Today is the third installment of the Law School process series. I hope that for those of you going to law school, you find the series helpful, and I’m hoping to do a kind of check in with the students featured in this series after each member’s been in law school for a little while! I like to give information about each guest writer so that you hoping to go to law school see the activities people who have been accepted do in their time at college.
Anyway, let’s get to today’s guest of honor. Samantha, I call her Sam, is someone I’ve sort of known for a while, but we’ve become fast friends because she’s lived with my best friend for the last two years. At Saint Mary’s, Sam participated on the Debate Team, where she was nationally ranked, and is a History Department Representative, where she plans events and helps recruit history majors. Sam is currently finishing her thesis on The Crusades, which she will be presenting in May. Sam is a very driven woman, and interned for the District Attorney for Washoe County in Nevada, her home state. So, Sam has a great post for you today about her law school journey, which went slightly unexpectedly for her!
“My mother has this saying; God always gives us signs, whether it’s a post it note or a billboard. When it comes to big decisions, I tend to need a billboard to know that I’ve made the right one. My law school journey has been that way, although the post it notes were there all along. My name is Samantha, and this is my law school journey.
I have wanted to be a lawyer since I was a freshman in high school. In my English class, we read a short story about this woman who lived by herself in an old plantation mansion, and the townspeople thought she was rather odd. To summarize the short story, the woman dies and when some people go in to clean her house, they find the skeleton of a person, presumably a man that had disappeared several years before. Our assignment was to either prosecute or defend the woman. My group, the prosecution, chose me to represent them to the class, and we ended up winning. In passing, someone said to me, “You’d be really good at this.”
From there, I did all I could to set myself up to become a lawyer. I debated in high school and in college. I attended the National Youth Leadership Forum on Law and Criminal Investigation. I chose to attend Saint Mary’s College of California because I believed the education I received there would set me up for my career better than my other options. Once I started looking seriously at the process, I realized I had a lot to do. More than I had initially thought. There was the LSAT to study for, a list of schools I wanted to go to made, edited, made again, and edited again. In the meantime, I was an intern at the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office the summer between junior and senior year. I absolutely loved the job and the people I met. I had an inkling before that I wanted to be a prosecutor, and working there confirmed it.
I took the June 2015 LSAT the first time. I did not do as well as I had hoped. I was really disheartened by the results, but I picked myself up and took it again in October. Although the score was not nearly as high as I had hoped, it was enough of an improvement to satisfy me. I opted to study myself rather than taking a class. The first time I used Kaplan, and their method simply did not work for me. The second time around, I used the Powerscore prep books, which were more thorough and worked better for me. I would suggest to anyone planning on going to law school to get a head start on studying and taking the test so if you have to take it again you have the time to do so. I started studying for the LSAT about three months before I took it the first time. That felt adequate to me, especially since I was able to utilize time off during the summer when I did it a second time. The amount of time another person needs to study depends on them, so gauge it based on yourself and your goals.
As far as the actual application goes, I did not find them to be super stressful. I had no problem asking for letters of recommendation and putting together a resume. I struggled more with my personal statement. At the end of the process, I had two personal statements that I used depending on what each school required. This really worked for me. The essays were very different but each played to my strengths and I was happy with them once I submitted them.
I do think in the end, I applied to too many schools. Fortunately I had fee waivers for all but two or three, but the additional LSAC fees add up. I should have cut schools that I knew I wouldn’t go to even if I got in. I had a lot of schools on my list that didn’t have programs I wanted or that I knew I wouldn’t get into but applied anyway. You have to have at least a few of those, because if you don’t try you’ll never know, but you should keep that to two or three schools.
As far as where I’ve ended up, the post its were there all along, even if I was hesitant to acknowledge them. Michigan State was one of those schools that sent me a lot of emails and snail mail, so I figured I may as well apply. It was the second acceptance I got, after Creighton University in Nebraska. Typically law schools will send you an email, but I got a phone call from the dean of the law school before I had even bothered to check my email. I was surprised, but not unpleasantly so, especially when I got my acceptance packet with scholarship information. At that point, Michigan State became a contender. As the weeks and months progressed, I got mail from Michigan State. There were catalogues full of things Michigan State could offer me. Not only did they have more clinical programs than I could possibly choose from, they also have alumni connections in all fifty states and several federal bureaus, including the Justice Department. The clinical program attracted me, because I want a hands on legal education that will prepare me for practice. I decided it would be in my interest to go to an Admitted Student’s Day.
Once I got to Lansing, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm. As I arrived on campus, I thought to myself, ‘I will be really happy here.’ The people I met were very nice and very interested in what I had to say. I learned more about the clinical programs and about the internship opportunities the career center sets each MSU Law student up with. We had the opportunity to speak to students, and none of them had a single complaint about the school. At that point, I was sold. A few days later, I received word from MSU that I had been accepted into a specialized Research, Writing, and Analysis class on criminal law. I was also offered and did accept direct admission to MSU’s Geoffrey Fieger Trial Practice Institute, an intensive program undertaken in the 2L and 3L that prepares students for litigation and trial work. In the 3L, we will be trying a real civil and criminal case. At this point, God had given up on the post its and was slapping me with billboards. Michigan State was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
As much as I’ll miss the closeness of Saint Mary’s I’m ready and excited to start the next phase of my life in Lansing. It’ll be an adventure for me to go to a school about ten times the size of my undergraduate institution. My friends and family were very supportive during this process, and I’m thankful that I had them during the days of waiting and uncertainty, and I’m glad to have them still now that things are set in stone. They are all very supportive of me and of my goals. I can’t wait to start my coursework and get my foot in the door in terms of internships and career opportunities, and I’m proud to be a Spartan.”
Thank you, Sam! I think we can expect great things from Sam as she pursues a career in criminal law.