Law school has a reputation for fostering a competitive, cut-throat environment. Because the demands to be accepted are high, it often attracts a highly motivated group of individuals. That can lead to a culture of constant comparison and competition as students work toward the same internships and scholarship opportunities.
However, not all law school cultures are the same. Some have worked hard to create a more cooperative environment. Western State, the oldest law school in Orange County, has a reputation for cultivating a close-knit culture that is supportive and collaborative.
Here are some of the ways it has set itself apart:
Grading curve: Forced grading requires professors to award only a percentage of the class above average scores, another percentage is average and the rest below average. This means that for every exam and project, students are graded compared to their peers, versus being graded on their own merit. That in itself creates a highly competitive culture and minimizes collaboration, as it breeds an “every man for himself” state of mind. Western State has eliminated forced grading. Instead, it believes every student who puts in the work should be graded on their own merit. Therefore, students are not competing against peers but rather against themselves. That allows students to support each other and help their peers succeed since their grades are not hinged on the performance of others.
Diversity: Another aspect impacting law school culture is diversity. Every year, ABA accredited law schools are required to report the race and ethnicity of their students. Data tracked by Enjuris.com shows minority enrollment in law school has more than doubled between 1987 and 2013. Yet there is still a disparate enrollment between White students and those that identify by another race or ethnicity. In fact, in 2019, 63.4% identified as White, followed by 12.7% Hispanic, 7.94% Black and 6.36% Asian. Such a lack of diversity can have a negative impact on school culture as it can marginalize minorities. Western State is proud to have a diverse student body. Over 54% of students classify as a minority and 58% of the population is made up of women. That fosters a collaborative environment where everyone feels welcome regardless of their background. A diverse student population can also enrich law school education as it allows students to experience new perspectives.
Staff support: Students’ ability to access and work with staff can impact a school culture. One example is career counseling offerings. Some of the larger schools only offer group career counseling or “drive through” counseling where students can drop by for 15 minutes only. That makes it difficult for those who need more help to feel supported. It can make the experience feel like a survival of the fittest culture. In contrast, Western State provides an individualized approach. It includes one-on-one career counseling to ensure all students feel adequately supported throughout the academic and career process.
Class size: Large schools can sometimes result in students feeling lost in the crowd. That is especially true if a student is struggling with a particular class. Western State’s classes are capped to enable students to access the support they need. In addition, the smaller class size allows for a close-knit family atmosphere with a lot of interaction and collaboration. Western State makes continued efforts to provide an optimal learning experience for all of their students.
Even in the best cultures, there are ways to ensure you have a positive experience.
Focus on you: Avoid comparing yourself to your peers, including how many hours you are studying. The comparison trap can make law school feel like a constant competition. Instead understand that what works for one student might not work for another. Create a study schedule that allows you to meet your goals.
Seek out support: Western State has a lot of staff support. Yet at the end of the day, it falls to the student to seek out additional help when needed. Be sure to reach out to staff and peers proactively if you are not understanding a subject or need extra help.
You don’t have to settle and assume a competitive and cut-throat environment is the status quo. There are law schools out there that have moved beyond the standard culture for a more supportive learning environment and focus on individual student needs. Look for a school that values a collaborative and cooperative environment. To learn more about everything Western State has to offer, reach out to our admissions team today!