give You a Head Start on Your Job Search

One of the most important parts of the job search for new legal professionals is networking. Making connections with established legal professionals who are willing to reach out to current law students is an invaluable part of making progress toward getting your career started. Students at the Florida State University College of Law have many opportunities to do this including participation in Networking Noshes organized by our Placement Office, checking out local events hosted by the Tallahassee Bar Association, and by attending mixers organized by College of Law student organizations. To get the most out of these events you should be prepared to network efficiently and effectively and the following are some simple tips for those of us for whom networking may not come naturally:

Get Organized: Once you begin networking you should set up a contact record to keep track of the individuals you have met. I recommend setting up an Excel spreadsheet that includes their names, contact information, the networking event where you met, their job/position, and the topics you discussed. Whenever I get a business card from someone, I always write down tidbits of information related to what we spoke about for my spreadsheet. The more information you include in your spreadsheet, the more you will be able to remember about the person, how your conversation went, and what details you may need to relate when you reconnect.

Work the Room: Networking events are sometimes very short and you will want to maximize your time and meet with as many professionals as possible while also making a lasting impression. Spend about five to ten minutes with each person, depending on how your conversation goes, and always be prepared with your “30-second sell”. Your pitch should include your competencies, areas of interest and any other educational or career-oriented information that you would want people to remember. Do not be afraid to ask for tips on entering the area of practice you are interested in pursuing and about the types of things these professionals deal with in their practice. You can even get their perspective on the legal job market both in the city where they practice and in their area of practice if that is important to you. After you have had an opportunity to effectively present yourself and learn something about an individual, politely excuse yourself before moving on to another person. Also, do not forget to get a business card from each person you meet so that you can contact them after the event.

Establish Relationships: The most important reason for making each of these contacts is that you are establishing business relationships. During networking events do not just go through the motions of a conversation and then move on. You should make an effort to get to know and learn a little about each person you speak with. A kind, warm approach is normally well-received and will help you stand out. You should also actively show an interest in the other person and what they have to say. Asking questions, being excited, smiling, and asking for details are good ways to show that you are engaged. Even if you are nervous, be upbeat and friendly and people will respond!

Follow-up: After these events, it is extremely important that you always follow up! If you never follow up with a person you meet, you are effectively cutting off the professional relationship that you established during an event. You should always write, call, or e-mail a thank you to people who give you information, advice, and referrals. If you spoke about something specific, bring it up, or send a copy of an article you may have run across on the topic – it will be very well received and will show your dedication to the relationship.

Networking is extremely fun once you get into it and have the opportunity to put some of these tips into practice. You never know who you may meet or what you may have in common. It is extremely important to make these networking connections because they are an investment in your future. It is not uncommon for College of Law alumni to attend these events and sometimes they are looking for people they may want to hire in the future. Letting yourself shine through, staying organized, and following up on these relationships will give you a leg up on the job search and help you solidify your future.

Student ambassadors for the College of Law Jaycee Peralta, Class of 2015

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

Remember to Stay Connected With Your Undergraduate Institution

Staying connected to your undergraduate institution can be an incredibly useful networking tool as a law student and there are a number of ways to do it.

Student organizations are a great way to meet other law students and to find those who may have also attended your undergraduate institution. The College of Law even has two great student organizations created just for this purpose. For those of who attended the University of Florida (UF) we have the LitiGators, and for those who attended the University of Central Florida (UCF) we have UKnight. These organizations hold a number of events to help students stay connected and coordinate activities with the local chapters of their respective alumni associations (Capital Area Gator Club and UCF Alumni Club). Both are great organizations to follow because many local attorneys are active in the local alumni chapters. Whether you attended one of these institutions or not, meeting alumni and other law students from your undergraduate institution can be very valuable because when you are looking for an internship, clerkship or job, they may be in a position to help you.

