In addition to graduating from Harvard Law and practicing in New York City, Lisa Jones Johnson has found time to become a published mystery novelist and screenwriter. She recently co-authored "So You Want to Be a Lawyer: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Into and Succeeding in Law School," and is hoping her narrative chops will set this how-to career book apart from the rest.
What surprised you about law school?
The level of reading and very specific analytic writing felt daunting at first. We try to prepare people for that. Everybody in college has written papers. This is a whole other level of analytical writing.
What's the most common misconception people have about law school?
That law school is like practicing law. Law school is very academic. You read and write a lot. You go back and forth with professors and colleagues about big concepts and ideas. Practicing law is very different. It's very detailed. Most junior lawyers are thrown right into drafting contracts. I think schools need to add some practical contract drafting courses. You need to know the theory behind it, but you need to know the building blocks of drafting as well.
How should you go about choosing a law school?
For me, No. 1 is the prestige factor -- the alumni network. Your first jobs are likely going to come from those contacts. If you have the grades and if you're fortunate enough to get in, you want to go to a top-tier school. If you can't get into that kind of school, the question you need to ask becomes very simple: Can I actually get a job after I finish? There are a lot of accredited schools out there that don't really place their graduates. Do they have a placement office? Will they actively make sure that I get a job?