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Pre-Law Society

Whit Waide

Faculty Advisor

Mr. Whit Waide

Assistant Clinical Professor
Office: 199 Bowen Hall
Phone: 662-325-7860
Email: wwaide@pspa.msstate.edu

Overview

Established in 1977, the Mississippi State University Pre Law Society (PLS) is one of the oldest pre-law societies in the country. Membership in PLS is a must for anyone who is interested in law school. Because MSU does not have a law school, PLS serves as ground zero for information about law school, lawyers, and the legal system, and provides assistance in the law school application process. It is one of the few pre-law societies lead by a practicing attorney.

PLS Faculty Advisor Whit Waide teaches law and government classes in the political science department. He is a graduate of Ole Miss Law School and also studied international law at Cambridge University in England. He is an active member of the Mississippi Bar.

Prof. Waide has been through the law school application process and provides useful guidance with regard to law school as well as the practice of law. If you are curious about law school, email Prof. Waide for an advisory appointment. His email address is wwaide@ps.msstate.edu.

To learn more about the Mississippi State University Pre-Law Society, visit their web site by clicking here.

Advice For The Undergraduate Preparing For Law School

Make sure you want to go to law school.

For decades, law school has been something of a default graduate school for a number of undergraduates who are uncertain what to do with their post-college lives. In the past, this was perhaps a legitimate reason to attend law school. And it may still be a legitimate reason, depending on the student. This concept of "defaulting" into law school is especially a dangerous one now, given the abundance of lawyers in the country and the decline of our nation's economy for the foreseeable future.

That there is an abundance of lawyers is not to say there are too many. There is always a demand for good lawyers. But it is tough to be a really good lawyer if you do not enjoying being a lawyer in the first place.

The reality of law school is that it is a grueling process that will consume three years of your life. Grades are extremely important in law school and class ranking often dictates where one will find work after law school. One undertakes quite a gamble to take on law school with only a vague notion of what lawyers really do and/or a general sense that law school will somehow be beneficial even if you don't wish to be a lawyer.

Law school trains one how to do a number of beneficial things, regardless of whether one practices law. Most of those "things" involve thinking critically about things, honing research skills, and being able to construct clear, logical arguments and convey one's point clearly, whether verbally or on paper.

Though these skills are useful in all walks of life, one need not necessarily attend law school to develop them. One of the reasons there are so many miserable lawyers is that so many people go to law school by default and without really making an effort to understand lawyering and then searching their own souls to decide if that is what they want to do in life.

Find out what lawyers really do.

Law school is different than most professional schools in that significant portions of people who decide to attend do not have a realistic grasp of what it is lawyers really do every day. There is no way to develop an adequate sense of lawyering from television or from John Grisham novels, entertaining though they may be.

To get a more accurate picture of what lawyers do, ask lots of questions of lawyers themselves. If you do not know any lawyers, go to the phone book and simply call a few up. Lawyers love to talk—especially about lawyering. Lawyers are trained to give advice and most lawyers give it abundantly.

You should also attend court. There are ample opportunities to see lawyers and judges in action on both the state and federal levels. To know when state court is being held, you should call the Chancery and Circuit Clerks of your home county. Chancery and Circuit Court are two very different entities and viewing both in action will give you an expansive exposure to the reality of state practice in Mississippi. To attend federal court, you should call the court clerk's offices in the federal district court you wish to attend. A Google search for "United States District Court Clerk—Mississippi" should provide you with the phone numbers for all the federal court clerk's offices in Mississippi.

You should also read case law. As a law student, all you will do for three years is read cases in the various legal subject areas. As a lawyer, rarely a day will pass where you do not read some case for the answer to some legal question. Begin to review cases in your spare time as an undergraduate. If you find this reading absolute drudgery and boredom, law school and the practice of law may not be the bright shining career panacea for which you have hoped.

Granted, many of the terms and doctrines of the law will be completely foreign to you as an undergraduate, but reading cases should give you some sense of whether this type of learning—which will be constant throughout your career as a lawyer—is the thing for you. The MSU Library has a number of law books at your disposal and thousands of cases can be read online. Endeavor to read different types of cases. Here are some websites where you can find case law:

Perhaps the best insight into the practice of law is working in a law firm. There are nearly 8,000 lawyers in Mississippi alone and if one is diligent in the job search, a summer job in a law firm should be easy to find.

