Setting the Bar: Formality and Law School

Posted by Laura Zuppo on Jan 19, 2017 9:35:00 AM

Have you ever been introduced to someone in an informal way only to later find out they were a judge? You had been calling him Robert, when you should have been calling him Judge Jones!

That will likely happen often when you go to law school. The person you’re meeting might be the dean, a visiting faculty member, or a sitting judge on campus to speak with a student group or class.  In fact, many adjunct professors are actually sitting or retired judges – you never know who you might be interacting with!

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How do you make it through law school without offending someone? Always err on the side of being more formal rather than less formal, no matter with whom you’re interacting. Keep these general guidelines in mind as you go throughout your day.

Use Formal Titles

To avoid the awkwardness that can come with using the wrong title or being too casual, opt for the use of formal titles when greeting someone or writing them an email. Never use a first name without being invited to do so.  If you’re unsure of a title and you are writing to someone who teaches at your law school, then use Professor, Dr., or at the very least Mr. or Ms.

Write Professionally

Remember to use greetings and salutations in your emails to your law school colleagues, faculty and staff. Begin a habit of writing in a formal, business style rather than an informal text-like style you would use with family or friends. This gives you an opportunity to show and improve not only your professionalism, but also your writing skills.

Dress to Impress

Law school is tough, but don’t let your wardrobe show it. Remember that you’re surrounding yourself with potential mentors, future bosses, and people you might spend your career working with. Your dress can form their first impressions of you, and bad first impressions can be hard to shake!

Mind Your Manners

As you interact with those within the classroom or on campus, make a point of being polite to all those you come in contact with (this is good life advice, too). Don’t let a bad day influence your behavior or lead to rudeness. You never want to unintentionally make a negative impression. Kindness and respect go far.

Maintaining a formal, professional demeanor throughout your law school career is a safe bet. When going about your day, just think – you may have a class with an adjunct whose firm may be hiring down the line. What kind of impression do you want to leave on that professor?

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Topics: Law School Insider Tips

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