Why Law School is Hard
Admitted to law school can be a challenge, but the first year can prove even more challenging due to the distinct teaching methods used at law schools compared to most undergraduate colleges.
Professors often employ the case method instead of the traditional lecture style that most undergrads were familiar with. This requires extensive reading and preparation before class begins.
1. The Case Method
As an undergrad, you likely spent a great deal of time in class listening to lectures. Chances are you weren’t particularly engaged by what was said and may even have tuned them out when there wasn’t anything important for your tests or assignments.
In law school, however, you’ll learn from case studies – collections of judicial decisions whose meanings are often not fully explained in textbooks. While these cases should provide you with insight into the law, many will prove challenging to comprehend.
This method is intended to instill critical thinking skills, making it a useful preparation for the real world. However, it may prove challenging if you’re not an avid reader or lack an interest in learning about legal matters.
Harvard University Professor Charles Langdell pioneered the case method in the 1800s. He believed that by providing students with ample opportunity to examine judicial decisions, they would gain a better comprehension of what law actually means.
Though initially opposed by law professors and attorneys, Langdell’s methods eventually became the standard for teaching law in America; by the early 1900s, most law schools had adopted his case method of instruction.
Critics of the case method contend that it fails to develop students’ analytical abilities, which are essential for success in law school. This is because students may only be tested once during a semester on one exam which could make up their entire grade for the course.
Students often focus on memorizing legal rules rather than applying them to facts in a case. This is an issue since students need to be able to recognize legal issues and apply relevant rules.
Fortunately, the case method can help you develop these critical thinking abilities and become a more well-rounded student. But if you want to succeed in this course, expect to put in considerable effort and time.
2. The Grading Curve
Law school differs from most academic classes in college or high school in that it requires you to read and comprehend a considerable amount of material. Although the reading may seem tedious or monotonous, you must still learn it if you want to pass your exams and earn your degree.
You’ll need to read a lot of assigned reading and case briefs in order to become familiar with the law. Furthermore, be prepared to devote extra time on each case in order to gain an in-depth understanding.
Many professors teach their classes using the Socratic Method, which emphasizes discussion and debate over memorization. This method has been around for generations and it’s an effective way for law students to hone critical thinking skills, develop long-term memory, and apply their knowledge in diverse legal scenarios.
However, this learning style may be intimidating for some individuals since there isn’t a consistent pattern of guidance or feedback. This can be particularly challenging for those accustomed to undergrad or graduate coursework that relied heavily on lectures and textbooks.
Another reason law school can be challenging is the intense competition you face with your classmates for top grades. Unfortunately, only a minority of students will achieve success on exams, meaning only a select few will actually receive an A or B grade. As such, learning in law school may seem overwhelming at times.
Due to this, you must be able to put in more work than your classmates. Therefore, ensure that your reading is always on point and that you have ample extra time each week for study sessions.
It is essential to recognize this point, as it can help you avoid becoming a victim of the curve. Those who perform well on the test usually end up with better grades than those who struggle, so you must be willing to put in extra effort in order to obtain good marks.
One of the best ways to prepare for law school is by starting early and staying organized. Do this by participating in study groups or taking advantage of previous exams given by your professor and studying their answers. Doing this will give you a good sense of what to expect on an exam, which can ultimately assist with preparation on finals.
3. You’ll Be Wrong Often
Many people associate law school with stress and overwhelmement. Although this can be true in certain instances, there are strategies that can help you get through the process without feeling overwhelmed.
Law school will likely involve plenty of errors, as with many academic disciplines. While this can be beneficial in developing your skills in an academic environment, it also tends to cause anxiety and stress; so find a way to stay calm during these challenging times.
It’s essential to recognize that being wrong in class is an accepted part of learning according to the Socratic method. Professors will ask you questions and promote discussion during class, which can be an invaluable asset as you strive to master the material presented.
But if you aren’t careful, this negative experience can become an obsession and lead to the point where you no longer enjoy taking the course. Instead, focus on mastering the material and making sure you comprehend it fully before taking exams.
Another aspect to keep in mind is that you will be working with students from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. To be successful, you must learn to collaborate effectively with them.
One way to manage this stress is by taking advantage of the experiential learning opportunities provided by most law schools. These can include clinics, internships and externships where you’ll gain experience working on legal projects under the supervision of a licensed attorney.
Some of these opportunities are more intensive and may take a lot of time, but they can help you hone your skills in various ways. Furthermore, they may assist in deciding which legal niche is ideal for you.
Finally, try to select a class that interests you. While it is not required to major in a particular subject prior to applying to law school, selecting something you find interesting will allow for some enjoyable learning experiences inside the classroom.
4. You’ll Have Few Resources
Law school can be challenging for many reasons, but one of the most prevalent is that it requires a different kind of learning than you’re used to. You’ll have to read cases extensively, use the Socratic method in class and master how to study for exams – all new experiences which may leave you feeling like you’re missing out on something important. It doesn’t have to be this way though!
On the plus side, working in a legal environment can be an incredibly rewarding experience if you get the hang of it. Not only will you learn a lot about working there, but you’ll get to know your fellow students and professors in an intimate way as well.
A clear plan for what you want to pursue after law school can be immensely beneficial. This will make your time in law school much more focused, leading to greater success in your future career.
Research which types of law are in demand and where you might want to practice. This can be a challenging task, so take your time exploring the field before selecting one area for study.
One way to gain more knowledge about a particular area of law is by reading articles, reviews and other publications that address these topics. These can usually be easily located online and provide ample reading material.
Another useful resource is law school podcasts. These can be downloaded free and cover various topics that you might encounter while in law school.
Many of these podcasts cover everything from etiquette to stress management, so you’re sure to find something that addresses what you’re feeling and wondering about in your law school journey.
If you don’t have time to listen to a podcast, an alternative is searching for an audio book on an interesting subject. Additionally, consider joining a study group for your course which will give you more face-to-face time with classmates and enable better organization of your time.
It’s wise to request your transcript early, since you must pay for each copy of college and graduate school records. This can become expensive if you need transcripts for multiple schools at once.