Law School was a foreign concept to me. I knew I always wanted to go, but it is much different in saying you want to do something then actually doing it. Once you sit in that classroom, this is it, you are a law student. Mic…drop. It is hard to believe that I, the same woman that sat in that law school classroom as a 1L am now entering my last semester. When I look back on my law school career there are two things that as a 3L, I wish I knew when I was a 1L.
First, do not fear the cold call. The elusive cold call – if you have seen Legally Blonde you may recall Elle Woods’ first day of school when her Professor tosses her out of class for not being prepared – in the real world it is not that dramatic. You may be marked absent if you are unprepared and you will undoubtably be embarrassed, but you will survive. Cold Calling is there for a reason. It’s to make sure you are paying attention to what the professor is teaching. More importantly it functions to help you think like an attorney. Depending on your career you may be forced to think on your feet and quickly respond, cold calling helps you prepare for this in the future. Be nervous but do not fear, law school is the time to make mistakes, to ensure you learn from them and can apply your knowledge in your future legal career.
Second, apply to intern/externships early on. The transition from undergrad to law school or from career woman to student can be difficult. Maybe you did not get the best grades your first year and frankly you are questioning whether anyone would ever hire you. Personally, I did pretty fair my first year and even better my second. But there was always that voice in the back of my mind that had me question my worth in applying for internships and later jobs. Do not listen to this voice! You made it this far in law school, you have some skillset that can be applied in multiple areas of law, to law firms, or to judicial clerkships.
As someone who received their first legal experience the Fall of their third year (granted COVID did play a role here) I regret not looking for opportunities during the summer of my 1L year. While I had been able to flourish fine in my perspective legal opportunities, I wish I had more experience and received it sooner. In every legal position I have had since there has always been some type of training, so you are never going into anything blindly. You also must recognize that you have one year of law school under your belt, and you are working with attorneys who may have decades of experience, you will not know everything, and you do not need to know everything! So, I highly recommend to apply to intern/externships early on.
Law School has been a wild ride, it has had its ups and downs but it is definitely worth it!
The spring before I started at Widener, I received an email that my law school application had been updated. When I checked the update, the only thing I saw next to my name was “TAP packet mailed.” I had no idea what this meant, or for that matter, whether I had been accepted. To make my anxiety worse, it was a Saturday morning so there was no one to even call to clarify. It puzzled me so much that I frantically began a google search on law school “TAP packets.” Nothing came up. I searched for hours until I suddenly stumbled across a news article of a woman from New Jersey who was accepted through her law school’s TAP program and recently had passed the bar exam. I thought to myself, “there’s no way!” I headed over to Widener’s website, searched TAP, and sure enough it was a thing! A few days later I received my packet and was offered an invitation to participate in Widener’s TAP program. TAP stands for Trial Admissions Program and it is how I got accepted into Widener Law Commonwealth.
TAP here at Widener is a six-week summer program where three nights a week you take three real first-year courses to gauge whether you will succeed in law school. It was a bit competitive and rigorous, but all-in- all it better prepared me for what to actually expect if I were to be accepted. You can take all the pre-law courses offered in undergrad, attend webinars, google “what is law school like,” and search many random Instagram pages attractive to future law students. But nothing—nothing prepares you more for law school than TAP.
Throughout my first year at Widener, I constantly looked back on my experience at TAP as a reminder that I could get through the semesters. TAP has taught me so much from how to read cases properly to how to write out timed final exam essays. The cold calling in TAP prepared me for the actual cold calling in law school (although as a 2L I still dread the sound of my name being called). The TAP professors prepared me for what my professors would actually be like in law school, and for that I am forever grateful. It is no secret that law school is intimidating and challenging but it is also really rewarding. My time here at Widener would not be possible had I not been given the opportunity to participate in TAP. So, if you’re like me stumbling for answers on what a “TAP packet” is, this blog post is for you. If you’re not like me and are just curious about what the law school experience is like for a TAP-ee, this post is also for you!
I used to be scared to tell my colleagues that I came through TAP. I didn’t want the judgement and at the time I didn’t want anyone to know I had to go through extra hoops just to sit with them. But in reality, TAP isn’t a bad thing. In fact, TAP gave me a strong head start and helped me become the successful second-year law student and student leader that I am today.
For most of you, relocating to a new state for school is not out of the ordinary. However, for a girl born and raised in the Garden State (New Jersey) the move to Pennsylvania was rather new. I grew up on the beautiful Jersey Shore which is about 3 hours from Harrisburg. Moving out of New Jersey was never a thought until law school. Harrisburg, the capitol of Pennsylvania, was going to be my home for the next three years while I attended Widener University Commonwealth Law School. My plan all along is to move back to New Jersey to practice law after graduating. I knew nothing about Harrisburg prior to being accepted to Widener. As any responsible, prospective law student would do, I researched the area in order to get an idea of where I’d be living for the duration of school. I was pleased to find out that Harrisburg was a city that had a lot to offer.
My research of Harrisburg uncovered some must see sights for new residents or tourists passing through. The Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex is immaculate. The sheer architecture of the buildings will undoubtably blow you away. The city of Harrisburg has many state and local parks that can be used for leisure activities or recreational activities. City Island, a mile-long island located within the Susquehanna River, has a lot to offer for all ages. My favorite activity on City Island is Water Golf, a miniature golf course. The Susquehanna River is a refreshing sight for those of us who are not used to being land locked. Harrisburg is located approximately 30 minutes from Hershey Park, a chocolate-themed amusement park, which is ideal for all the chocolate lovers out there.
After doing research on the area itself, my attention shifted toward housing. Although Widener does not provide on-campus housing for its law school students, Widener provides its students with a multitude of guides to ensure each student has all the information needed to find housing. Among the many guides Widener provides its students is the suggested housing guide. This guide was extremely helpful when researching apartment complexes. All the apartment complexes listed on the suggested housing guide were within a 20 minute drive from campus. It is extremely important that you take the time to visit each apartment complex in person. I visited about 5-7 apartment/townhome complexes before settling on an apartment. I ultimately signed a lease for an apartment complex not listed on the suggested housing guide. Thankfully, Widener is no more than a 5 minute drive from my apartment. Widener also provides a dining guide which is a list of on-campus dining and off-campus dining. The only on-campus dining option is a Grab ‘n Go area which provides a selection of pre-made food. The only off-campus dining option worth mentioning is a Starbucks located approximately 2 miles from campus. A potential roommate list is also provided by Widener which details each student’s preferences. To be placed on the roommate list you must submit a housing list submission form. All the above mentioned guides can be found on Widener’s website. Widener is without a doubt dedicated to making the transition to Harrisburg living hassle free. For me personally the move to Harrisburg was smooth and extremely comfortable.
Please note that during this pandemic searching for apartments, visiting Widener, and the normal Harrisburg activities may be subject to change.