Pre-Law Workshop at UNM School of Law

April 10, 2003

"Making The Transition to Law School."

On April 10, 2003, a group of UNM pre-law students gathered at UNM School of Law to hear a panel presentation by three first year UNM law students. UNM School of Law Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, Susan Mitchell, had generously arranged a room for our pre-law workshop.

Michelle Haubert-Barela, a former political science major/philosophy minor at UNM, explained that the most surprising thing about the first year of law school was the huge amount of work. According to Michelle, it is impossible to anticipate just how much reading is going to be expected in law school. She stressed the importance of learning to study in groups, noting that undergraduate education is often centered on individual learning/performance. In law school, however, study groups are crucial to the very experience of learning, Michelle advised.

She also noted that she had improved her reading speed to ten pages per hour. Reading must be focused, analytical, and attuned to detail as well as logic, Michelle noted. She stressed the importance of "not falling behind" and of "making the effort to know the material" prior to class. "Fear is a big motivator," she added.

Former ASM undergraduate Julie Gallardo agreed with Michelle's comments. Julie shared with us her doubts about having made a complete and full transition to law school. "I'm not sure I've adjusted to everything," she told us. For Julie, the following aspects of law school education stand out: law school classes require patience; law students have to "figure out what works because no one will tell you"; and law school is like "remembering your hardest class as an undergraduate and having all your classes turn out like that." As Michelle, Julie emphasized that study groups make law school easier.

Cara Mikelson, who attended the College of Santa Fe as an undergraduate, suggested that, while law school is more difficult than undergraduate education, it is "much more fulfilling." In law school, Cara suggested, you learn "how to think and how to structure your thoughts." She confirmed Michelle's observation that the workload is enormous, compared with the requirments of undergraduate education.

The pre-law students in attendance asked numerous questions of the panelists. During the question and answer session, the panelists shared their experiences on LSAT preparation (all had studied old LSAT exams on their own and had started doing so months prior to the LSAT); undergraduate classes (classes that require writing can be helpful); the use of laptops in law school (some use them, so do not at UNM); study schedules (each student had a different schedule); etc.

Thanks to Michelle, Julie, and Cara for giving freely of their time, their energy, and their thoughts. With no personal gains to be had, they took time from their busy schedules to help others understand more fully the nature of the legal educational process. They shared important insights and experiences, and they embodied professionalism, hospitality, and service to the UNM pre-law community. What better models could UNM's pre-law students have?