Thousands of new students are flocking to law campuses across the country this month to kick off their legal careers. It’s safe to say that most all of them can legally order a beer at the bar.
Not Aaron Parnas. He’s matriculating at George Washington University Law School this week at the tender age of 18, having zipped through high school and college in just four years. Parnas, a native of Boca Raton, is on track to graduate and get licensed at 21, the minimum age requirement for bar admission. Talk about a fresh-faced lawyer.
We caught up with Parnas this week to chat about his unusual path to law school, his career aspirations, and how he plans to fit in on campus. His answers have been edited for length.
Do you get a lot of Doogie Howser jokes? Do you even know who Doogie Howser is? I’m pretty sure that show was off the air before you were born.
Yeah, I know about him vaguely. I do get some jokes about him from time to time, mostly from my parents and their friends. They know who he is more so than my friends and peers.
How are you able to start law school at 18?
I started my college career at 14. I started at [Florida Atlantic University]. I was able to take high school and college classes at the same time, for the same credit. I accelerated past most people in the program and was able to finish my bachelor’s degree in two-and-a-half years.
So you graduated from high school and college at the same time?
I actually graduated from college before I graduated from high school. My college graduation was a few weeks earlier than my high school graduation.
What did you major in?
Political science and criminal justice.
Why law school?
I’ve wanted to go to law school since I was about 10 or 11, though I didn’t know what kind of law I wanted to practice. Recently, with the past presidential election, I really want to get into politics and hopefully one day become president. I felt like law school was the perfect stepping stone to that goal.
Did you take the LSAT and go through the traditional application process?
I took the LSAT when I was 15 or 16 years old, and went through the application process this past year.
Did you get any strange looks when you showed up to take the LSAT at such a young age?
I don’t know that I got strange looks. It was more just surprise from the people around me. Anyone who found out how old I was was very surprised, and asked how I was able to do what I was able to do.
What about George Washington’s law school appealed to you?
It’s in the heart of one of the best cities in the country. I love the political atmosphere here. I love the people here. Coming from a place where it’s summer 365 days a year, I kind of wanted to escape to a colder environment. D.C. appealed to me. I loved it when I came here in March for the preview day. I fell in love with the school, with the people at the school, with the teachers. It felt like a second home to me.
What’s your living situation? Are you in a dorm? An apartment?
I was fortunate to get my own apartment right next to the school. I’ve just been settling in.
Sound like you’re living pretty large for someone who just moved out of your parents’ house at 18.
I have to grow up quickly. I can’t be a college student in a law school environment. I have to be a grown-up.
You’ve said you’d like to run for political office, but what are your career plans for right after you graduate law school?
I definitely want to go into a corporate positon, maybe something to do with mergers and acquisitions. I also like alternative dispute resolution. Either one of those two I’d like to go into for a while and get started. After that, I’d like to branch out into politics.
You volunteered on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. He’s not very popular with many law students. Are you concerned at all that your political views will put you at odds with your new classmates?
Not really. Event throughout college, pretty much all my friends weren’t supporters of him. I’m a homegrown conservative. I’ve been a conservative all my life. My values aren’t going to change if someone doesn’t like them. I’m going to go into law school with my values and the things I believe in. If people don’t like that, they don’t have to be around me. Overall, from what I’ve seen in college, it’s not that big of an issue. I’m not Donald Trump. I’m me, and even if my views may align somewhat with his, people don’t really see me as an extension of him.
His youngest daughter, Tiffany, is starting law school across town at Georgetown University Law Center this fall. Maybe you’ll cross paths.
That would be awesome.
What are you most looking forward to about your law school experience?
Really just meeting a bunch of new people and learning about the legal field, where laws come from, how the law applies to everyday lives, and how people make laws and policy. I really want to experience what it is to be a lawyer: how to think like a lawyer, act like a lawyer, and hopefully one day be a great lawyer.
What do you anticipate will be the hardest part?
I think the hardest part, at first, will be managing the workload. Besides that, I think appealing to employers later on might be a little difficult because of my age. But I think it will be OK. I don’t know if that will make a big difference.
Do you worry about what your classmates will think of your age?
A few days ago I was worried about it, and worried about whether I’d make friends. But through the pre-orientation process and orientation, I was able to find a good amount of friends who don’t really care about my age.
Have you done anything this summer to prep for law school?
This past summer was my first without taking six or seven classes, so I kind of relaxed and spent time with my family. But in the past year, I interned at the [Florida] State Attorney’s Office and at the public defender’s office. I worked on a few local and national campaigns. I got into working environments with people who are a lot older than me so I can get accustomed to being in law school.
What do you parents think of you starting law school at 18?
They are very proud. I have three other siblings and after seeing what I’ve been doing, they all want to go on a similar path—maybe not law school, maybe med school or business school. My parents are really happy that I was able to set an example for them.
Any advice for other aspiring lawyers who want to take this accelerated path?
Do the work. Don’t procrastinate. Keep your head down. Do what you need to do. A college and high school experience is great, but the value you can get from accelerating through those times in your life are so great. You’ll start in the work force sooner. You will, maybe, retire earlier. And you’ll make a name for yourself.
Contact Karen Sloan at email@example.com. On Twitter: @KarenSloanNLJ