Reconsidering My Law School Decision: Why I (Finally) Chose Loyola

In April 2020, I was committed to attending a law school that was not Loyola. After making the tuition deposit, however, something didn’t feel right. I began rethinking whether that school would be the best place to spend the next three years. But where would I go?

My goal was to attend a school with a strong IP program. However, I wanted more than a curriculum. I wanted a community, a place that would make me happy when I walked through the doors every day. After making this realization, I scheduled calls with deans, professors, alumni, and students at other law schools to gain insights into their experiences.

      Photo by Jack Hynes
Photo by Jack Hynes

Loyola’s IP program fulfilled my curriculum criteria. But after speaking with members of the Loyola community, including staff and students, it became clear that Loyola would also fulfill my “happiness” criteria. Among these conversations, one particular quote made Loyola my final decision. Professor Cynthia Ho, director of Loyola’s IP Program, told me: “Loyola is a school where both students and faculty support each other fully.” The way Loyola individuals spoke about the faculty and students made it feel more like a home and less like an educational institution. And after one semester, I am more confident than ever that Loyola was the correct choice for me.

Faculty: Investing Their Time in Students

Loyola faculty want you to succeed. In addition to conducting innovative research and other professional responsibilities, professors make themselves available to students. Many professors host bi-weekly office hours. These provide students opportunities to ask questions about the material and get to know the professor on a more personal level. Several faculty provide online forums where both the professor and students answer questions posted by other classmates. Professors are also happy to meet with students for individual meetings or talk over email regarding any other questions or concerns a student may have. Additionally, professors often administer ungraded midterms that simulate final exams. This is an incredible preparatory tool that was not offered at other schools I considered. Because final grades in classes are typically based solely on final exam performance, midterms provide an indication of where you stand with class material while offering clarity on a professor’s grading criteria. This allows you to better prepare for the final exam, and makes the exam setting more familiar and comfortable. Beyond the classroom, professors want to know you as a person. Last semester, professors offered virtual coffee chats. These were casual opportunities to discuss anything from the professors’ research to life in general. They were also happy to provide guidance on my career goals one-on-one. I felt supported by my professors throughout my first semester and I’m excited to continue those relationships going forward.

Tutors: Acclimating You to the Rigors of Law School

Photo by Jack Hynes
Photo by Jack Hynes

The first year of law school is a confusing, fog-filled abyss with unknown twists like case briefs, outlines, and cold calls. Approaching this new way of learning can be daunting. This is where your tutors at Loyola come in. Tutors are high-performing upperclassmen assigned to each 1L class. They help clear some of that fog and make the transition to law school more manageable. First, they walk you through what some of these new learning methods mean. For example, an “outline” in law school is very different than what you learned in grammar school. Outlines are an effective consolidation of cases and rule statements that are essential to law school success. Tutors then break down each week’s material into easily digestible points during weekly office hours separate from the faculty hours. They also host additional supplementary sessions beyond their office hours on topics like exam study habits that better prepare you to succeed. Tutors also discuss their own 1L experiences – the good, the bad, and the ugly – so that you can better navigate your own law school career. They were a much-appreciated anchor to the law school, particularly in a semester conducted online in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. And they felt like friends by the time finals approached. Loyola’s tutor program demonstrates their passionate support of students, a support program that the other schools I had considered lacked.

Fellow Students: Supporting Each Other Through Good Times and Bad

Law school is competitive. You’re competing against your fellow classmates for things like grades, journal positions, competition teams, and jobs. It would be easy for that competitiveness to negatively impact how classmates interact. Indeed, it does at many schools. Not at Loyola, though.

When talking with Loyola students before I committed to the school, each one mentioned how supported they felt by their classmates. As a student, I saw that same support from my own classmates. Loyola breaks up the incoming 1L class into sections. These are groups of students who take all of their classes together. My section feels like old friends even though online classes mean most of us have never met in-person. These classmates are always willing to send office hour notes when someone couldn’t attend, congratulate another classmate for answering a professor’s question correctly, or help answer an assignment question. Additionally, everyone wants to know one another, whether through a Zoom happy hour, virtual study session, or constant GroupMe communication. Your section is the backbone of your 1L support system. At Loyola, we’re in this together.

Loyola: Finding A Home

Figure Courtesy of Prof. Cynthia Ho
Figure Courtesy of Professor Cynthia Ho

When I decided to attend Loyola, I understood the incredible IP opportunities that it had to offer. At Loyola, you will find a dedicated and highly knowledgeable IP faculty, a diverse IP curriculum, and numerous IP extracurricular offerings (such as IP Bytes!). But it’s the community of faculty, students, and alumni supporting me along the way that gives me the confidence needed to succeed in my future endeavors. It’s Professor Ho’s patent elective teaching me intellectual property as a 1L, including the basics of how to get a patent (as illustrated the class slide on the right). It’s my tutors, many studying IP, preparing me for interviews over the phone. It’s my fellow classmates in the IP section of Legal Writing asking our professor endless questions on trademark law. It’s opportunities like writing for IP Bytes allowing me to explore my interest in IP. Feeling comfortable with the people around you compels you to go after that job, or that extracurricular, or that class, knowing that someone will be right there with you should you need it.

I’m thankful for my moment of panic back in April, and for the countless members of the Loyola network who spoke to me then, and who interact with me now. While the pandemic has prevented me from walking through those doors, I can confidently say that I’ve found a home for the next 2.5 years. I’m proud to be a law student at Loyola and looking forward to what the future holds.

Jack Hynes
Assistant Blogger
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2023