What is Academic Success?

Welcome to law school! I am here to help you navigate the murky sea covered in fog in the middle of a storm that is law school. I am excited to be sharing my advice and own personal experiences in the hope that they are helpful as you start your journey. Before getting to law school, it’s important for you to know what the role of your Office of Academic Success actually is, why it exists, and how it can help you. 

This may come as a surprise to you, but law school is not like any educational experience you’ve ever had. Gone are the days where you can go to class, transcribe everything your professor says 1…or get the notes from someone else in class while you sleep off a hangover until 1 pm , then spit that back to them on an exam. In order to succeed in law school, you must first learn how to BE a law student, which is a lot easier said than done. Law school classes are usually based on the Socratic method, meaning professors teach (or lead you astray) through a series of questions, not answers. These Socratic sessions can often leave students more confused and frustrated than when they came to class that day.  And that is because it is not the professor’s job to teach you the law, but to help you THINK like a lawyer. This process can be tiring and stress-inducing. On top of this, you have tons of cases to read each night that appear to be written in a foreign language, your legal writing class is teaching you to forget all the writing you’ve ever done to learn a new way to write “like a lawyer”, and you have to create something called an outline for each class to help study for one single exam that counts for 100% of your final grade. This will require you to be more structured, organized, and patient than you have ever been in school. It will demand you to be at your best while feeling like you are at your worst. Still with me and want to go to law school? Good. 

 

I’m not telling you this to scare you, but to prepare you. Prepare you for the most work you have ever done in school, but one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have. Yes, behind all of that scary stuff is an amazing process that helps shape your mind to think in ways you never imagined possible and open doors for you to be the best attorney you could ever imagine. But it is a process that you have to get comfortable with. Who can help you with this? Your Office of Academic Success! 2Do you see where I’m going with this yet? This office could be called many different names and could be made up of one person or several, but most offices serve the same purpose: to help students succeed in law school, on the bar exam, and beyond. 

 

Your Office of Academic Success can usually help you with all aspects of your studies in law school. This can include tips for time management (both in life and on your exams), how to read and brief cases3Don’t know what a case brief is? You will soon! YAY! AREN’T YOU EXCITED?!, how to structure your exams4 Ever heard of IRAC or CRAC??? NO?! Just you wait!, how to form study groups, and how to start those dreaded outlines.5Have you started your Torts outline yet? NO?! Wait, you don’t know what a Tort is!? What are you waiting for?! Just kidding, you’ll be fine. They can help you maintain the right positive mindset that you will need to succeed in law school. They can help you manage both the internal struggles of law school and the external pressures outside of law school that may impact your academic performance. They will put together countless workshops that help you figure out how to be a law student and get the most out of your three years.6Even when you think you do not have time to attend these workshops, make the time. The time spent learning the ins and outs of law school will save you the time and stress of wishing you had gone when it is too late. They will walk this journey with you through law school and, in some cases, through the dreaded Bar Exam.7That’s another story for another day… and a different blog.

 

With that, I leave you with this one piece of advice.8...at least for this post, there will be PLENTY more advice coming your way. In your first week of orientation, after you get your cool new school ID, you buy 400 lbs of case books, you spend 90 minutes briefing your first 3-page case, and the excitement from the start of this new journey has waned, go see your Office of Academic Success and introduce yourself. You will likely see a lot of them in the next three years. 

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 >