Sorry this thread has been neglected for so long! Finals + Spring break = no tls time, heh.
I'll try to answer all the questions over this weekend, but here are a couple I got via email that might be of use.What has surprised me most about the first year of law school?
Tough to say. I came into SLS with sky-high expectations about how awesome life would be, and they have really been met. The most surprising thing is how tough is the kind of life that law school seems to demand. On a basic level, almost all of the work for the first year courses is individual. Unless you join a study group (I'm not sure what percentage of people did, but it was pretty chill), you will spend all your time on your classwork alone. Reading, outlining, going to class, taking practice exams, and taking exams are all individual. This was a big shift for me, as I really enjoy working in teams.
Luckily, SLS is super social. Other places may claim it, but when you have grades that determine your future coming up, I can't imagine you are still going out to bar review on Thursdays. People here have a good balance of work and play, but we are fortunate not to have any real pressure on us in terms of academic performance. That is not to say that people don't work hard, but here, an extra half hour of studying won't make any difference in your grade, whereas at other schools with curves it might.
So essentially, I was surprised with how isolating studying law is (and frankly, how boring it is at times), but being at Stanford makes it worth it. Of course, you have to make your own decision when you visit Chicago, Columbia, etc., but those two schools seemed to be at the very opposite of the spectrum to me and my roommates when we visited.Anything I wish I knew going into law school?
I wish I had thought more about what I want to do with my law degree. I think I was lucky to talk with a few people within the first few months that pushed me towards working with entrepreneurs. Without that, it would be hard to chug through classes that weren't necessarily interesting to me. The ability to get through unexciting classes is generally correlated to knowing what law you'd like to do, in that it gives you a light at the end of the tunnel. People straight-through, like us, typically have a less solid idea of what we'd like to do, so it is worth thinking about a bit (by talking with lawyers in different fields) before starting law school.How competitive would you say the financial aid usually is? I've got a difficult decision because I've gotten merit scholarships from Columbia and UChicago.
Hmmm. So you'll find that people at SLS (and HLS or YLS for that matter) turn down a lot of money at other schools. For me that meant a full ride at Penn and serious amounts at UChicago/NYU. Dean Deal is a great person to talk about for your personal situation, but the short answer is that you will spend 3 years of your life at a school, then have friends and connections from there for the rest of your life. You'll pay back the difference in loan money in a relatively small amount of time in comparison to the lifelong benefits you'll have from being an SLS alum. They might be able to bump your finaid award up a bit (a tiny amount) if you send them your other offers, but they won't play the matching game for non HYS schools. People generally agree that this experience is easily worth the difference in $ between the schools. Even simply being able to work at a law firm the first summer can make up a big chunk of the difference (which is much easier to do at SLS/HLS/YLS).I'm still exploring the whole law profession, is there anything I should do to learn more about the different fields or even make up my own mind?
As I mentioned above, the spotlight lunches in the fall were super helpful. I imagine that all law schools do this, so by no means is SLS the only place to offer them. You'll have some time at the beginning of school to figure this legal stuff out, and especially once you sign up for a school, you'll have access to all its alumni. For example, all the reaching out I did was to SLS alumni, and the response was really great. For you before you start law school, I would think meaningfully about what kind of work you like to do, and what you are passion doing on an organizational level. A good way to do this is by talking to people who know you well, and asking what they think your strengths are, or what they think you enjoy doing best. People like us going straight-through have a challenge in that we haven't had that much time to reflect and learn what roles we like to play in organizations. For me, last summer meant a lot of roadtrips and a part time internship in Ann Arbor. I think this can be helpful because when you hear lawyers describing their day-to-day tasks, you'll better be able to say whether it appeals to you or not. For example, one start-up lawyer I talked to says most of his day is communicating via email or by phone or in person. He was the first outside counsel for Facebook back in the day, so he'd have weekly meetings with Zuck, Sean Parker, and Peter Thiel. I love that kind of communicating and problem solving for people. On the other hand, an IP litigator said she spent all day pouring over documents and researching, in solitude. For a lot of people in law school, this sounds great, but for me, I knew that it would be miserable. I really like people, and the idea of sitting alone reading all day sounded punishing. So, taking a breathe of air and thinking about who you are can be very valuable before you start school.I've been talking to a few lawyers in my hometown, one that works with non-profits, another in immigration, and then one in the more traditional business law. Is there anything else I should do?
It sounds like you are already ahead of the game on this. Talking one or two lawyers might be tough because you won't necessarily know what you're getting out of it, but talking to a good sample of different kinds like that should be valuable because you'll be able to compare their attitudes/happiness/etc. This is similar to why I think visiting schools is very important. Even though I was pretty confident that I would be at SLS, visiting a handful of other ones made me even more confident. For example, UChicago was the first I visited, and I loved it, but by the end of all the visits I was able to put UChicago on a scale with all the other schools, which was valuable for my decision making.How did you decide to work with start-ups?
