Previously on this blog, we’ve talked about how to best prepare for law school. There are a lot of things you can do before and during law school to set yourself up for success. But even the most prepared students will likely still find law school a challenge. Before starting law school, you may be wondering, is law school hard? And if so, what makes it so hard?
Yes, law school is hard! Even if you’ve received another form of post-graduate education, you will likely find law school more of a challenge than anything you’ve done before. There are several reasons for this, so let’s look at some below.
- There’s a lot of dense reading
Law school teaches you the law through the case method. Rather than your professors just giving you rules to memorize, you’ll be reading through actual court opinions that apply settled law in a new situation. This helps you see the law in context, and understand how it would be applied in the real world. It’s much more effective than just giving you a rule and telling you to memorize it. The case method teaches you to apply the law, which is what you’ll be doing to help your clients as a lawyer. But in order to get this info, you need to read case opinions. These opinions are written by judges, and may contain vocabulary that’s new to you. Some of them will also be very old, and use language and syntax you aren’t familiar with. And some of them will just be long. You’ll need to read and brief each case before your classes, so that you are ready to talk about it if you are to get called on. You should expect to spend at least two hours of prep time for every one hour of class time. The law school workload is likely more than you are used to from your previous schooling. This is just one of the things that makes law school hard.
- You get cold-called in class
Speaking of being prepared to get called on, another thing that makes law school hard is the Socratic Method. The Socratic Method is the style of classroom discussion that happens in law school. Professors will call on you, usually without advanced notice, and engage you in a discussion about a case you read. This can be very intimidating, especially in your first semester! Your professor will ask you question after question, testing your understanding of the case and how it can be applied in different situations. They will give new hypothetical situations to you and ask you how you think a court might rule, based on what you read. This gets easier and less intimidating the more you do it, but it is definitely one of the things that makes law school difficult.
- Your grades hinge on one exam
Law school is hard because you aren’t given many opportunities throughout the semester to show the professor you deserve an A. Most times, your final grade is solely (or largely) dependent upon one final exam. A long and difficult final exam. This is nerve-wracking and certainly adds to the stress of law school. That’s why preparing for your exams is a semester-long process (see our post about outlining here!). Creating study aides like outlines, taking practice exams, and having discussions about the cases with your friends or study group are all effective ways to prepare. Having such high-stakes exams that you study for over several months is another thing that makes law school so hard.
- There’s competition
Most law schools grade on a curve. That means you are competing for a limited numbers of A’s and B’s with your classmates. That adds more pressure to your already-difficult final exams. It’s important to keep things in perspective in law school – you likely will not get straight A’s. Even if you’ve been a straight A student your whole life, it’s probably not going to happen in law school (that’s not to say it isn’t possible, it’s just rare!). That’s ok! Remembering that not everyone can get an A, and that you are still doing well with Bs (and even the occasional C!) is important.
Yes, law school is hard. There will be many difficult times and struggles in your law school career. Being proactive by utilizing the resources available at your school and getting the support you need both emotionally and academically is the key to helping you succeed!