Before applying to colleges, I was yet to find what I am really interested in. I was not ready to choose a major to focus on for the next 4 years in college. I was highly attracted to the concept of liberal art studies offered at the School of International Liberal Studies, because it was far from traditional college system where entering students immediately have to choose a single major.
When I first came to SILS, I let myself free and enjoy the vast academic options offered at SILS. Although I greatly enjoyed all the courses, I still could not discover what I should really do in the future even as I entered into my fifth semester. Although by that time I realized that college was not the place for a professional preparation, I still believed that it is a place for exploring a vast academic world and a place to obtain ideas about future career. That belief encouraged me to try more courses at SILS and discover my own academic interest and future goal.
Beginning from the sixth semester, I decided to take advance seminar by Professor Waters and his other law courses. Learning law for the first time was demanding and hard. After taking Professor Waters’ classes, however, I became very interested in law and I was glad that I found my interest that eventually inspired me to pursue law.
Perhaps because I had no idea I had interest in law and because I had jumped into it relatively later than my peers at law school, here are some of the things I would recommend others to do if they do consider law as their option while attending Waseda.
1. Avail yourself of a variety of courses offered at SILS
Of course some of us may have a clear thought about their interest and what they want to do in the future. However, there are some people like me who have hard time searching for what they are truly interested in. What really worked well for me was to take advantage of the diverse liberal study programs provided at SILS. Beginning from freshman year, in an effort to discover my interest, I took various courses including Architecture, Linguistics, Journalism, Environmental Science, Mathematics, History, Philosophy, and International Relations. By the end of my fifth semester, law was the last area of study I was yet to try. Taking advantage of the unique program at SILS was how I found my true intellectual challenge, academic interest and personal aim.
2. Improve Language skills
Learning U.S. law is mostly involves reading cases after cases. Some of the prominent cases are in old English from the19th century and many cases are in a number of pages. Law school professors give unbelievable amount of reading everyday. In order to prepare for a class, students must finish all the assigned readings, completely digest it and they must be ready to answer questions that are asked unpredictably in class. In Professor Waters’ courses, particularly the advance seminar, reading challenging legal cases and textbooks greatly improved my reading skills. I recommend taking advantage of SILS courses and improving reading skills there.
Excellent writing skill is essential in succeeding in all of the courses including oral argument, in which I initially did not expect to write. Moreover, all of my first semester final exams were in forms of four-hour-writing essays. When I was at Waseda, I often visited the Writing Center to improve my writing. The Writing Center does not check students’ grammar or change their sentence to a more ornate one. Yet, it definitely trained me to be able to spot and fix the problem on my own. When working on writing assignments, I am still reminded of all the writing skills that I learned at the Writing Center.
3. Some helpful books on law
The following books were recommended by professors when I was at Waseda and I found them highly constructive and effective to get an idea about the U.S. legal system and what law students do. All the books are easily accessible at Waseda library.
The Common Law by Oliver Wendell Holmes
An Introduction to Legal Reasoning by Edward Levi
Thinking Like a Lawyer by Frederick Schauer