In the fall we have a "spotlight" lunch series that has a couple lawyers from law firms in the area come in and have lunch with ~15 students about their practice. Each day has a different one, covering pretty much all the areas of law. I found them really helpful in getting a small taste of what lawyers liked or disliked about what kind of law they did. There were lawyers from an area firm that came to talk about working with start-ups, and everything they said they liked about working with entrepreneurs really resonated with me. From the top of my head, they were: early client contact, ownership over your work, great exit options, new and exciting work each day, being a true advisor/counselor to a business rather than just a lawyer, being able to maintain a generalist practice instead of having to specialize, passion and personal commitment to the clients as one of the most important ways to be successful. I mentioned some of those in an earlier email, I think. In conjunction with this, I've had a mentor who teaches patent law at Stanford, who is one of the few people I know who genuinely loves his job. He runs a patent boutique for about 100 start-ups and has a team of about 5/10 people. He plays this advisor role for his clients besides just doing patent filings for a flat fee, and loves it for all the same reasons that the lawyers at the law firm who came in loved their job. He recommended that I look into working at law firms that did this kind of work. Subsequently I reached out to a ton of lawyers in the area in this space and got to meet with a bunch of them. They told the same story. What about this "interdisciplinary" learning?
My undergrad was very much interdisciplinary in nature, and I loved it. I get excited to solve problems, and understanding all the aspects surrounding a problem is crucial in doing this well. You are 100 percent correct that the future of the law is not just in isolation. As I mentioned above, start-up counseling requires business and all sort of other discipline's insights. You'll find that all the other law schools will talk about being "interdisciplinary" but a lot of it is just marketing. Example: Duke was very "interdisciplinary" when I was talking to their admissions office, but you can only take 1 class outside the law school, and petition for a second. How is that interdisciplinary, I'm not sure? On the other hand, you can take 10 classes outside the law school here, with tons of interesting project-based seminars with other schools in the law school. I think I mentioned in previous emails, but I'm really excited to explore the design and business school offerings next year. This article
by Dean Kramer (although old) explains the SLS philosophy better than I ever could: 3D JD. There are tons of opportunities for exciting learning, TEDx style. There are way too many interesting conferences, etc. that are all happening here that I get to attend.1. What's your take on teacher accessibility? I just visited Chicago this weekend and they really push that hard (and I believe them, actually).
It's funny you mention Chicago, I remember how much they pushed that last year. I think they try to go for it because of their more "rigorous" academic vibe. They have a great faculty, but then again, so do all the top schools. To be honest, I think the teacher accessibility will be about the same at all the small schools you are considering (Stanford, UChicago, Yale maybe). It is more a function of size than of culture in terms of accessing the professors. For example, we had Dean Kramer for Conlaw and he actually requested that more people come to his office hours because they weren't that busy. 2. When it comes to professors, do you feel like teaching and getting to know students is a priority, or are they more aloof? At Chicago they talk a lot about professors coming to events, chatting with students outside of class, welcoming questions, talking to students late at night by phone if needed, inviting students out to lunch or even dinner at their homes.
So here I think you are getting at professor engagement. I can't speak for other schools, but it is wonderful here. For example, we organized a BBQ for our section in the fall, and all five of our professors came out and had a drink and a burger with us. It was a ton of fun. Another example is that my seminar class last quarter ended with an afternoon of drinks at our professor's home. It was also a blast! Places where this might be different are big urban environments like NYC.3. If you are a public-interest or public sector/government focused student, can you talk a little about the support at the school? Career help, sense of support, etc? The other two schools I'm looking at are very heavy big-law, which isn't my planned route, and I'm trying to get a sense for the vibrancy and strength of the public-focused opportunities at SLS.
I'm probably headed to biglaw, but my classmates have had great support getting epically cool jobs for this summer. Oslo, Amsterdam, the Hague, DC, NYC, etc. are all sexy destinations where people are doing government and public interest work. A lot of them got jobs before us in the private sector did
I'd suggest asking around at ASW, but I think you'll find that people are really stoked about the PI/Govt opportunities here.4. Why'd you choose SLS over other schools you were looking at?
To be brief, it was the happiest law school I visited by far. I had a really strong gut feeling that it was the place I needed to go for the next three years. I spent 5 months pouring over employment numbers, rankings, visiting 5+ schools, but once I steped onto Stanford's campus, I knew. What made it a good fit on paper for me was: interdisciplinary focus, great employment outcomes, no grades, etc., but at the end of the day it felt right to me. From what I've heard from other SLS students, they are just as happy with their decision as I am. At Stanford or Yale or Harvard, you'll be able to do whatever you want when you graduate; you might as well have a great three years of your life in law school. Life is too short to do otherwise.