Major in a field you truly enjoy

There is no particular major that is more beneficial than any other in law school. In your first year of law school, you will see dozens of different majors represented. Majoring in a field you truly enjoy will help you maintain a high GPA because if you like what you are studying, you are more likely to do well in it. You will need to keep your GPA at least above a 3.25 (but closer to 3.5) to have a realistic chance of being accepted to law school. If you fall below a 3.0, you will need to score even higher on the LSAT in order to mitigate your lack of GPA.

As a Freshman, Sophomore, or Junior your focus should be on getting good grades.

To have a realistic chance at admission to law school, you will need above a 3.2 at a minimum, and preferably have a 3.5 or better. There is little else you can do to prepare yourself for law school other than:

Take Introduction to Logic (PHI 1113)

The MSU Philosophy Department offers perhaps the most useful undergraduate course for one considering law school. Irving Copi and Carl Cohen, famous scholars of Logic, define Logic as follows:

"Logic is the study of the methods and principals used to distinguish good from bad reasoning. ... The logician asks: Does the problem get solved? Does the conclusion reached follow from the premises used or assumed?" (Introduction to Logic, 8th Edition. McMillian Publishing, Inc., 1990).

Logic trains one's mind to predict the most probable outcome of a situation based on the information available to him or her. This is the very foundation of the skill of the lawyer. The American legal system operates under the concept of precedent. That is, prior cases already decided may be used to predict the outcome of an unresolved case that the lawyer's client currently faces. The ability to analyze a set of facts and apply past cases to that set of facts is precisely how the lawyer advises a client how best to proceed.

In law school, you will be faced with thinking unlike any you have probably ever done. The best exam answers are the ones that are clearly and most correctly reasoned. Thus, those trained in math and science tend to do well on the LSAT and in law school itself because their minds are wired for deductive reasoning inherent in scientific inquiry.

This is not to say that people more skilled in English and liberal arts areas will not excel in law school or as lawyers. But some exposure to the study of Logic is as beneficial to law school as learning to write well. In law school one will be required to deductively analyze problems and be able to clearly communicate their solutions in writing. It will pay enormous dividends in law school to have had a very well-rounded general education as an undergraduate.

Thus, if you are more inclined toward the arts and humanities, perhaps challenging yourself in a science or math unrelated to your major is a way to think about scheduling your classes. And, if you are more inclined toward science and math, perhaps challenging yourself in the arts and humanities is a way to think about scheduling your classes.

Take Rhetorical Theory (CO 4243)

Taught in the Communication Department, Rhetorical Theory will teach you the foundations of debate and well-structured argument. It will teach you how to organize your thoughts so they are most effective and how to communicate those thoughts with maximum efficiency and impact.

Take the LSAT the summer after your junior year or the fall of your senior year.

The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is the main barrier that stands between you and law school. It is a difficult test for anyone, and if one does not prepare adequately beforehand one is nearly guaranteed to not achieve a sufficient score. For information on the LSAT and to register for it, go to www.lsac.org.

Taking the LSAT the summer after your junior year does two things. First, it allows you to set that as a landmark in your head and allows you to begin to formulate an adequate timetable before taking the exam under which to prepare. Second, it opens your senior year to retake the exam should you not make an adequate score during your junior year. Should you score higher, it should still allow time for you to enroll in law school in the fall after your graduation.

However, that advice is based solely on one's desire to begin law school immediately following college graduation. You should consider taking a year or two to work in between college and law school. Taking this time will allow you to mature significantly and perhaps approach law school more seriously and prudently. It will also provide you the opportunity to acclimate yourself to working a full-time job. The value of such acclimation cannot be overstated. The people who are most successful in law school are invariably the people who treat it like an 8-5 job instead of a continuation of college.

To begin preparation for the LSAT, you should first take a timed practice exam. You can find one at www.lsac.org. Then calculate your score. This will be the foundation from which you can prepare to take the real thing. If your score is below 150, do not dismay. With discipline and practice, you can raise that score. If the score is above 150, don't rest easy. You still need to practice and become more and more familiar with the test. You could very easily take it again and score a 145.

