Part of being a first-generation student is not always realizing how things work, or where to go. First, let me stress that the people at your law school—faculty, staff, and administration—want to help you. Don’t be afraid to approach them with a question.
You can also sometimes learn a great deal by making yourself familiar with your law school’s website, and the various departments. Browsing the directory of faculty, staff, and administration can help put the right people on your radar. In this appendix, I use the commonly used name of the person or department, but it might vary from school to school. That’s yet another reason to check your school’s website.
In addition, you don’t always have to go to the “right” person first. Many students come to me first for various things and I point them in the right direction. This is encouraged, and not at all a bad thing.
As an attorney, one of the many valuable skills you will bring to your clients is the willingness and ability to ask the right questions on their behalf. Competency in this area takes bravery and humility, but it also takes practice. So throughout your law school journey remember to ask for the things that you need and that will make your experience better. In the spirit of RuPaul, “If you can’t advocate for yourself, how in the heck are you going to advocate for somebody else?”
What if I’m struggling academically?
If you are struggling academically, or even if you are feeling a bit behind, you want to seek out your professor. In addition, your school might have an academic success department—sometimes called academic support, academic excellence, or academic achievement. This is the department I’m in charge of and I can promise you that we do want to help. We can’t always fix everything, and we are not one-on-one tutors, but we can help you. We often have advice and resources we can provide, and many of us were first generation, so we won’t think any question is too silly!
What if life gets in the way?
Life often gets in the way: illness, family emergencies, life emergencies—we’ve seen it all. If something like this happens to you, do not hesitate to go to the dean of students. Depending on the emergency, they will be able to help you communicate with your professors, get extensions on exams or assignments, and generally help you navigate school-related things while you navigate life.
Where do I find help with my resume or how to prepare for an interview?
The Career Services Office (CSO)! These are magical people that will help you with all of your future career needs. They will help you do mock interviews, edit your resume, and tell you what to expect—they’ll even help you figure out what to wear. They also genuinely want you to succeed, so take their help!
What if I have questions about the bar exam application?
Again, this might be your Academic Success/Excellence/Support/Achievement department, if your school has one. If your school doesn’t have such a department, this will often fall onto your dean of students.
What if I run out of money?
Law school can be expensive. If you are finding yourself in dire financial straits, see the dean of students. While they aren’t able to just hand you more money, they may be able to assist you in finding more financial aid or loans or know of a part-time job such as a research assistant for a faculty member.
A list of people you might encounter:
Registrar: This is the person, or various people, that help with registration. They will be the ones that you go to if you need help figuring out graduation requirements, how many credits you currently have, or whether you can register for a particular class. If your school keeps waitlists for registration purposes, it will be done out of this office. Some schools may often refer to this office as “student records.”
The Library/Librarians: Honestly, they can help with so much. A law librarian can help you get registered for Lexis/Westlaw; check out hornbooks, outlines, and other study aids; get started with research for any papers you have to write; and understand Bluebook citation. They can also help direct you to other resources, and sometimes even have things like earplugs, codes to access CALI, and in some cities, things like passes to museums.
Career Services: The department that will help you with all of your career needs. See above, or the chapter on career development.
Director of Externships: If your school has this office, this is the person in charge of externships. An externship is where you work in a legal setting for credit.
Associate Dean of Academics: This is the dean that sets the schedule of classes, and is typically the go-to person if you have questions about graduation requirements or credits that the registrar cannot answer.
Associate Dean of Students/Student Affairs: This office will help you with so many things. They typically oversee the Student Bar Association (SBA) and other student organizations and student events. They are typically in charge of things like orientation and graduation.
They are also in charge of nonstandard testing accommodations and will be the people to help you if life gets in the way. In short, they are wonderful people and you should definitely form a relationship with your dean of students.
Academic Success: Another group of magical people, but I’m biased. If your school has this office, they can help you if you are falling behind or feeling overwhelmed. They will often host workshops on things like reading and briefing, outlining, or exam prep during your first year.
They will know all there is to know about the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). They can help you with your bar application, and will often host programs that teach you bar prep skills. They should be your go-to people on campus for almost everything!