I hope this book helped you feel more prepared for law school. The important things to remember are:
1) You are not alone. There are more and more first-generation students entering law school every day.
2) Ask questions! It can feel daunting to ask questions especially as you might not want to “out” yourself as not knowing what you’re doing. But I promise you, there are people in the law school who want to help you, and who were likely first generation themselves.
In fact, I discovered that my constitutional law professor was from the Midwest, like myself, and also a first-generation student. I asked her so many questions and was in her office all of the time. She never minded, and was happy to help. I’m certain you will find someone similar at your school.
I also discuss growth mindset in the book, and how failure is a part of learning. In the Career Opportunities chapter, I refer to my career path as a series of “happy accidents.” This is because I had a bit of a rocky start, and too many rejection letters to count from firms that I thought would be a good fit. However, not getting the job of my dreams is exactly why I started tutoring on the side, and that lead to my career in academia, which I love. So, you see, failure actually put me on the right path.
Above all else, please remember that you do belong. You have been admitted to law school because of your merit and accomplishments; do not let imposter phenomenon, or anything else, make you feel otherwise.
Following this conclusion are two appendices. These are here so that you feel a little more comfortable coming into the school.
Appendix A is a Law School Glossary. This is the glossary I referenced in Chapter 1. Every field of education or activity, and in fact, every field of human endeavor, has its own language or jargon. Law school is no different. At first, it can seem a little frightening to hear faculty, staff, and other students throwing around words and phrases you have never heard. The Glossary in Appendix A is intended to be a little introduction to some of that language. Read over the Glossary now and keep it handy. You will hear most of these words and phrases during the first week of law school. And don’t worry—in a few weeks, you’ll be using these words like a pro.
Appendix B is a list of Where Do I Go For Help With… I would wish that every law student would enter law school, sail through with no issues, and graduate with high grades. That really doesn’t happen. Every law student needs help with something at some point during the years spent in law school. Appendix B gives a list of the most common issues that arise during the law school years, and then gives someplace you can go to seek answers or help. Read through the list right now, and then keep it handy.
I wish you the best of luck in all of your endeavors! Now, here is some advice from a former student of mine:
“The best chance you have if you want to succeed in law school is to give yourself up to loneliness, fear nothing, and work hard. There will be times you miss out on gatherings with family and friends to brief a case or to study. There will be times the work seems like it is overwhelming. Don’t give up. You are here for a reason and you have what it takes to rise to the top. All your hard work took you this far and it will take you further than you ever dream possible. Your best chapters are still being written.”
-James Anthony Barracato
And finally, remember that you can break the mold!
“I was the first person in my family to go to college, and the first lawyer in my family ever. In law school, I was intimidated by my professors and fellow classmates. There was a mold I thought they all fit that I did not fit as a formerly homeless, high school dropout that had to work through night classes to get my undergraduate degree. It took a long time to realize that part of the beauty of being a first-generation law student and lawyer was that I was not constrained by a mold or a model that frankly hasn’t served members of the legal profession well. Once I realized that breaking out of a mold that perpetuates systemic problems in the legal profession was a good thing, it was very freeing to see myself as making the difference I had always hoped to make.”
-Afton Cavanaugh, Assistant Dean St. Mary’s School of Law