Don West, Jr. is THE guy. I admit, I was his unofficial campaign manager when he ran for SBA president 10 years ago, and the first in line for a hug when he won. And so it is no surprise to me that he is now SuperLawyer of the Universe. So, I asked Don to share with my readers his thoughts on the "Five Things I Wish I'd Known Before Law School." As someone who went to law school with Don, I can tell you he put a lot of thought into this and into his own experience during those very important 3 years. And, I think our continuing friendship proves his point about the importance of networking while in law school. So, without further ado..... Here's Don:
When Ann asked me to write a posting for her, my first response was, “Sure, no problem.” But upon further review of the question she posed, “What are five things you wished you knew before applying to law school?” That question ultimately caused me a severe case of writer’s block. There were so many unknowns and variables that I simply did not understand before I attended law school in 1997 that I was not sure what was valuable and what could be trimmed as trivial or inconsequential. I share all of that in part to apologize to my great friend Ann for the extreme delay in comprising this list of “Five things I wished I knew before I applied to law school”, so here it goes:
1) An understanding of the business principles of the legal practice. In most law schools excellent instruction is provided on legal reasoning, legal theory, research and writing. However, in many instances we are acquiring these skills for the purpose of generating an income to support ourselves and our families. Most law schools fall short in preparing students for handling the business behind the practice of law. It is important for all of us as legal practitioners to also be astute business men and women as it is a foundational element to our professional craft. I wish I had a more thorough understanding of this point going into law school.
2) An understanding of the value of networking. Law School Campus. In a way your law school becomes a part of your extended family. I say this because once you graduate with your Juris Doctor degree you are essentially married to that particular institution. So, no matter what your experience or opinion of the place, when people ask, “where you went to law school?” your alma mater is a name you cannot escape. I suppose you can get a new JD, but I have not met that person in my journeys just yet. With these facts in mind, the individuals that attend law school with you will be your life-long “partners” as you all progress from a common starting point. Understanding the basic principles of professional networking and utilizing the knowledge while on your law school campuses will reap a lifetime of rewards and many genuinely enhancing relationships.
3) An understanding of the value of networking. American Bar Association, Local Bar Associations & other Professional Organizations. Many people say, “You should go to law school where you intend to practice law.” I believe that one of the reasons that this is mentioned is because of the network you build in that local community in addition to the benefits of learning the laws of the local jurisdiction in your classes. The American Bar Association and your local bar association(s) can also be career long partners for your professional growth and development. Getting involved early allows you to explore the plethora of committees and sections throughout these organizations. Active participation will allow the astute networker to build meaningful national and local contacts to aid in your career’s numerous twists and turns.
4) A greater appreciation for academic excellence. As most law students know, grades are an important part of the law school process. I knew this fact going in, but I really could not articulate all the reasons why they were important. During my first year in law school I had the privilege of meeting Mary Ann Connors and she shared this insight, “Law students with superior academic records correlate into faster producing workers on the job. The skills they mastered in keeping up with their classroom assignments amidst all of life’s challenges are the same skills a law firm needs from its associates.” In addition to the great benefits of post-graduation employment, many law firms will ask to see your law transcripts five, ten and even fifteen years after you have graduated.
5) An understanding of the globalizing economy. Our next generation of super lawyers will work in a complex highly international marketplace. Understanding how the world is flattening and how a flat world impacts the legal sectors is an essential tool for the millennial lawyer.
Thanks, Don!!!!!!! I know this is really important and sage advice for all law school applicants and pre-law students and truly appreciate that you took the time to share your thoughts with my readers.For more about Don, see DonWestJr.com