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A Student's Perspective: What I Wish I Knew

Published July 9, 2024

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Guest blogger: Bryan Carlo ’25

It’s cliché to say, but hindsight is 20-20. Everyone has experiences that they learn from and lessons that they wish they had earlier in life. The same is true for law students.  Continue reading for valuable insights into what I wish I had known before law school. If you’re about to embark on the same journey, these tips could spare you unnecessary stress!

Grades aren’t everything.

Many law students often hear that grades should be their primary concern upon entering law school. While they are indeed significant, they are not the only thing to be concerned about in law school. While grades can influence your ability to participate in certain extracurricular activities such as law review (learn more about Law Review) and certain employment opportunities, such as BigLaw, which you can learn more about in my Corporate and Transactional Law blog post, they do not define your capabilities or skills as an attorney. Many employers and student organizations take a holistic approach to evaluating an applicants’ aptitude to perform in their roles to have a more diverse candidate base.

It can be stressful listening to your classmates talk about how hard an exam is and speculating what they got on the test or in the course. The best advice I’ve received is to ignore the noise and chatter. Ultimately, you may have gotten an answer right and no one else did, but if you hear everyone agreeing on the answer you may second guess yourself- leading to a lot more stress than necessary. From my experience, despite its reputation for competitiveness, law school, particularly the University at Buffalo School of Law, often promotes a positive, collaborative, and collegial environment.

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Your network is your net worth.

One of the biggest buzz words in the legal field is “networking,” or making connections with those in your profession or field. It is extremely important to make networking a priority in your first year. While many people make friendships with their law school classmates that may last a lifetime, what they ultimately do not realize is how valuable those friendships can be in their professional lives. Many of those same people you befriend will go on to become attorneys in the community, especially alumni of the University at Buffalo School of Law which typically keep close ties to the legal community in Western New York. They could be your opposing counsel, the judge on your case, your future boss or colleagues, or even prospective future clients. That is why it is so important to start making these connections early on. The more people that know you or recognize your name, the more opportunities that will present themselves. The law school will host several networking events during the first year that will expose you to attorneys in the local community. Learn about some of these events in my blog post about The Law Student Experience. Attorneys love to connect and are always willing to give advice to the next generation of practitioners. Consider asking them out for coffee or lunch to capitalize on their wealth of experience.

Enjoy the ride!

This may be the last time you will be a student, so now is the time to get involved and take advantage of all of the opportunities that the law school provides. There are numerous ways to get involved, from clubs and student organizations, to taking part in experiential learning such as clinics or externships, to simply attending the numerous events the school hosts (such as dinners, mixers, and destress nights). Take the time to do something you enjoy to aid your mental health, and maybe even learn about a new area of law you never thought you would like, or, perhaps even volunteer to get additional legal experience. Even if you are not interested in litigation, maybe try a moot court competition, and vice versa, if you know you want to litigate, take some transactional or corporate law classes. Getting these types of experiences will help make you a more rounded attorney and you may just find something new that you really enjoy! Three years flies right by and before you know it, you will be a practicing attorney and thinking back on all the great things you did in law school. Don’t let the opportunities pass you by!

Final Thoughts

Be organized and plan.

As you might already expect, having a plan for organizing your schedule and setting expectations for yourself is a great way to keep yourself on task and make the most out of your law school experience. Law school is a big commitment, both in terms of time and money. Make sure your calendars are up to date and are filled in with both your school schedule and your other personal commitments, which is something that worked well for me.

Having a financial plan may also ease some stress. I liked knowing from the onset that I can’t eat on campus every day because it is not financially viable and allowed me to plan my meals each week accordingly. This may also help you plan larger purchases, such as a car, laptop, or tablet and allow yourself a little “fun money” to enjoy yourself on the weekends.

Don’t let imposter syndrome set in.

It is very easy to let the competitive environment of law school make you feel like you don’t belong. Whether it is the classwork or looking for an internship or job, it is hard not to compare yourself to others. If you are unsure of your academic abilities, try forming a study group so you all are learning the same information at the same pace and time. Whether you were admitted off the wait list or admitted early decision, know that you would not be here if the admissions committee did not believe you had the skills to succeed.

Meeting with the Career Services Office early and often can also help you find that crucial first legal job. Just like anything, getting the job takes practice and preparation, including resume and cover letter reviews and mock interviews (Read about my Summer Internship Experience). The CSO is always there to support you and help you find that perfect internship or full-time job so that you can start yourself on the path to a fulfilling career!

In Closing

Just as I wished I knew more about law school before my journey began, you may also encounter surprises and unexpected challenges down your path. Over three years, you’ll undergo countless experiences fostering growth and change. But what matters most is your readiness for the unexpected and your ability to move forward with positivity, granting yourself, grace, understanding, and space to prioritize your mental well-being. Here's to a successful and enriching legal journey ahead!

Photo of Bryan Carlo.

Guest blogger:
Bryan Carlo ’25


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