Senior year is typically a time of uncertainty, anxiety and even fear for most students who are finishing their undergraduate degree. Whether they intend to continue to higher education or head straight into a career field, students often need the help of someone who has been in their shoes. Law school, especially, is an area where prospective students could certainly use a veteran’s advice.
“I felt like I was in over my head my entire senior year,” said first year law student Alicia Daugherty. “I was trying to prepare to apply to law school and wondering how I would survive when or if I got there.”
Daugherty said she had always been interested in law school but still could have used some helpful advice while tackling the admission process.
“I wasn’t sure how an agriculture degree would compare to other applicants,” she recalled.
Zach Brady is a local lawyer and the founder and president of ZS Brady & Co., where he represents clients in a broad range of industries including agriculture. He grew up on a West Texas farm and received his agricultural communications degree from Texas Tech University.
“Law school is all about whether the individual person is willing to put in the kind of effort it requires to be successful, than it is about any preparation or personality trait,” Brady said.
For students concerned that an agricultural background may not be desirable in the law field, Brady points out the special attributes characteristics these types of students can bring to law school and future clients.
“Personally, I feel like I’m able to give a different quality of service to those in agriculture because I’m from agriculture,” he said.
Brady said one of the issues he currently faces is the power line expansion in Texas. He is representing ranchers who do not wish to have power lines across their property or who want to decrease the impact the lines have on their property.
“I think it’s a different story coming out of the mouth of a guy who grew up on a farm and understands what that property right really means to an agricultural producer, than it is from some fella’ who just wants to do a good job representing his client,” he said.
Ronald Phillips, University Council member and agricultural law professor, agrees that traits developed from growing up in an agricultural background are extremely favorable in the law field.
“Typically what you see in students majoring in agriculture is a strong work ethic, just because of the environment they were raised in,” he said. “And that can carry you a long way, it really can.”
Phillips, a CASNR alumnus who also grew up in West Texas, said students who are used to working hard will be better able to handle the stress and heavy courseload that is associated with going to law school.
“I’m not sure that anything in your undergraduate education can fully prepare you for the content in law school because it’s just so different,” he said, “but I think typically agriculture students are well-grounded and have common sense, and that will help you be successful.”
Both experts agree that the effort students put in while in their undergraduate degree program will undoubtedly be beneficial in the law school application process.
“The single most important thing any undergrad that wants to get into law school can do is knock the top out of their GPA,” Brady said.
Phillips recommended organization involvement and a variety of experiences in order to create an application that stands out.
“Law school admissions committees have a lot of applications that they’re looking at,” he said. “There has to be something that sets you apart from the stack.”
Success in the classroom, leadership roles and community service hours are a few of the items Phillips said admissions committees will notice.
Another factor Phillips said law schools will notice is work experience. He recommends internships or other jobs in order to show excellent work ethic and the ability to work and communicate with other people.
When it’s finally time to apply to law school, Brady said it’s worth it to apply early and to apply to a variety of schools.
“Give yourself a range of options,” he said. “Think about what kind of city it’s in, what kind of tuition they charge. You’ve got to look at the overall value as well.”
Daugherty said she chose Texas Tech School of Law because of the high bar passage rate and their expertise in environmental law. Although she said she is enjoying her first year of law school, she has some pointed advice for students considering a law degree.
“Make sure it is really what you want to do because it takes a tremendous amount of time and money,” she said. “In the long run though, I know all of the time and effort will be worth it.”