University of Notre Dame Law School alumni offered a look at the life of a lawyer Wednesday in a panel discussion sponsored by the Marquette Pre-Law Society.
The audience of about 20 listened as Steve Boettinger, Ryan VanDenElzen, Amy Reichelt and Tim Gerend shared experiences and answered questions about their time in law school and careers in law. Heather Moriconi, assistant director of admissions for Notre Dame's law school, explained the admissions process and what prospective applicants can do to build strong credentials.
The panel stressed the importance of a well-rounded undergraduate experience in preparation for law school. Moriconi emphasized Notre Dame's interest in service and activity-minded applicants. She said work experience and community involvement can carry as much weight as LSAT scores and GPA.
It takes a different kind of student, Moriconi said, to pursue Notre Dame's goal of "educating a different kind of lawyer," referring to the special attention the program gives to ethical and moral issues. Boettinger, a 1999 law graduate, pointed to his own grades and test scores, which he described as somewhat underwhelming, as evidence that Notre Dame is interested in the whole picture.
The alumni highlighted the various roads to law school. VanDenElzen, a 2002 graduate who earned undergraduate degrees in zoology and political science, discussed the benefits of the structure of a hard science program with the writing emphasis of a liberal arts major.
Reichert, a political science major before completing her 2003 law degree, said a course in logic helped her adjust to the structured thought process of the legal world. Boettinger, with an undergraduate degree in engineering, said the law school's strong focus on writing was his greatest challenge.
When asked about the advantages of going straight from undergraduate work to law school versus taking time off, Reichelt related her own experience in taking a year off to do a "gut check" to make sure she still wanted to pursue a law degree.
"I wouldn't recommend going to law school if you're feeling ambivalent about it," Reichelt said.
Boettinger said his six years in the work force before entering law school gave him "great real world perspective."
While panelists agreed law school isn't a walk in the park, they shared sentiments of positive experiences at Notre Dame and beyond.
"What you learn in school in law school isn't what it's like to be a lawyer," Boettinger said. But "Notre Dame does a great job of preparing you."
VanDenElzen and Gerend, a 1996 law graduate, said Notre Dame allowed them to discover and pursue which branch of law best suited them. Gerend recalled the help of Notre Dame alumni in guiding his career, citing their presence in nearly every firm to which he applied.
"The degree from Notre Dame … can take you anywhere in the country," Boettinger said. "Every job's going to have its pros and cons, but I enjoy what I do."