Time to hear another 3L story! Today’s guest is Paris Mayfield. Paris is a fellow Texan and a terrific person. And she has the most beautiful smile. It lights up her face and any room she enters!
Ali Wruble: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your life before law school.
Paris Mayfield: I came straight through from undergrad (TCU) where I studied political science and philosophy. I always knew I wanted to go to law school, so I was constantly in my advisor’s office asking what the best major for law school was. She said there wasn’t one but I didn’t believe her. I got to do a lot of interesting reading and writing with political science and philosophy so that was helpful. Before that, I danced a lot and kind of professionally when I was in undergrad. I graduated in three years and came straight here.
AW: You say you knew you always wanted to go to law school? How did you know?
PM: I don’t know how I knew. I think I just said when I was young that I was going to be a lawyer and that was it. I remember in first grade that I wanted to be a marine biologist but then in middle school, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer instead. I didn’t want to take all of the science classes. I don’t know where it came from. I didn’t change my mind or my major in undergrad at all.
AW: How did you come to choose Notre Dame from Ft. Worth, Texas?
PM: So fun fact, I didn’t even know where Notre Dame was until right before Admitted Students Weekend. I applied to most of the schools in DC because that is where I wanted to go at the time, and I applied to the University of Texas. And then since I didn’t know what stats you needed to get into certain schools, I was kind of lowballing myself. And my mom told me I needed to apply to better schools because I would get in. I didn’t think I would. So I went on USNews to look at higher-ranked schools. I came across Notre Dame, and I thought it looked like a good school so I applied. I did the free electronic application where you email your essays. I didn’t realize that your essays had to be submitted two weeks later. So I kind of forgot about it Then I got a reminder and it turned out the essays were due that night. So that was great. I hurried and touched up my personal statement and the Why NDLS essay and submitted them. And I was thinking, well that sucks. I’m definitely not going to get in. But then I got accepted…on my birthday! I figured I should check it out. I loved the campus and everyone was so nice and the professors seemed really interested. So I was pretty much sold. I never went to another admitted student event after that.
AW: So you arrive for orientation then jump right into classes. What was the hardest part of 1L fall for you?
PM: I think it was probably the workload. I feel like in undergrad you can kind of cruise by and things are more intuitive. After freshman year, you are building upon things that you learned before. But in law school, you’re starting over and everything is new with no prior knowledge. You really have to do the reading every time and take meticulous notes so you’re prepared when you get cold-called. It’s a completely different level of preparation so it took a lot more work and the adjustment took a while for me.
AW: Did you know anyone when you came to NDLS or did you have to meet all new people?
PM: I didn’t really know anyone but I met Hannah Walsh at Admitted Students Weekend. We’re both from Texas (Dallas) and were both having an existential crisis about whether to go to UT or Notre Dame. So we bonded. But then we didn’t talk again until orientation. John Michael (Neubert) and I both went to TCU but we didn’t know each other there. He came up to me at orientation and said, “Hi, you don’t know me but I found you on Facebook and we both went to TCU. I’m John Michael.” So I had two friends at orientation! But otherwise, I’d never known anyone at ND or anyone who was coming. A fresh start for sure.
AW: Did you have a hard time figuring out who your people were?
PM: No. Honestly, I have been friends with the exact same people since orientation. It’s been the same six people all of law school, so that’s been really nice.
AW: Tell me a little about the overall experience with your first set of finals.
PM: So it was different than normal finals. In undergrad, you have multiple exams throughout the semester and it’s not cumulative. This was a challenge to see if you could put everything together. It would be nice if it wasn’t so high stakes! Torts was our first exam my year and that was good because it seemed like everyone understood Torts. Afterward, it was reassuring, like OK I know some things. I am not completely stupid. I can apply some general principles. So then I had more confidence going into Civ Pro and Contracts. But I have never been so tired in my entire life. After Civ Pro, I came home and took a four-hour nap.
AW: For 1L summer, what did you do? And how did you get the position?
