Ask Alex #1: Frequently Asked Questions

Over the years I’ve received my fair share of questions from readers. While most can be answered in a few simple sentences, some questions appear so frequently that I thought it best to compile them in one place. Some of the topics I’ve covered before, but my answers may have changed. Experience can be an excellent teacher!

What are the essential law school supplies?

I’ll keep it simple: you will—without a shadow of a doubt—need a laptop, your textbooks, highlighters, pens, and pain killers. (For those late-night studying headaches.) Optional (but helpful) additional supplies include a laptop stand, a travel mug, flashcards, noise-cancelling headphones, and a reusable lunch box. These optional supplies are intended to make your life easier and help you save money during an otherwise very expensive time in your life.

Should I break up with my boyfriend/girlfriend before I start law school? What if I don’t have the time to dedicate to our relationship?

Are you asking me that question because you want an excuse to end your relationship, or because you’re worried law school will consume your every thought and your current partner will grow jaded and neglected? If you want to end your relationship, you don’t need my approval. If you’re worried law school will mutate you into another person with a different set of priorities and values, calm down; it's Torts, not toxic sludge. You make time for what is important, regardless of how much homework you have.

Are grades really that important? What if I don’t do well my 1L year?

As frustrating as it may be, grades are important, but who you know is even more so. Or, to put it another way: grades open the door, but connections get you invited into the room in the first place. If you’re an outsider to the legal world (I was in the same boat) you will just have to work a little harder at building a viable network. Yes, you should study as much as possible and get the best grades you can, but if you happen to meet a local Faegre Drinker partner at a Pilates class and strike up a genuine friendship, that’s even better. If you don’t do well your 1L year, figure out what went wrong and work on improving yourself in those areas during 2L—it’s no reason to drop out, just to take inventory on your skill sets study habits.

I hate law school, should I drop out?

Not to sound too much like a lawyer, but it depends. Do you hate the social environment, the subjects, the Socratic method, or just the building? If you hate everything you’re learning and can never see yourself being interested in any area, maybe. If you’re just struggling to keep your head above water, then probably not. Law school isn’t just hard because of the subject area, it’s hard because, for a lot of people, myself included, it’s the first time in life where you may feel average. Where you may be afraid you’re the dumbest person in the room and no one has the kindness to tell you. Choosing to drop out is only a decision you can make—but if you’re feeling alone or overwhelmed, take solace in the fact that it comes with the territory.

Have your own question about law school, being a lawyer, or taking the bar? Reach out to me at agsumner@alumni.iu.edu.