The Law School Experience: Jordyn McTavish (FSU BA 2022)

Wed, 07/26/23
The Law School Experience: Jordyn McTavish (FSU BA 2022)

Jordyn McTavish graduated with a BA in History from FSU in Spring 2022. She just completed her first year at FSU’s College of Law.

Why do you want to go to law school?

I could not figure out what and where I wanted to study when I was in high school. I tried several extracurriculars including sports, but none really piqued my interest. I asked myself: What do I actually like doing? And the answer was: Going to school. So, I decided to become a teacher. By the end of high school though, teaching did not look so interesting anymore. The other subject I had thought about was law. I did not want to do criminal law, but I discovered that there was a whole lot more law out there.

As a senior in high school, I investigated what life as an attorney would be like. I discovered that they do a lot of research and writing and learn new things all the time. That is what I had pictured my life to be like – and now I had found a career that would let me do it!

When I set out to apply for undergrad, I limited myself to state schools which also had law schools. I also looked for schools that had good out-of-state scholarships, as I am originally from Wisconsin, and I wanted to study somewhere in the south. FSU fit the bill on both accounts.

How did you prepare for law school during undergrad?

I chose History for my major in undergrad, mainly because I had a passion for the subject. I had wonderful teachers all through grade school, which made it my favorite subject. Additionally, History majors write a lot, they do a lot of research and analysis and also fact-based reasoning. Those are all the skills you need for law school. I left high school not quite sure if my writing was at the college level; the History major allowed me to hone my writing abilities.

My minor is in Film Studies. I loved the topic, and you also write a lot in those classes.

Throughout my undergrad, I focused on my studies first, but I also held down a job, sometimes even two. I needed the money to pay the bills, but a lot of law schools also like to see applicants having work experience, having dealt with professional environments, before they start legal internships.

I started studying for the LSAT in my junior year. I set aside Saturdays and Sundays and any day of the week when I did not have classes to study in my LSAT prep book. Once I had finished the practice book, I started taking practice tests – all the time. I took the LSAT in June 2021 to have my score for when applications opened that fall.

I joined the Honors College Legal Scholars Program in my senior year. They organized a series of events where law students offered talks on how to prepare for law school, what it is like being a law student, and how to go about applying for jobs.

Why did you choose FSU’s law school?

It was a combination of different things: location, atmosphere, and funding. For one, location. Tallahassee is a town where different types of law are practiced, and it is relatively easy to get an internship with a legal firm for the summer. Secondly, the law school has a very good reputation, both for being collegial and for the quality of the instruction. Lastly, being a member of the Honors College Legal Scholars Program guaranteed me admission as long as my LSAT score was above a certain threshold. I also got a full ride for law school. I still have to take out loans for living expenses though.

How different is law school from undergrad?

I did not know that it was possible to be this busy! You have to be very structured and organized in law school. I thought I was already good at time management in undergrad dealing with a job and school, but law school takes things to a whole new level.

I am in class with the same people throughout my first year. The first-year students are divided into three groups, and each group goes through the year together. We take the same core classes. In the second and third year, we get to choose electives and make our own schedule.

Most of the professors lecture with very little visual support. You need to listen and take notes as they move through the material. There is only a final exam for each class at the end of the semester. For those exams, you need to have grasped how to apply the law you were taught. It is not enough to just memorize specific details.

Law school classes require you to do a lot of preparation, reading and taking notes. For many classes, you have to do the reading before that class starts, as professors cold-call and some have participation grades.

What does a typical day of a law-school student look like?

Get up – go to the gym – breakfast & wake up with some TV – go to class – have lunch – more class – study in the library – go home & have dinner – write out my notes for the next day – go to bed.

What part of law school are you enjoying the most and why?

I love all of it! I am really enjoying how interesting so many different areas of the law are. Every class I have had so far has surprised me by the variety of cases we have reviewed. I did not know any attorneys before starting law school, and so did not know how many areas of the law there are to be studied.

I am also in awe of the professors. Many are cited in the textbooks that we use, but they are always available to talk with students. They are super approachable and supportive. They want us to be the best we can be.

Which area of law school presented more of a challenge, and how did you deal with that?

The writing is very different from anything I had done before. In History, there is more elasticity to organizing your paper, you have more creative freedom in putting your essay together. You are arguing from an objective standpoint, laying out facts to support your case. But you are not asked to make judgement calls on whether a person is good or bad.

Writing for law classes happens in a certain fixed format which is what you will use throughout your legal career. There are no exceptions to the ordering of information. You will also be asked to write in a more argumentative fashion. You might get assigned a side in a legal dispute and have to argue for it – whether the facts support the opposite side more or you disagree with that position.

Have your future career plans changed since coming to law school?

Going into law school, I had plans to study sports and entertainment law, that is a growing area of the law. But to practice it you will need to live in either New York or Los Angeles – and I wanted to stay in Florida. So, now I am looking to find a new area to specialize in, but so far, all the classes that I have taken have been super interesting. I am hoping that my summer internship will allow me to see law in action and draw me more into certain directions.

What advice would you give to other students wanting to go to law school?

Take a lot of history classes! Focus on classes that require you to write a lot of papers and do a lot of analysis, especially fact-based analysis.

Start studying early for the LSAT, so you can practice for the exam without panicking.

Get a job or an internship. Learn to work in a team and to work for someone. Learn to be a professional.

Be aware of how different law school is from undergrad. All your peers are super smart. They all had As in undergrad. In law school, all the exams are curved, so even if you are doing really well, that ‘really well’ might only get you a B as someone else did just a bit better.

Lastly, make an effort to get to know all your peers. Be sociable, be friendly, be helpful. These are the people you’ll be working with throughout your life.

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time?

I was a big procrastinator. I did not fix that until my junior year. If I could say anything to my past self, it would be, “This needs to change!” at a much earlier time. What helped me break that habit was my senior seminar course in History. That was a big paper to work on, and I realized I could only do it if I divided it into small parts and did a bit every week. In law school it is easy to procrastinate because there is only one exam at the end of the semester. That is also why you can’t leave everything to the last moment.

Are there any other topics you’d like to share with me?

Law is a good option for History students. And History is a good option for students wanting to do law. History prepared me very well for law school.