"Law school is a beast unlike any other—and we all have the potential to tame it."
A full classroom with a student's hand raised in the foreground.
Second-year Rutgers Law student Ryan Slocum shares what he wishes he knew before law school.

1.  You do not have to know what field of law you want a career in.

Currently, I am halfway done law school and still have not settled on a field of law that I absolutely committed to. Before law school, I would be asked all the time what I want to do and didn't have an answer. My answer has improved, though, as I've gone through law school and tried different areas of the law. My current answer to what I want to do is, “Government or public interest work, but not in criminal or family law.” Some students are very passionate about a certain field and they are able to focus on mastering that field through the variety of courses offered and the extracurricular opportunities offered at Rutgers Law. For students like me, Rutgers Law extracurricular programs offer us the opportunity to explore all of the fields of law to test them. I have learned outside of the classroom how to prepare taxes, how to file bankruptcy, how to prepare a will, and how to conduct mediation.

2. MYTH: Law school professors are trying to get rid of the weaker students in the first year and do not care if you fail.

Rutgers Law School faculty care more about our success as students and professionals more than any professor I ever had in undergrad. Not only is every professor an expert in the field of law they are teaching, but they all experienced what we are going through now. They all have the objective of treating us with the respect and understanding that they wanted as law students. I have spent time with more than half of my professors outside of the classroom and talked about topics unrelated to law school. I have been invited and gone to three of my professors’ homes with other students for lunch. Most importantly, I have been given advice both professional and personal on how to succeed in law school and afterward.

3. Taking detailed notes during class is the key to success.

Stay focused in class, consider almost everything the professor says as important, and learn how to write organized notes. Throughout my undergraduate education, my note-taking during class was not great. I have a doodling problem and I often considered things the professor said unimportant. I learned quickly after the first semester of law school that those habits were a problem. My friends that get the best grades have the best notes. They write or type almost everything down during class and keep their notes organized by using highlighters and charts. When it comes time to study for the one final that determines your grade, you want to have the best notes in class.

4. MYTH: You will have no social life while you are in law school because you will be too busy.

I have made more friends right away at Rutgers Law than in high school. Of course, you will be busier than you ever had before in law school, but it never gets to the point where you are not spending time with friends unless you make it that way. The student organizations at Rutgers Law provide many social events at the school and in Philadelphia. The Victor, a nearby pub in Camden, provides a quick hangout spot for classmates to go to at the end of the day, or, more importantly, after finals. On weekends, my friends and I will often make plans to spend time either in Philadelphia or somewhere nearby.

5. Law School is not a competition.

Especially at Rutgers Law where there is no class rank system. Most students encourage the culture of not talking about each other's grades. Sure, during law school grades matter because it is what employers will look at in deciding who gets summer internship positions, but a year or two after graduation, everyone has the same Juris Doctorate from Rutgers Law. Getting a lower grade than you wanted is not an indication of how good you are as an attorney. While you should care about your grades because you still have to graduate and get the best job you can get, we can’t all be straight-A students in law school. Law school is a beast unlike any other—andwe all have the potential to tame it. Do not compare yourself to others after the first semester grades come out, it is not worth it.

Back to The Brief

Ryan Slocum RLAW'20

Ryan Slocum is a second-year law student at Rutgers Law. He served as Vice President of the National Lawyers guild chapter in Camden and has interned with South Jersey Legal Services and the New Jersey Attorney General's Office. He earned a Bachelor's degree in English from Rutgers University—Camden and is originally from Mount Holly New Jersey.