Law School Lessons Learned at the Airport

I just got back from a girls’ weekend (yup, even the folks at the Law School Toolbox need a break from the grind).  I flew down to Palm Springs from San Francisco. This was my experience at the airport.

I was flying on a major airline carrier. I got dropped off at Terminal 3 (where the carrier flies from). Then I got my boarding pass, which showed Terminal 1. Okay, so I got on the train to Terminal 1. I was flying from Gate 37. But Terminal 1 gate signs only went up to 36. So you can imagine my confusion. At this point (I didn’t want to miss my flight) I started to ask for help. I first went up to a woman at the ticket counter and asked her for help. She told me to go to Terminal 2. I started walking in that direction and decided that her advice just didn’t feel right. So I turned around and found someone else. The next person I asked told me to go through security,  which only went to gate 36. That still didn’t feel right. So I asked someone else—who confirmed for me that I was in the right place (even though there were no signs for Gate 37 anywhere). I kept asking and finally found Gate 37 (which was in fact on a lower level but not listed). At last I settled down to relax, when a gate change was announced! Luckily, that gate was much easier to find than Gate 37. So after having walked what seemed like miles around SFO followed by a short delay due to mechanical difficulties (yes, it was one of those travel days)—I finally made my way to Palm Springs.

Now what is the point of sharing this story with you? Not to make you jealous of my weekend away or to get sympathy for my somewhat frustrating morning at the airport. But I thought that my experience at the airport might be similar to what a lot of law students go through, especially in their first or second years.

You aren’t sure where to go for help.

Many law students come into my office and tell me that one of the frustrating things about law school is that they don’t know where to go for help.  Some start by going to their friends or by joining a study group of fellow law students (but they may give bad advice or be just as confused as you are). Student mentors can be helpful, but again they are just law students giving advice to other law students. You may need to take their advice with a grain of salt.

Also, there are professors who can be very helpful (we recommend you go to office hours). But sometimes students hesitate because they don’t want to feel stupid in front of their professors (which really shouldn’t be a concern, but it is for many nonetheless).

Where else can you go for help? Well, obviously we think resources like the Law School Toolbox Course can be helpful. And some students find that hiring a private law school tutor can make all the difference. You can ask the questions you don’t want to ask your professors. A tutor can help discuss the various aspects of the law school experience (from preparing for class and setting your schedule to writing an amazing exam answer). Moreover, it can be really comforting to have a consistent resource to ask questions whenever you are feeling confused and/or frustrated.

When I was wandering around the airport, I literally didn’t know who was the right person to ask. And it was very frustrating. I don’t want you, as a student, to feel that way when navigating law school.

You feel you are getting conflicting advice.

Sometimes when you ask for help, you get conflicting advice (as in one person telling me to go back to a different terminal and another person telling me to go through security at that terminal).  Whom do you listen to?

Well, first you should go with your gut and listen to the advice that makes sense to you. It didn’t feel right that I needed to leave one terminal and go to another. So even though the woman giving me that advice worked at a ticket counter (and did a lot of clicking on the computer to answer my question), I decided I should ask someone else.  And good thing too, because she had given me the wrong advice.

As a law student, you are going to get tons of advice in the process, from friends, family, other law students, and even faculty. You need to critically evaluate that advice. What resonates and works for you? Alison and I believe we give great advice on this blog and as part of our course—but, sometimes, we don’t agree—or we provide different perspectives. And sometimes it isn’t that the advice is bad—it just isn’t right for you.

You must try to be patient (while keeping in mind deadlines and goals).

As I was running around SFO, I was a little worried that I might miss my flight (which would have been disappointing).  So although I was trying to be patient and not freak out over the fact that the signage was so terrible and my gate was not even listed anywhere, I kept in mind that I did have to keep moving to figure out a solution, because I needed to get to the gate on time!

When you are confused or feeling lost as a law student, you don’t want to wait too long to try to get help and direction. Although you may be in only the third or fourth week of classes, if you are lost, ask for help. And start trying new things. You don’t want to wait until the end of the semester to begin asking for help. Trust us, it can be too late. Ask for help now! I can’t tell you how thankful students are that they asked for help early in the semester.

So don’t lose sight of the end goal—doing well on your final exams and getting the most out of your semester. Asking for help is key to law school success. And remember, you can learn valuable law school lessons from just thinking about how you would handle situations in “real life,” even, say, getting lost at the airport.

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Image by fcl1971 via stock.xchng.


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About Lee Burgess

Lee Burgess, Esq. is the co-founder of the Law School Toolbox, a resource for law students that demystifies the law school experience, the Bar Exam Toolbox, a resource for students getting ready for the bar exam and Trebuchet, a legal career resource. Lee is also the founder of Amicus Tutoring, LLC, a company she started to help students find success in law school and on the California bar exam. Lee has been adjunct faculty at two bay area law schools teaching classes on law school and bar exam preparation. You can find Lee on Twitter at @amicustutoring, @lawschooltools, @barexamtools & @trebuchetlegal.


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