What Engineers Need to Know Before Going to Law School

Do you have plans to become a lawyer? This is your only guide.


In law school, every bachelor’s degree holder is welcome. It does not discriminate on the pre-law degree that you have, but those with social science majors like political science, philosophy, sociology, and psychology have an edge.

If you are an engineer, there is no reason to fret.

The lessons and habits learned in engineering school are still critical when you enroll in law school. While law seems to be a totally different world on the surface, it actually isn’t. All the numbers, formulas, analysis, and solutions in engineering have something to do with the study of legal principles and regulations.

At least that’s what Wilson Tsu wants us to think. He has a bachelor’s and master’s degree of electrical engineering from Cornell University. Moreoever, he attained a Juris Doctor degree from Northwestern University School of Law and an M.B.A. in Kellogg School of Management. So he should know what he is talking about.

In a blog post entitled “Engineers in Law School: A Survival Guide”, Tsu said that “Once adjusted, engineers in law school (as well as other techies) can do just as well as (and sometimes better than) their political science classmates.” Coming from an engineer-lawyer, this is rather convincing.

He detailed in the post about the strengths that an engineer has while in law school:

Analytical skills

Engineers, as trained in engineering school, are bound to think logically. This skill could be really handy in law school, since legal analysis, according to Tsu, follows a very logical progression i.e., start with A, add B, with exception C, put it through process D, apply rule E, and you will get the likely answer Z.

But unlike in engineering where they are in numbers form, law school needs you to explain your logic elegantly in words.

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Screen grab from How to Get Away With Murder

Mathematics

When it comes to the math in law school, engineers have the advantage. There are topics like tax and antitrust, as well as economics and statistics, which basics, by the way, are taught in engineering school.

A strong background on how to perform math should give an engineer the skills in presenting facts by the numbers. They can be used in defending your arguments in cases.

However, those are the only two key strengths of engineers in law school. The rest are out of the expertise, but can still be learned.

Tsu identified certain aspects that engineers in law school may find difficult:

Reading

See those law students carrying bulky books? Yup. You also have to do that. And not only that, you have to read the contents. It’s pretty tiring just thinking about it, I know.

Engineers are not so accustomed to reading in college unless the subject is intensive in theory. Because it’s mostly about numbers and formulas in engineering school, finding delight in reading a lot can be overwhelming.

You will be required to read cases, maybe over 100 pages per night, as said by Tsu. But it’s not reading them as if the text is a novel, because law school materials require more depth. Tsu even said that “cases are extremely dense and will slow down even the fastest readers.”


Screen grab from How to Get Away With Murder

Writing

Other than reading, engineers also have to learn to write essays. It is understandable that this isn’t our strongest suit – engineers are even stereotyped to have poor communication skills in English; and all of us hated doing lab reports as students – but this should not stop you from getting at it.

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As a future lawyer, you are bound to write, write, and write. This is to test your reasoning and knowledge about the law. Exams are almost always in the essay format, and rarely in multiple choices or true/false.

And did I mention that most bar exams in the world, if not all, are not in Scantron but in writing? Yup.

This is why by the end of his post, Tsu reminded that there are only two things that engineers in law school should focus on: legal writing and practice.

Most law schools offer a mandatory legal writing class for freshmen students. This is the best training ground for that skill. You can try writing at home too and have your outputs checked by a lawyer or maybe an editor.

Meanwhile, what Tsu meant by ‘practice’ is to do more reading during the breaks to improve comprehension. Or you can advance touching the cases which will potentially be given to you in the next term so you won’t have a hard time understanding them in class. Because the tip ‘just read faster’ will not work in law school.


Screen grab from How to Get Away With Murder

In addition to what Tsu wrote, it should also be necessary for law students to learn how to speak and communicate. For one, there is nothing more shameful than being called out in class and having no answer in the recitation. What more in the real world where lawyers lead the proceedings in court?

It only takes determination and consistency for an engineer to become a lawyer. All the factors mentioned can only make or break you.

Source: Learn Leo

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Dion Greg Reyes
A young civil engineer finding his place in the industry. Pilipino.

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