Hunter Rodgers (J.D. '18) approached the College of Law about sharing some words of advice for incoming law students. Below is his letter with tidbits about navigating classes and taking advantage of all of the exciting opportunities offered at Georgia State.
To the Incoming College of Law Class,
Law school can be a rough start for a lot of people. Imposter syndrome eats away at so many of us, myself included, and it’s unlike any other type of academic setting. When I entered the law school for my first semester back in fall 2015 (wait, it’s been that long already?), I floundered. Although I eventually found my footing, it took a lot longer than I wanted. But looking back on the experience, I’ve come to realize a couple things that I really wish someone would’ve told me when first starting law school. So, I offer them now, to you, in hopes that you will find some guidance, or appreciate the advice, or at the very least, realize you’re not alone in feeling overwhelmed by it all.
First, there’s the obvious stuff. Read everything, all the cases—and the notes, too—and make sure you’re ready to pay attention in class. I didn’t at first, and it put me behind the eight-ball. If you don’t understand something, ask. It’s better to look silly now than have it confirmed in a final grade. There’s no such thing as a dumb question if it comes from someone actively trying to understand. I should know; I asked my Contracts GRA what “K” meant...in November.
Second, the first-year courses are the roughest, mostly because you’re undergoing the training to think like a lawyer. The classes aren’t designed to teach you the area in-depth; they’re designed to teach you the law. In Torts, you learn about how common law causes of action develop. (Same with Criminal Law in the second semester, but instead of private causes of action, it’s public.) Contracts teaches you about how common law concepts develop into and interact with codes.
With Civil Procedure, you learn about how the U.S. Supreme Court develops common-law rules based on the Constitution. That, or how to read dry, boring opinions that make you want to eat the textbook. Finally, you get to Property in the second semester to discover that wait, no, there are definitive answers to situations. Not everything is “it depends.” Legal Writing and Research Methods are the most pragmatic, simply because there’s no way to be a lawyer without having to read, research and write.
Last, law school is a lot like the law itself (shocker!). The law is infinite in its various pursuits, and it touches on almost every aspect of our lives. Similarly, the law school experience can offer infinite possibilities. Georgia State has an insane amount of student organizations, a stellar law review, a sterling Moot Court, and a rock star Mock Trial program. If you have an area of law that you’re interested in, chances are there’s a student organization for it, and student orgs help you get involved and start building connections. More importantly, it helps you learn what you like or don’t like before you enter the field.
At the end of the day, law school is not for the faint of heart. But, if you like to be challenged, if you enjoy being surrounded by some of the smartest people in Georgia, or if you just love the endless rabbit holes in the law you get to explore, then you made the best choice you could. Welcome to Georgia State. Enjoy the ride.
Hunter J. Rodgers
J.D., Class of 2018
P.S. Never forget to pay it forward—as a 2L, a 3L and an alumnus.