Law school and its culture have been the basis of numerous TV shows and movies. Those movies build upon stereotypes in classics like “The Paper Chase” and lighthearted comedies like “Legally Blonde.” We caught up with Western State’s 2L Tatijana Sheikhan to see how the expectation that all law students become trial lawyers and the image of law schools’ cut-throat culture compare with reality.
Expectation: All law students become trial lawyers.
Reality: When you see lawyers depicted, it is often in a courtroom. My mom told me a law degree could take me anywhere and I could do anything with it, but I didn’t believe it until I experienced it for myself. I started law school thinking I would pursue criminal or contractual law but became passionate about environmental and space law. It is a lot easier than I expected to get experience and learn about alternate areas of law that I didn’t previously think about. In addition, I have learned there is a lot more interplay between fields of law than I realized, such as space law having a contractual component.
Expectation: Law school will be difficult, with excruciating amounts of work and extreme hours.
Reality: I won’t sugarcoat it; law school is a lot of work. However, it is manageable and enjoyable. The curriculum focuses on practical skills which helps make the work more rewarding.
Expectation: I won’t have time for anything but law school.
Reality: As I said, law school does require a lot of work, but I am able to find a balance and make time for things that are important to me. To juggle everything I want to do, I have to schedule out my day-to-day including class times, appointments, studying, etc. But I also found that carving out personal time is just as important as studying. Constantly studying is not as productive. Taking time to eat and workout allows me to take care of myself and my mental health so I can perform at my best.
Expectation: Law school breeds a toxic, cut-throat culture.
Reality: That might be the reality at other schools, but at Western State I was pleasantly surprised with how willing my peers and professors are to help. If someone doesn’t know the answer, I have seen my peers offer support or share how they approached a problem. I have enjoyed this level of collaboration and felt it has been a good environment to learn in.
Expectation: Law professors will put you on the spot.
Reality: That is accurate. But it is a fair reality. At the beginning of the semester, we receive a syllabus with a set of assignments and readings and are expected to come to class prepared. However, unlike the movies, the professors at Western State have always been respectful and appropriate. If a peer does not know the answer, but has come prepared and tries, the professor will not ridicule or embarrass the student. They instead turn it into a learning opportunity to guide the student to the correct answer.
Expectation: Law school will provide you an opportunity to work with and learn from a diverse group.
Reality: Western State has exceeded my expectations. I am not a California native and coming to Western State, I was happy with the amount of diversity and interesting people, including other students, faculty and staff. The diversity and opportunity to see other perspectives is celebrated and embraced.
As you can see, not everything about law schools depicted in the movies is reality. The idea of law school can feel overwhelming and intimidating, however, it is not impossible. In fact, it is possible for anyone who wants to be successful in law school to succeed.
Tatijana is a 2L at Western State. She graduated from Loyola Marymount where she majored in English with a minor in classics. Outside of academics, she was a Division I tennis player. Her path to law school began in 2015 during the White House transition from Past-President Obama to Trump. She came into law school with a goal to go into criminal law based on her work at the Emily Shane Foundation with disadvantaged children where she was exposed to the “preschool to prison pipeline” and saw how easily kids could get lost in the shuffle. She was also interested in contract law based on her athletic experience and passion for sports. Since starting law school, she has shifted her focus to environmental and space law.
Interested in learning if your expectations for law school are reality? Contact our admissions team to get your questions answered today: Contact Admissions