The choices students make throughout their time at Gustavus Adolphus College impact the path they will take after graduation. The groups they choose to be involved with, the courses they take, the major they pursue, and the activities they attend can all play an important part in who they will become.
Four different Gustavus alumni, who are either finishing their last term of law school or are already practicing lawyers around the state, all readily agreed that their time at Gustavus played a significant role in getting them to where they are today.
Pete Schwingler ’05 is a commercial litigation, class action, and antitrust attorney at Leonard, Street, and Deinard. Compared to many of his classmates in the first year of law school, Schwingler felt very well prepared. “I felt that my classmates in law school weren’t accustomed to having to work as hard as law school required,” Schwingler said. “I realized I had to work hard, and it was a wake-up call as a freshman at Gustavus, that this is what you need to do to succeed.”
Derek Hilding ’10 is a third year law student at William Mitchell Law School who will be starting his career as an Associate Attorney at Fabyanske, Westra, Hart & Thomson in September. Hilding agreed that something about Gustavus gave him an edge. “The biggest thing, when I look back to my first year of law school, was that I had such a well-rounded liberal arts background. Compared to other people at law school, I feel like I had a broader background in more areas which helped a lot,” Hilding said.
There’s no doubt that Gustavus offers a challenging undergraduate experience, but there are also some specific aspects that appear to be giving graduates an advantage in law school. “I think a really big key is the reading and writing component. Gustavus does a really good job preparing people for professional writing, which helps to have an edge on other students who haven’t been trained in that,” Hilding claimed.
Of course, this means that faculty deserve much of the praise for pushing students to excel and improve their skills. Hailey Harren ’07, now a Commercial Finance and Real Estate Attorney at Gray Plant Mooty, pointed out several professors who helped prepare her for law school. “I had some great guidance from communication studies professor and pre-law advisor Terry Morrow, and political science professor Richard Leitch, who was a very good mentor as far as helping me correct and improve my writing,” Harren said.
Other faculty were also cited as being impactful. “I had a fantastic advisor who really supported me once I made the decision to pursue law school. It was (political science professor) Alisa Rosenthal,” stated Krista Hiner ’07, an Associate Attorney at Peterson, Logren & Kilbury. Swchingler praised the mathematics and economics professors, and Hilding also gave credit to professors Morrow, Leitch, and Rosenthal.
In addition to the wonderful professors that help prepare and guide students, specific courses were distinguished for having an impact. “In law school you are groomed to think and analyze in a way you probably never have before. The Constitutional Law and Jurisprudence courses offered a nice introduction to that,” Hiner said about her most beneficial classes.
Meanwhile, Schwingler claimed that his math courses were some of the best preparation that money can buy, “because it forced me to be disciplined to have sound reasoning and supported conclusions, the way I needed to for law school.”
In combination with world-class faculty members and challenging courses, there’s also an extra-curricular component. From tennis, to golf, to cross country, the alumni all credited their time as part of a team as an important factor in their learning at Gustavus. Schwingler (tennis) and Harren (cross country) both earned NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships for excelling both athletically and academically at Gustavus. Other activities were also cited as being helpful, particularly Student Senate and being a student tutor. One important program that alumni claimed to be helpful was the Gustavus Pre-Law program.
“The pre-law seminar was very practical and helpful to prepare you for the application process and for what law school would be like,” Harren said. In sincere agreement, Schwingler stated that having the course with Professor Morrow was helpful because “law school is a lot different than college. It can be intimidating due to the volume of work you have to do and the fact that the classroom method is very different than what you’re used to. So anytime you can talk to someone who’s been through law school and succeeded, it gives you the confidence that you can succeed too.”
“I was nervous heading into law school, but people from Gustavus have a really good base line so I wish I wouldn’t have spent as much time being so worried,” Hilding admitted. Even Harren stated that she chose Gustavus based on her ultimate plan to pursue law school. “At the time there were statistics out about the number of Gusties who went on to highly ranked law schools, so I knew it was possible to attend Gustavus and get in to a good law school.”
The only thing Harren said she would have done different regarding her time on campus was to go to more presenters, speakers, and extra-curricular activities. “I think it would have been better to get more experiences and a broader world view if I had attended more non-class and non-athletic activities,” she said, highlighting the fact that there’s so much at Gustavus that students need to take advantage of while they can.
For Gusties who strive to “Make Your Life Count,” it’s important to remember that your decisions and the connections you make at Gustavus matter, and to help best prepare yourself for law school and beyond, take some advice from Gustie alums and make each decision count.
Current and prospective students can learn more about the Pre-Law Program at Gustavus by going online to gustavus.edu/pre-law/ or by contacting the program’s advisor, Associate Professor of Political Science Jill Locke at email@example.com or 507-933-6226.
Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Matt Thomas