You want to be a lawyer and are probably thinking about going to law school after you graduate. Before you start daydreaming about what it’s like to study law school, you need to know whether you can actually handle all that comes with it. Whether you are preparing for the LSAT or passing it already, you need to know as much as you can so that you are not caught unawares once you join. Here in this article, we look at some aspects of law school that make it hard, harder than your undergraduate years. We believe that you will find it easier to deal with law school and its ups and downs with the right kind of idea. After all, we’ve all heard that it is hard but never really thought about how hard exactly. Don’t worry. We have got you covered.
Is Law School Hard?
With tens of thousands of undergrads signing up for law school every year, the competition is bound to be steep. Add to that that almost everyone who makes it into law school was probably an overachiever in their high school and maybe even their college. Once they join law school, they realize that the playing field has been leveled and that everyone used to be an overachiever. This means they will need to work hard to stay on top of their game during their time at law school.
Furthermore, everything is difficult, such as a bulky curriculum, long class hours, extensive assignments, heavy on-the-job training for internships, etc. One really does not get much time for leisure, and there is definitely no scope for slacking off and taking things easy. Ultimately, it depends on the type of person you are. If you enjoy always staying ahead of the curve and handling heavy responsibilities, this might be the right choice for you. On the other hand, you will have to slog a lot and probably give up your social life during your years at law school. Plus, you will be competing against your peers all the time. It doesn’t matter if you are a good student. Most law schools grade their students on a bell curve basis. This means that your marks will depend on how well they compare to the rest of the class. Therefore, to stay ahead, you need to be among the best. The following are some aspects about law school which make it as hard as it is. Let’s take a look:
- The classes are taught differently at law school. You are used to the classes at your undergrad school, which are taught in a manner that is well-organized and easy to grasp. You can get by in undergrad through memorization and cramming before your tests. That is not the case at law school. Courses at undergrad are taught using didactic teaching methods, that is through instructions and lectures. Often students are expected to memorize information that may not be useful to them in the future. Law school uses the Socratic method of teaching, which is the process of self-teaching through frequent discussions and question and answer sessions on every topic. This is supposed to encourage students to use their critical thinking skills to the utmost.
At law school, you will hardly learn anything which will not be useful to you in the future. The method of teaching employed there requires students to recall long-term memory and apply their knowledge in practical situations. Students are supposed to come prepared to classes all the time and can be called upon at random by the professor to answer questions. The questions asked will require the student to think on their feet, and more often than not, they will find that they are wrong. Being called upon regularly in front of your peers only to find out that you are wrong can be quite damaging to your self-confidence if you are not prepared to accept that.
You will also need good public speaking skills while attending classes at law school in order to engage in fruitful discussions about the various topics that will be taught. Law students are expected to argue multiple positions in a case, and are taught to accept that may not be one correct answer to a question. All these factors make it difficult for the newcomer, who is used to their undergraduate classes, to adjust to law school.
- The curriculum at law school is massive. First and foremost, the workload at law school is very high, and you must be prepared to handle a lot of it. The curriculum is massive, and students often have to spend whole days and nights in the library, plowing through dense legal cases full of unfamiliar and confusing legal jargon. The nomenclature used in the law is difficult, and it is almost like learning a new language (technically it is, as the language used is Latin).
Unlike in undergrad, where it was possible to understand what was being taught in class by just skimming through the textbook prior to the lecture, or in some cases not knowing anything about it at all, that sort of approach won’t do at law school. You won’t be able to follow anything if you haven’t studied hard before coming to class, and you will be tested on your knowledge through application-based questions. You will have to do all the assigned reading on time as the syllabus is just too big to leave it untouched before the exams. Students are known to have mental breakdowns before exams at law school when they realize that it is just not possible to finish the syllabus in time.
Generally speaking, depending upon their individual capacities, students need to study from 2 to 3 hours every day at law school. This is when things are easy, and the workload is expected to go up when exams are around the corner. Students often have to study in groups and make use of supplementary study materials and papers from past exams. Memorizing is also not a way out, as you will be asked questions that will need you to apply what you know in analytical problems.
