“So You Want To Be A Lawyer” lecture highlights pre-law students at Lawrence

Lawrence University’s Career Center hosted its “So, You Want to Be a Lawyer?” lecture on Tuesday, Jan. 17 at 5 p.m. in the Kraemer Conference Room at Warch Campus Center. Local attorneys Ashley Lehocky from Town Counsel Law and Litigation and Joseph Schuessler from Pfefferle Management visited campus to discuss preparing for law school as an undergraduate, the reality of attending law school, the differences between various law practices and settings and the challenges and considerations of a career in law. 

Schuessler and Lehocky gave an overview of a typical first-year law student’s class schedule. Most first-year law students study almost the same curriculum: criminal law, civil procedure, contracts, constitutional law, property and torts. They learn mostly by reading appellate cases and law reviews, writing briefs and practicing the Socratic method. Through these courses, they build practical skills of trial advocacy, depositions and negotiation. 

Lehocky and Schuessler also highlighted the key differences between undergraduate coursework and law school. For example, while undergraduates earn their overall grades by submitting many assignments throughout the term, law classes place a heavy emphasis on final exam grades. 

Lehocky explained three effective argument structures for answering essay questions on law school exams: IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application and Conclusion), CRAC (Conclusion, Rule, Application and Conclusion) and CREAC (Conclusion, Rule, Explanation, Application and Conclusion). She shared that strong study skills in law school help lawyers stay organized once they are practicing. 

“I still prepare for cases the same way I prepare for exams,” she said. “When I’m reading through a case, the facts are [highlighted] in yellow, the procedural history is in green, any analysis by the court is in pink, the question is in blue and the conclusion is in purple.” 

Schuessler encouraged prospective law students to learn as much as they can about the daily lives of lawyers and have a clear vision of their career goals before committing to law school. 

“When I was an undergraduate, I think I had a cloudy understanding of what the day-to-day work of a lawyer is,” he said. “I love my job and I enjoy being a lawyer, but there’s a big transition between what you learn in school and how you apply it. With law, I think it’s very important to understand that it’s not really an academic subject: it’s a service.” 

Schuessler also listed five traits he finds essential in a good lawyer: problem solving, integrity, resilience, communication skills and compassion. While many people perceive lawyers as ruthless and argumentative, he emphasized that good lawyers are also deeply compassionate because they must advocate for their clients’ wellbeing and dedicate their careers to improving people’s lives. 

Delilah Rose, a third-year pre-law student, helped organize the event in partnership with Lawrence’s Pre-Law Advisor, Ty Collins. Rose is pursuing Lawrence’s 3-Plus-3 law program, which involves three years of undergraduate study at Lawrence followed by three years of graduate-level education at Marquette Law School. This accelerated program allows aspiring lawyers to earn their Juris Doctorate in six years, rather than the standard seven. 

Rose praised Lawrence’s extensive network of alumni in government, politics and international relations as a great resource for students interested in law. She also mentioned that Lawrence’s Career Center has strong connections with the Appleton community, making it easier to bring local experts like Lehocky and Schuessler to campus. 

She urged prospective law students to attend pre-law events frequently and start planning for graduate school as soon as possible. 

“Being a pre-law student is a significant commitment and requires self-determination, endurance and starting early,” said Rose. “Attendance is an easy first step to establishing an educational and professional career mesh.” 

 She also highlighted that Lawrence’s pre-law program allows greater freedom when choosing undergraduate coursework. 

“Other schools require pre-law as a major, requiring students to take an overwhelming amount of courses in government. Here, being on a pre-law track is a great opportunity, creating an educational environment of self-directed and independent thinking in your undergrad,” said Rose. 

Iyanu Osmuno, a senior majoring in government, shared that she enjoyed the lecture and would love to see similar pre-law events in the future. For her, the most interesting aspect of the lecture was learning about the lawyers’ unique paths to law school. 

“I was also interested in their career trajectory after attending law school and the sort of material covered within law school classrooms. I learned more about the array of potential areas I might specialize in as a lawyer,” she said. 

When asked what she hopes to see next from Lawrence’s pre-law program, Osmuno stated that she would love to hear more from lawyers in various fields of law because the day-to-day work of lawyers varies depending on their specialty. 

“I would like to see more pre-law networking events, because beginning a legal career can be difficult for many students. It would be great to hear from lawyers working in a range of specialties and to hear from experts on the law school admissions process,” she said.