Making the decision to attend law school is a major commitment and should not be taken lightly. For this reason, we tapped three of our professors to answer some of the most common questions about attending law school.
We were joined by:
Professor Todd Brower – constitutional law and contracts
Professor Lori Roberts – director of legal writing and research, and director of competitions
Professor Eunice Park – torts and legal writing
You can watch the Q&A video, but we’ve pulled some of the most important highlights below. *Note: These responses have been paraphrased to capture the essence of the interview.
Q: What should students expect going from undergrad to law school?
- Professor Brower: The biggest difference from college to law school, is that law school isn’t just a graduate school, it’s also a professional school. This means you must look beyond the time that you’re here and realize that the contacts you are exposed to in law school become resources for your future career.
- Professor Roberts: Active engagement in your classes is critical. Especially in the online environment that we’ve been in for the last year and a half. It can be easy for students to sit passively behind the screen and watch class. Whether you’re online or in person, we work really hard to be engaging because it’s critical that students are always talking about, thinking of and questioning the law.
- Professor Park: You should feel that you’re working harder than you ever have in your life. If you don’t feel that way, you’re probably not working hard enough. California law school will be overwhelming and so much more than you expected. Time management is a really important skill, and you should expect and brace yourself for a lot of work. Not only is there a lot to read, but it requires very careful reading.
Q: What is the Socratic Method and cold calling?
- Professor Brower: Cold calling means that as a professor we don’t always have to ask for volunteers to answer the questions but can call on whoever we decide. As a student, you must be able to respond. Cold calling is important to ensure interaction in the classroom doesn’t go in one way.
- Professor Park: I don’t want to just lecture and say, “here’s the law.” That’s very boring and nobody learns well that way. I instead depend on the students to be participatory and pull-out material from the case. I welcome answers that are sometimes off track because those can be productive conversations. It’s always important not to simply lecture at students but to also ensure there is engagement.
Q: How can incoming students prepare for a legal writing class?
- Professor Roberts: We teach students everything they need to know about legal writing. The best way to prepare is to ensure that you have a strong foundation in writing.
Q: Do you have any tips for casebook reading?
- Professor Brower: The first year of law school is difficult because people are transitioning into law school life. So, learning to read a case, understand what the case is, what it’s telling you and what you should be getting out of it is a skill that needs to be learned, taught and developed. My best advice is to just take things as they come to you and reach out to resources that the school and professors provide to you if you find yourself struggling.
Q: How do students at Western State get help from the faculty?
- Professor Park: The faculty as a whole has a culture of being open and wanting to talk and help our students. I encourage you to take advantage of that regularly, not just when there’s an exam coming up or after you received exam results. If you have questions, we are available to meet you on campus or via Zoom – take advantage of us, we’re here to help.
- Professor Roberts: My classes are small, so I meet with my students frequently. Students can make an appointment or drop by – we are always available to help.
Q: What are your expectations for a first-year student in class?
- Professor Brower: My expectations for students in and outside of class are the same. I don’t always expect someone to know the answer, but what I do expect is for them to try. This entails making a good faith effort to figure things out or using the resources available to them. Then, I expect that they take the initiative to speak up in class and ask the necessary questions. I expect them to be active learners.
Q: How does Western State prepare students for the state bar exam?
- Professor Brower: At Western State, we teach every subject that is bar tested during the course of a student’s law school journey. There are also classes in your third year which are designed specifically to think about the bar and prepare you. The school recognizes that you’re entering a profession, and you need to pass the bar to enter that profession.
Q: What should I prep to improve my reading and writing skills?
- Professor Roberts: Really important incoming skills are good reading and basic writing skills. In terms of preparing for that, there are online services that can test your reading speed and comprehension. There are wonderful online apps for improving your grammar. Strunk and White’s Elements of Style is one of our recommended reading books. If you really have serious reading and writing issues, a class at a community school would be helpful if you have the time.
Q: We have a lot of students that come here after being out of school for awhile and in a profession. Can they do this? Do they have a fair shot with the night classes?
- Professor Park: Resoundingly, yes. I know and understand that they are coming from jobs, they’re tired or they were taking care of children all day. I recognize that students have all kinds of responsibilities during the day and admire my evening students; you have to be committed to this process. Sometimes I find that the evening students are extremely efficient because they know they have a short period of time to get something done and can’t squander it. I have no hesitation for my evening students and their ability to handle the workload – it is a lot – but I think the maturity that comes with having to handle many things plus being a law student lends itself to doing quite well.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you can give a prospective student?
- Professor Roberts: Time management. Make sure before you start law school you really have time to devote to this. It’s not that law school is hard, it’s that it’s time consuming. If you’re not good at time management, work on it and calendar the time to make room for everything.
- Professor Park: Remember the big picture as you’re working through the material. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details of a particular subject. There’s so much material that you can get caught up in the micro and lose sight of the macro.
- Professor Brower: The most important thing is that it’s about you. You’re the one who’s going to be doing this. We can be your partners and you’ll have other support, but you have to look within yourself and say, “This is my responsibility and I need to be the most active participant driving my education.” Utilize your resources but remember it’s ultimately on you to figure out what you want.
Interested in learning more about law school? Contact our admissions team to get your questions answered today.