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Analyze an Issue from All Sides

Mark Thompson (Miami, 2011) [law student in the University of Chicago Law School]: I treated the decision to go to law school, and ultimately to be a lawyer, as a building process, kind of like a puzzle. Whereas some students may start with a finished image, of being a lawyer, I kind of figured out what I was good at step-by-step. I figured out where my strengths lie. And ultimately, through finding out I was best at — analytical writing, critical reading, critical thinking — I wanted to find a profession where I could maximize those skills. I bounced around a few different ideas and ultimately I was left with becoming a lawyer, I think that would maximize that the best.

Miami prepared me for law school by giving me a really well-rounded education. I think that phrase is easy to use but hard to explain and what I mean by that is that it teaches you to take an issue, and once you're comfortable thinking about it from a certain perspective, turn it around and think of it from the opposite side, so you really learn to analyze an issue from all sides. I think that's ultimately what a lawyer strives to do — come up with an objective analysis, and I think my courses at Miami really helped me do that, whether it was a liberal arts course, a math based course, and so forth, it's just the general style of teaching, the classroom pace, I think it really prepared me to be a good law student.

I think the most valuable part of the pre-law program was the individual attention, because what might be a strength for one person might not be the seen the same way on another person's application to law school and I think you really have to treat it case by case in order to figure out how to best maximize the chances to get into the best school you can and also succeed. I think sitting down with the pre-law advisor is a really good opportunity to start with a blank slate and communicate your goals, communicate what you ultimately want to be, and then to have someone whose been through that process, who has that knowledge, to advise you how to best to go about that.

Most of my mentors were in the philosophy department here at Miami — Gaile Pohlhaus and Rick Momeyer. I had them for a few classes in my ethics minor and I think what they taught me was really how to turn around an issue and think about it from the other side — be objective — and that's a really valued skill as a lawyer, as I've alluded to before. And I think that in some classes where you might rest on your laurels, when you're really comfortable with the way you're looking at an issue, it's truly valuable to have someone challenge you to look at it another way.

I think alumni engagement is really important with a profession like being a lawyer, where there's a professional school stopgap between your undergraduate education and your ultimate career. Things can be very foreign when you're starting law school; you can feel like a freshman in college all over again. You might have burning questions, a lot of things you need answered, and you might not necessarily be comfortable with just asking anyone those questions. I think when you share that common bond with the alumni, people who have been through this process, people who are very successful as lawyers, whatever they ultimately decide to do with their law degree, I think that's extremely beneficial to just really find out what you want to know and know that you can trust that answer.

I ultimately want to work in a law firm after law school graduation. And I think I either want to do commercial transactional work or commercial litigation, one of the two. I haven't really decided that but that's something I'll have the opportunity to explore in future internships and so forth, but regardless I think a law firm is where I'll go.

[October 2012]