PM: I interned at Morgan Stanley (NY) in-house. Around mid-November I was checking LinkedIn for stuff, and I saw a posting for legal summer associate at Morgan Stanley. And that looked like a real job. They didn’t really ask for documents, which was great, so I submitted the application but didn’t hear anything back. So I thought it was a dud. Then all of a sudden in February, they asked me to come for an interview the next week. They paid for it. So I did my interviews, and they were really intense. But I was well-prepared. I had done a lot of research. Then a few weeks later I heard that I got the job. Very unexpected but great.
AW: For 2L year, did you adjust your approach to classes or studying at all based on your 1L experience?
PM: Yeah, I definitely took advantage of the opportunity to take paper classes. That was my background and I knew that I’d enjoy it more than studying for an exam. As a 2L you finally realize what’s important, so reading goes faster, you know what outlining style works best for you, how you best interpret materials. It was a lot less time-consuming. But then you have a lot more extracurricular commitments so it balances out.
AW: What did you do 2L summer, and what was the process to get the job?
PM: I worked at Duane Morris in Chicago. One of the good things about working at Morgan Stanley (1L summer) is that the attorneys are really well-connected. They were really helpful in connecting the interns. So between ND alums and Morgan Stanley I had a lot of opportunities to meet people and network. I met people from a lot of firms but was still looking for more. One of my bosses had a good friend who was Chief Diversity Officer at Duane Morris so I applied there. But neither of the offices recruits from NDLS so I applied online. I was debating whether I should apply to NY or Chicago. I was hedging my bets – NY would probably have more applications, so I thought ND would help and I applied to Chicago. I got an interview right around OCI. I found out they only recruit at Chicago law schools for that office but the Managing Partner in Chicago gets to select one application from the resume collections elsewhere and he picked mine out of 70! I interviewed there and really loved them. They were going to take me to court during my interview because something came up. So I was sitting there and the partners are talking outside the door. “We can’t take her to court with us; this is an interview!” “But we have to go.” So someone popped in and said “Do you want to go to court with us? We have to go now.” So I said sure. Turned out another attorney went ahead and handled it. I figured I wouldn’t get the job because they could only hire one summer, but I did!
AW: How was your summer with them?
PM: I really loved it. It was kind of like being an only child for the summer. We were remote but they still did lunches and dinners and arranged happy hours for me to meet other people in the office. And I got to do a lot of good work, so it was great.
AW: Do you think you would do things differently if you had to start over, knowing what you know now?
PM: I think I would have come into law school with a different mindset. People who take time before law school come in really determined and knowing what they want to do. I didn’t have that, so I think I would have been a more serious student if I had time to think about why I was coming to law school. And I would have gone to office hours more than I did as a 1L. Because professors are scary, and you don’t want to go talk to them.
AW: What advice would you give your 1L self?
PM: I would say to take a break. I probably did nothing but study for four weeks from Thanksgiving straight through and that was not a good idea. I thought that breaks were wasting time but it is definitely not true. You might think you don’t have time to take breaks but you do. And to not take yourself so seriously. Everything will be fine. Don’t listen to what is going on around you. It doesn’t matter what your neighbor’s GPA is or how far along they are. I was concerned about what my friends were doing so I was just stressed. And some people just lie so there’s no point in listening to what anyone says!
I would say for people considering law school to really look at the law school you’re considering because it will shape not only your employment prospects and everything but also how you develop as a lawyer. And obviously that’s really important. Really pay attention to the kind of people the school attracts because you’ll not only be spending three years with them but you’ll be connected for the rest of your career. And rankings don’t really matter.
AW: Do you have a favorite law school experience or anything that has been particularly significant for you?
PM: I miss the Commons. Hanging out there used to be really fun especially as a 1L. That’s how you met everyone in your class. And as a 2L, that’s how you catch up with people you don’t see as much because you’re not in the same classes and you’re doing different things. Some of my best memories are just sitting in the Commons at the big circle table in the corner. Just hanging out.
Thanks to Paris for her time and insights. She’s the best.
Until you read again…