Another great way to stay connected and to network in the area of law that interests you is to attend conferences or symposiums at your undergraduate institution. Some even offer scholarships or waive their registration fees for students. I am an alumnus of the University of Florida and last year I attended the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference held by University of Florida College of Law. I had a great time and also had the opportunity to reconnect with some of my undergraduate professors. When they found out that I was attending Florida State University College of Law and the area of law I was interested, they offered to connect me with old friends at government agencies where they had previously worked.

Even without an opportunity to attend an event at your undergraduate institution, it can also be helpful to stay in contact with your undergraduate professors because they can still be valuable references and for internships, externships, or future jobs. Recommendations from those professors who can talk about your academic performance, work in your area of interest, and can detail your depth of understanding in that area can really help your application stand out from those of other applicants.

There may be a number of other opportunities that your undergraduate institution provides that you might not even be aware. Your specific undergraduate college, school, or department may have access to scholarship information or have publications or blogs that highlight their alumni. Staying in contact and getting your name out there could result in someone contacting you for an opportunity. Your alma mater may have study abroad programs that you might be able to participate in as a visiting law student that matches your area of interests.

Because networking while in law school is important to your future success, staying connected with your undergraduate institution is one of many ways to accomplish this. So keep your eyes open for those opportunities because you never know when that connection may come in handy.

?????????????????????????????????????????? Stephanie Schwarz, 2L

Student Government Elections Commission: The Court for Student Campaign Violations

During the fall semester of my 1L year I saw a posting in one of the bi-weekly Florida State Law Student Announcements requesting applications from College of Law students interested in serving on the Florida State University Student Government Association (SGA) Elections Commission. After serving as a member of the Florida State University Residence Life Conduct Board as an undergraduate, this type of activity appealed to me. After sending in my resume, taking a test on the SGA Election Code and Bylaws, and being briefed on the process, I was ready to go.

The Elections Commission is composed of a Florida State University student serving as the Supervisor of Elections and six College of Law Students who serve as the Elections Commission panel. The responsibility of the Commission panel is to meet weekly for 1 to 2 hours to hear complaints brought by the Supervisor of Elections against specific student political parties, individual party members, or independent candidates. After hearing arguments from each side, the Elections Commission publicly deliberates and makes a ruling in each case. After a ruling is handed down, the Commission then proceeds to the sentencing phase which consists of tabulating the consequences of the violation(s) and determining if an action is warranted. Typically, there is a fine, but some cases can result in candidate disqualification. The Elections Commission is then required to file their opinion within 24 hours of the decision. If the party involved is dissatisfied with the outcome, they may appeal the decision to the Student Supreme Court (also composed of College of Law students).

When I arrived at my first hearing, I did not know what to expect. Complaints are e-mailed to Commissions panel members prior to a hearing, and I had so many questions even before the hearing started. Both parties stated their case and then Commission deliberations began. It was intriguing to hear all of the different opinions of the Commission members and to share mine as well. While it appeared to be an open and shut case, each member still wanted to make sure we were making the right decision and that the decision was supported by the facts. After coming to a decision, tabulating the sanctions for the violation, and handing down our decision, the losing party informed us that they would be appealing the decision. After the hearing was over I knew that I found an activity that was right for me.

Serving on the Elections Commission seems very much like serving as a judge in a court and much of our work involves the same type of experiences we are having as law students—reading opinions, analyzing and dissecting them, and making a ruling. We also have the responsibility to help guide the Student Senate and Supreme Court in amending SGA laws to clarify the law and close apparent loopholes. Our decisions are unbiased and thoughtful and we are well aware of the underlying reality that they have consequences. If Commission actions are incorrect or if we fail in some way to articulate the reasons for our decisions fully, they can be overturned by the Student Supreme Court.

I feel that the Commission’s decisions help ensure the neutrality and fairness in student government elections for all students. Participating will hone critical thinking, analysis, and legal writing skills. It provides an opportunity to be a part of the judicial branch of the Florida State University Student Government Association and is a unique opportunity only afforded to College of Law students. It is also one of the only activities of its type that law students can participate in during the fall semester of their 1L year. I am now in my second year on the Commission and encourage any College of Law student interested in serving to give it a try.

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