Life Before Law School
Hometown: Hanover, PA
- Temple University, 2019 | Liberal Studies
Job: Business Litigation Associate, Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP
Program: Full-Time Day
I worked for almost four years at the Defender Association of Philadelphia in various administrative roles. This experience was invaluable: I was able to see what public defenders do in their careers, day in and day out. I’ve found that a lot of people who are lawyers try to dissuade people from going to law school, and for me, that included many of the attorneys that I worked with. But I think my experience at the Defender better prepared me for law school. I understood one area of law practice and what it actually meant, and I had the opportunity to talk to many attorneys about their own law school experiences. This made me feel like I understood what I was getting myself into when I decided to go to law school. I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but after several years of working, I was ready for that challenge.
I did several: The Public Defense Clinic, The Housing and Small Claims Mediation Clinics, and a practicum working for a judge in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Each experience was valuable and taught me different things. In the public defense clinic, I was able to advocate in court for indigent defendants. I learned the practical skills of how to do a preliminary hearing and a misdemeanor trial in real life, beyond what we learn in the trial advocacy program. In the mediation clinics, on the other hand, I had to take a neutral position to try to help parties resolve disputes. It taught me how to really listen to people to figure out what their issues are, which will undoubtedly be an asset in legal practice. Clerking for a trial court judge taught me to look at a case from the judge’s perspective, rather than as an advocate. What a judge focuses on in a case may not be what the lawyers always want to highlight, and I learned how important it is to be prepared in court and know what your judge wants. Temple’s clinical and experiential program is the reason I chose Temple for law school, and I’m pleased to say that I took full advantage of those opportunities.
Life at Temple Law
I was on Temple Law Review, both as a staff editor during my 2L year and as one of the Lead Research Editors during my 3L year. I was the Day Division Vice-President of the Student Bar Association during my 2L year, and I was also President of OUTLaw, Temple’s LGBTQ+ student org, during my 2L year.
I highly recommend getting involved with organizations that you care about! These extracurricular activities were some of the most fulfilling parts of my law school experience. My 2L year was very busy, with law review, two leadership positions, and a full credit load. It was a lot to juggle, and it might be too much for some people. But you don’t have to get involved as much as I did to have a good experience. Pick one or two orgs your first year that you’re really interested in joining, and stick with them! Go to a bunch of general body meetings to see what the orgs are all about. You’ll meet people you wouldn’t otherwise if you get involved! The most fulfilling activity for me was being President of OUTLaw. The legal profession as a whole struggles with diversity of all kinds. I think it’s easier to be out in the law now than it was even ten years ago, but it was really important to me as President of OUTLaw to make sure that we had an inclusive and welcoming environment for our LGBTQ+ students. This was especially necessary during my 2L year, when we were fully remote because of COVID. I wanted to have a space for students, especially new 1Ls, to feel comfortable asking for help or getting information. As an out and proud law student, I wanted to ensure that other LGBTQ+ students had the freedom and comfort level to be fully themselves at Temple (and hopefully in the broader legal community!). I think we achieved that, at least in some small way, and I am especially proud of my time as a member and President of OUTLaw.
There were several faculty members who were influential in my legal education. Professors Murray, Shellenberger, Lin, and Little all made an impact on me in different ways. Professor Murray taught me how to write like a lawyer, a skill that I will use for years to come. She also gave me consistently good advice, whether it was about what classes to take or how to approach OCI. Professor Shellenberger served as my mentor and advisor; he supervised both my law review note and my practicum. He offered constructive feedback and a friendly ear. Professors Lin and Little were two of the best professors I had in law school. Both of them are engaging professors who do an incredible job of explaining difficult concepts in courses that are traditionally regarded as “hard” law school courses. Professor Lin made me interested in an area of the law that I thought I wouldn’t like, and Professor Little made what’s often considered a boring subject interesting. I am better off as a person and a lawyer for having learned from both of them.
Finally, our trial advocacy adjunct faculty are wonderful. I learned from three different judges over the course of my trial ad experience, all of whom offered constructive feedback and taught me the skills I need to succeed in the courtroom and beyond. The Temple Law faculty as a whole is tremendous, but these professors made law school a truly enjoyable and enlightening experience for me. I am forever grateful to all of them.
Advice From a Temple Law Grad
There are three main things I would recommend:
- Do what works for you, have a life outside law school, and treat law school like a full time job. I think it’s really important to do what works for you and not worry about what the other students around you are doing. Law school is stressful! Temple is not the kind of school with a cutthroat environment that you sometimes hear horror stories about, but the students are all still motivated to do well. People will talk about what they’re doing, how many hours they study, how early in the semester they started outlining. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you’re not doing enough or that you’re behind other people. Tune that out! Do what works for you; you know yourself and what kind of student you are better than anyone. Come in with a plan based on how you learn and stick to it. If you find that what you’re doing doesn’t work for you, then definitely talk to people you trust (fellow students or professors you’ve built a relationship with) about strategies to change it. But if what you’re doing works for you, keep doing it, even if people around you seem to be doing things differently.
- Another thing I would stress is that you must have a life outside of law school. Don’t become a law robot; you can do well in law school and still go to the gym, do yoga, go hiking with friends, play video games, whatever. Don’t lose what you enjoy doing for the three or four years of law school. Making time for outside activities will keep you grounded and make the whole experience better. And don’t forget about your non-law friends! You’ll make some great friendships in law school, and those people will help you and support you throughout the journey together. But it’s important to have friends that you can talk about other things with. Those friends helped you get to this point, make sure to keep them as a part of your life during law school too.
- Finally, and related to the second point, treat law school like a full-time job, albeit one that is probably more than 40 hours a week. Time management is important. It’s easier to have a life outside of law school if you treat law school just like you would a job. Set your hours each day to go to class and study, and when you’re done for the day, let yourself put the books down and be done. Coming in with structure and treating law school like a job will help you to better manage your time and stress over the course of the semester. Law school can be a wonderful experience if you let it. It’s a lot of hard work and not always fun, but you can do it! Temple Law is a great place to begin your legal career. I enjoyed my time here immensely; I’m glad I chose Temple, and I wish all the incoming students success in their studies and careers!