Chapter 09: 10 Lies About Law School – Part 1

Everything you have been told about law school is a lie. Ok, not everything. But I do have your attention now, right? Good. Now I can confidently tell you that there have been some exaggerations or misconceptions about the most important aspects of law school. If you go into law school knowing the truth about these, then maybe you will find yourself a little less stressed1A LITTLE, not much, but just enough to make it worth it.. Let’s dive into a few of these lies. 


    1. Law school is just like college, so don’t do the reading or go to class. You can get everything you need by just getting some else’s notes: This may have been an effective way to do well in college, but not in law school. In college you may have been able to get away with not reading, then regurgitating everything the professor said on the exam. Then BOOM, you get an A. This is not the case in law school. Your readings outside of class are essential to help you develop the basics of the blackletter law. In fact, your professor may expect you to learn the basics of the law through the readings2And supplemental material like hornbooks or, my favorite, commercial outlines. Professors will never tell you to get a commercial outline, but they are invaluable. See point 3 for more., assume you have read it, and never discuss the basics but jump into the minutia of Socratic learning. But that doesn’t mean class isn’t important. Going to class is still essential because you will learn your professor’s own thoughts on the law, learn the important aspects of the cases you read, and discuss important hypothesis which is crucial to doing well on your final exams. 
    2. Case briefs are the MOST crucial: Don’t get me wrong, case briefs are important. This is an important step that all law students must take in order to understand HOW to read and analyze a case. It is also a good tool that helps students prepare for a Socratic cold call by a professor in class. But these case briefs are not what will help you understand the law as a whole or help you analyze the law for the purposes of your final exam. For that, your class outlines and practice exams will be more important than your case briefs. 
    3. Don’t use commercial outlines: You have probably heard this from most, if not all, of your professors. However, I am here to tell you that it is perfectly fine to use a commercial outline. Most people use them as a type of “user’s guide” to the law. They help you understand confusing topics and cases, they often have great practice questions, and they can help provide you a starting point for your own outlines. However, it’s important to remember that commercial outlines are SUPPLAMENTS, not REPLACEMENTS for your own outlines. You should always create your own outline, but you can use these to help you along in the process. It is also important to remember that these commercial outlines may not follow your text book or what your professor teaches, so always defer to your class when there is any inconsistency.
      Also remember that the outlining process is about the journey, not the destination. So having one of these commercial outlines or even another student’s outlines will never be enough. You need the process of actively reviewing the law and putting it into your own words in order to truly understand how to apply that law. So don’t be afraid to jump into outlining, get frustrated, and start over more than once. This journey is what teaches you the law.
    4. Don’t do your outlines until the end: Everything in your classes builds on the previous class and there is a tremendous amount of material that you will need to organize into your outline. You will simply not have enough time to do all of this in the few weeks leading up to your final exam for one class, let alone all of your other classes. You should spend some time each week working on your outline for the material you learned that week in class. By the end of the semester when you are in crunch time, you have saved yourself hundreds of hours of stressful last minute outlining so you can now work on actually learning the law and applying it to practice exams. 
    5. There’s no time for fun (or sleep): There is time for all of this. More than that, it is essential that you get out and connect to your fellow law students. It’s also really important for your mental health to take breaks from anything law related and to get plenty of sleep. So dedicate a day or part of a day each week that you take off to do something for yourself. And make sure to create a daily schedule that includes a finish time that allows you plenty of time to get a good night’s sleep.


Love these lies? Well we have 5 more coming your way next month. Be sure to check them out in December!


Meet the Author
Stephen Iannacone is Director of Academic Success at Cardozo School of Law and a Bar Exam Coach at Vinco. Prior to joining Cardozo School of Law, Stephen was a trial attorney at the law firm of Spiegel & Barbato, LLP. He specialized in civil litigation in all New York venues and argued several appeals in the First Department. He was also an adjunct professor at Pace Law School where he taught classes to third-year students preparing for the Bar Exam as well as classes to second-year students focusing on legal writing and analysis. Read more about Stephen >