I often receive the question of whether 10 years of prior legal experience helps or hurts in law school. I think the answer is both.

Having a legal background helps in that the learning curve in year one is not so steep. Because I’m used to reading and analyzing cases, I think, as a general matter, I spent less time on the first-year of law school than many of my classmates. Also, classes involving legal research and writing were not as daunting simply because of my familiarity with those two subjects.

Having a legal background hurts because there is a tendency to become overconfident. And a tendency to think I know something when I really don’t. For example, in one of my finals I recognized the fact pattern as based on a 2000 Supreme Court that I knew and am very familiar with. Because I knew how the Court analyzed the issue, I got downright giddy answering the question. The problem was that, in my overconfidence, I misread a small but vitally important fact that changed the entire outcome of the case from the actual Supreme Court case. I glanced right over it. At other times, the habits of litigation caused me to make mistakes. The one big example was during the law review write on competition, where I italicized all the case names (as you do writing legal briefs) rather than leaving them unitalicized (as you do for law review articles).

But in the end, I think 10 years of litigation experience has been invaluable in trudging my way through law school.