To give you some context with regard to LSAT scores, consider the following:

Regional Median LSAT scores as of 2009:

Ole Miss156
Mississippi College150
Alabama163
Arkansas (Fayetteville)155
Arkansas (Little Rock152
Florida160
Florida State159
Georgia163
LSU156
Loyola New Orleans153
Memphis155
Cumberland at Samford (Birmingham)155
Southern University (Baton Rouge145
Tennessee159
Tulane162

(Source: ABA & LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools, 2010 Edition)

Should you score below 150 it will make it difficult, though not impossible, for you to be accepted to law school, absent a great mitigating circumstance.

Success on the LSAT is no different than playing piano or football. Practice makes perfect. If you score low on the first practice test you take (and most people do) you should set a schedule of practice and stick to it. Understand that only by studying over time and not cramming things in at the last minute can one properly learn the skills needed on the LSAT. The same is true for learning law. There is a premium on learning as you go along and allowing that learning to soak in your head in both LSAT preparation and in law school. To do otherwise will guarantee failure and insanity.

Thus, you should plan to take your first practice test at least two or three months before you take the actual LSAT. This will allow you time to practice—set a schedule and adhere to it. For instance, plan to take a practice test every Saturday in the weeks before the test. Score yourself. Figure out which sections you are weakest in and practice a few of those problems every single night in between your Saturday practice tests. You may purchase old LSAT tests for practice at www.lsac.org. There are also test prep courses available that you can learn about at Pre Law Society meetings.

To join PLS, email PLS President Taylor Luczak at msuprelawsociety@gmail.com

What PLS Does

Regular Meetings

PLS is an opportunity for anyone interested in law school to meet with others who share the same interest. PLS meetings regularly include visits by lawyers and judges, as well as LSAT prep information. Meetings are held in 150 Bowen Hall every other week.

The Bulldog Lawyer

Every month, PLS produces and distributes a newsletter called "The Bulldog Lawyer" to over 1,000 Bulldog lawyer alumni. This newsletter provides great networking opportunities within the MSU lawyer alumni community, even before a student attends law school.

Mock Trial

In Spring 2010, PLS was pleased to field its first mock trial team at regional competitions in Birmingham. PLS is fortunate to have Mississippi State Assistant General Counsel Joan Lucas as its adviser and coach. Ms. Lucas is a graduate of Ole Miss Law School and was formerly an attorney at Baker Donelson Law Firm in Jackson.

PLS plan to grow the mock trial team, as we feel it provides a good window into the legal profession, in addition to a forum in which to hone one's debate and public speaking skills. To join, email PLS at msuprelawsociety@gmail.com. You may learn more about the American Mock Trial Association at www.collegemocktrial.org.

Meet the President

Taylor LuczakPLS President Taylor Luczak when the Mississippi State Appellate Court came to MSU

PLS President Taylor Luczak is a native of Glens Falls, N.Y. He is a double major in political science and international business. In addition to his duties as PLS President, he serves as editor of the Bulldog Lawyer newsletter and serves as an officer in the Mississippi Model United Nations Security Council. In summer 2009, Taylor attended National Taipei University in Taiwan to hone his Mandarin Chinese language skills.

Taylor recently became one of only 30 Americans named as a 2010 Japan-America Student Conference Scholar. As a JASC Scholar, he will study Asian-American relations and globalization at universities and government agencies this summer across the United States and next summer throughout Japan.

A member of the Bulldogs' Varsity 2008 Track & Field Team and 2008-2010 Basketball Teams, Taylor has for the last three years received the SEC Athletic Academic Award.

During his tenure as PLS President, Taylor became the first president to launch an outreach program to all Bulldog lawyer alumni by creating the Bulldog Lawyer Newsletter. He also became the first PLS President to establish an annual fundraiser on behalf of PLS: the "Bulldog Lawyer Golf Outing," which is held during Super Bulldog Weekend. Taylor works continuously to raise funds to establish a first-year textbook scholarship program for recent MSU graduates who attend law school. In recognition of his efforts as PLS President, the Mississippi College School of Law recently made a generous donation to PLS on Taylor's behalf.

Upon graduation from State, Taylor plans to pursue a joint Ph.D. and J.D. degree. His interests are international business transactions, international law, and international relations.

Taylor's office is in 199 Bowen Hall. You may reach him at msuprelawsociety@gmail.com.

Contact Info

Department of Political Science
and Public Administration
Department Phone: 662.325.2711
Department Fax: 662.325.2716
Mailing Address: P. O. Box PC
Mississippi State University, MS 39762
Department Office: 105 Bowen Hall
Email address:polscipubadm@pspa.msstate.edu