Minces PLLC Gives Advice for College, Studying, and Law School
August 21st, 2018 by David Minces
Ben, our intern for the summer and a student at the University of Texas at Austin, asks Paula, David, Frank, and Gabriela for advice on college life and how to best prepare for law school and a career in law.
What colleges did you go to and what did you study?
Paula: I started at Drexel University in Philadelphia as a Marketing major. I had a sports law class my freshman year that I fell in love with (even though I’m not really into sports) so I decided to entertain the idea of going to law school. I transferred to the University of Central Florida in Orlando for my sophomore year and soon after changed my major to Political Science. I graduated from UCF in 2014 and started law school at the University of Houston in 2015. I will be graduating in May of 2019.
David: I started college at the University of Arizona, with a Media Arts major (don’t ask me what that is, I never understood what that even means).Then I transferred to the University of Nebraska and that’s where I got my undergraduate degree, which is in Journalism, and minors in History, English, and Psychology. I went to SMU Law School, affectionately known as the Dedman School of Law.
Frank: UT Austin, Government. For law school, South Texas [College of Law].
Gabriela: I went to the University of Guelph and I majored in criminal justice and public policy and I minored in sociology. (For law school, Gabriela studied at the University of Houston.)
When you were in school, did you ever pull an all-nighter? Was it worth it?
Paula: Not on purpose. I found my classes in undergrad pretty easy, but Drexel is a big engineering school and as one of the few business majors in the Honors’ dorm I was teased quite a bit about how business majors don’t have any difficult classes (partially true). During exam time my roommate, who was an electrical engineering major, was pulling an all-nighter for a final. I had a super easy final the next day but for some reason I thought I should stay up with her and study too, in part to show that business majors had to do the same work. My exam started at 9am, her exam started at 7:30am. I fell asleep shortly after she left and woke up at 8:55am in a panic and nearly missed my exam entirely.
David: Yes and yes. Worth it as opposed to not doing the work. Not worth it as opposed to working ahead and being responsible as most college students should.
What was the one thing in your backpack you couldn’t live without as a student?
Paula: Headphones. Must have for an urban campus like Drexel.
David: The basketball schedule.
Frank: I guess my student ID?
What was your favorite extracurricular activity?
Paula: I worked two jobs throughout school so I was woefully uninvolved in extracurriculars.
David: I loved Intramural sports. I liked intramural flag football, I liked intramural basketball, I liked intramural Ultimate Frisbee (that might have been my favorite).
Gabriela: If it wasn’t eating, it was napping or playing soccer or some other sport on the campus green.
Frank: Just going to the gym, working out.
Do you prefer taking online classes or lecture classes?
Paula: Definitely online. I am a hands-on learner and lectures usually just put me to sleep. It is also great for working students to have flexibility to be able to “attend” class whenever or wherever. Without online classes I’m not sure I would have been able to complete my bachelor’s degree in 3 years and keep up with work.
Gabriela: I prefer lecture classes. There’s a better opportunity to interact with the professor and with other students. That ability to ask questions and have an immediate response is good. But also context: the fact that you’re hearing and seeing and feeling the tone and expressions is different than what you see online, when things can be misinterpreted.
In your opinion, what is the most effective way to take notes?
Paula: Most effective in terms of time efficiency is definitely typing for me. You can move everything around easily and edit as needed. But the best way for me to learn is to take the notes by hand and later type them into an organized and clean format. This way I can review and structure an outline and get a refresher on the material. Unfortunately, that isn’t always doable.
Frank: For me it was just jotting them down. Some teachers allowed me to record them, so if they allowed me to record them I’d record them.
In your opinion, what is the most effective way to study?
Paula: I have to be writing, talking or engaging in something active to retain information, I can’t just read and remember. I like to take practice tests and review the correct responses or write timed essays as if I were in an exam setting and then go back and grade them.
David: Stay on top of your assignments as they occur and not fall behind to begin with. Any recipe that includes that is a recipe for success.
Frank: For me personally, it was just kind of on my own. At law school, it’s just one test at the end of the semester. I would just create flashcards with topics and study off of them.
Gabriela: I was a “read the book and highlight and take notes as you go along” student.
What did you do as an undergraduate to make your law school application stand out?
Paula: I really just tried to get the best GPA possible. I think if my GPA wasn’t very good I would have done more extracurriculars, but I felt it was strong enough to just lean on and hope for the best.
Frank: I didn’t know I was going to law school when I graduated undergrad so it really wasn’t on my radar at the time. After undergrad, I went to a paralegal program, so I did that and worked as a paralegal for a couple years before I went to law school. So I think that helped, having experience in the law field.
Gabriela: I don’t know what exactly it was that stood out to people in admissions at law school, but I know that my non-scholarly background, in other words, the extracurricular activities I did, the volunteer work I did, the general life experiences I had probably helped boost my application.
How important are your LSAT and undergraduate GPA? Is one more important than the other?
Paula: I think it used to be the case that the LSAT was the end all, be all. Now I think schools look at LSAT, undergraduate GPA and personal statement equally. To me, it was really shocking how important the personal statement was because everything I read online said it didn’t matter very much. I made the mistake of taking my first LSAT with absolutely no preparation so even though my GPA was almost perfect, I got a much better opportunity to study with a scholarship once I retook the LSAT. Because of that I would say take it all seriously and don’t stress too much about averages. Try to get within the range of scores for your dream school. If your LSAT is lower, try to boost your GPA and vice versa. No matter what your scores, write a unique and solid personal statement. Have friends, professors and anyone you trust read it and give you feedback so that you are putting your best work out there.
What was the most important skill or piece of information you need to know as a lawyer that was not taught in law school?
David: That the practice of law bears little or no resemblance to law school, that law school does not prepare you for the practice of law, and that if you intend to be a litigator, being competitive is the single most important attribute to the position.
Gabriela: I had the advantage of taking a lot of skills classes that did help me prepare for litigation, but those are not required as part of your education. I think that, at U of H, you’re only required to take one. If you plan on doing litigation, you really need to take a lot of skills courses because you can learn a lot of truly hands-on things that they do in litigation that you won’t learn just from sitting in a classroom and learn from theory.
If you could go back to the version of you in law school (or school in general) and give yourself one piece of advice, what would that be?
Paula: Have the full school experience. Get involved in on-campus activities and socialize with classmates as much as possible. You have the rest of your life to work.
David: Build relationships with all of your classmates that you can build relationships with. Those relationships matter more after law school than you can ever conceive of at the time.
Frank: In undergrad, it would be to study more and party less.
Gabriela: Oh my gosh, please work ahead of your deadlines!
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