- The grading and testing system is different at law school. Law schools seldom have quizzes and class tests like undergrad courses, which means that the opportunity to score grades is low. Often, law schools will grade their students based on their performances in the final exams, which makes it so important. Students who do badly in their exams have little chance to make u for it later on. Since there is very little gradable material, law school is quite ruthless if a student does not do well in the opportunities that they do get for getting grades. Not having quizzes or small tests is, however, no excuse to not stay up to date with your curriculum.
As mentioned earlier, classes at law school consist of extensive discussions and question and answer sessions, and the professor will not look too kindly upon you if you cannot answer their questions during class, or are not able to actively participate in the discussions that are taking place. You do not want your professor to get a bad impression of you during class. You will be called upon anyway, and it is quite an embarrassing experience to look stupid in front of all your peers when you don’t know what your class is following. You need to do more than just show up in law school. Students are expected to take care of their appearance and personal hygiene, so if you were not regular with your showers and your laundry during your undergrad years, that will have to change.
Often, eminent lawyers visit classrooms, and they like to see the students well-dressed. You do not want to be caught in an un-ironed shirt or with messy hair the day a prospective employer comes to your school watching for talent. Furthermore, law professors grade their students strictly on a curve, which means that more than your individual performance, how you compare to the rest of the class matters more in your grades. Grades once given can hardly be changed, and professors use highly objective methods while grading. This is why it is difficult to get good grades in law school. Employers will also view your individual grades as well as your GPA while hiring you, so you need to be consistent with your performance throughout law school.
- Law school is very fast-paced. Since the syllabus is so huge, professors will naturally like to keep a good pace in class in order to finish it in time. Students will be expected to keep up with whatever the professor is covering at the moment by studying and showing up for class prepared. You will have to cover a lot of material rapidly, and you cannot expect to build up a backlog and finish it later on. In law school, a bus once missed does not come back. During undergrad, you had the luxury of missing out on lectures because you knew that some of them were not really necessary for your tests and that you could always get the notes to those lectures from your classmates and read up on them later on.
That is not the case in law school, as taking notes during classes is not really possible due to the style of teaching that is followed at law schools. So, if you miss a class, there is little you can do to make up for it, and you can only pray that the topic you missed on that day is not tested during the final exams. This is why, classes in law school are so important, and cannot be taken lightly like in undergrad. You will need to focus and pay attention a lot more in class, and as mentioned earlier, show up prepared every time.
Even if you miss a class because you are sick, you probably will not be able to do anything about it, which is sad but true. So, law school means you need to give in at least four to five hours to your classes every day, and cannot miss them for anything. You cannot take it easy and let your work pile up, because you will never really get a break in law school when you can catch up on all the work that you have neglected earlier. You need to be fast and steady throughout the year, something that will require a lot of commitment and strong will.
- Being a law student means a lot of stress and anxiety. In case it is not clear by now, dealing with all the hard work at law school can be quite a stressful experience, especially for young students. Students are known to depend heavily on coffee and cigarettes during their stint at law school to help them deal with stress and anxiety. Sometimes, students resort to narcotics as well, developing addictions in some cases.
It is probably unfair to tell you that you must develop your own way to relax during your time at law school in order to deal with the stress, after telling you all about how it would be virtually impossible to take time out for yourself during that time, but you should definitely think about what works best for you in dealing with the pressure. Many law students have to simultaneously work and travel in order to support themselves financially, which means that they have to deal with additional physical exhaustion along with their sad mental situation.
You might even have to think about your priorities a little bit while you are at law school. You will probably not have time for family or friends, and you need to make sure that they are aware of your busy schedule so that they understand your situation. It may seem unfair, especially when you see your friends who are not trying to be lawyers enjoy themselves while you are burdened with your workload, but you will have to make peace with it and move on.
So, is law school hard? It depends on how you look at it. Sure, some factors about it make it hard, but if you are determined and focused on your goal and are willing to cut down on your fun for a few years for the sake of a bright future as a successful lawyer, you will find it easier to make it through law school. Of course, there are also some other things that you will be taking care of the outside of your books and classes, such as journals and student groups, but if you can make yourself accept that a few years of hard work will mean a better future, nothing can really stop you. Best of luck!
Frequently Asked Questions
- How much time does it take to prepare for the LSAT? It usually takes about a year, but some people need more than one attempt at it to pass.
- What does one do after passing out of law school? In order to become a competent lawyer, one needs to pass the Bar exam in their state after clearing law school. They can start practicing law in courts after that.
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