This question weighs on the mind of every person considering a career in law. To be straightforward, law school is hard. It takes a lot of time, patience, dedication, and hard work. Free time and personal time can be very limited. When final exams roll around, life will be nonexistent; for two weeks, life consists of waking up, ingesting coffee, and spending nearly every waking moment reading books, reading notes, forming outlines, and taking practice exams.
However, do not be fooled by common perceptions. In addition to a lot of hard work, law school is a blast. During the first year (1L), there are a plethora of school-hosted and student-hosted events, including parties, game nights, and meet-and-greets. Did I mention parties? There are a lot of fun events designed to bring students together to create bonding friendships. These friendships, along with social events, are what support the sanity of the law school grind.
A Pitfall To Avoid
Law school is not college. Attending class and reading the assignments are not optional. The American Bar Association requires each student attend at least 80% of class sessions, for each class. Professors are notorious for “cold-calling,” where they select students at random and drill them on cases and topics. Furthermore, students must know the minute details of each case, which requires critical reading and preparation for every class. A good tip: learn to relate the ideas and concepts of cases to other cases you have read before in a class. This requires practice and the skill of reading.
But I know how to read!
No, you do not. In law school, you do not simply “read” cases; you READ them – critically and constructively. Judges write decisions for other judges to read; they do not write them for law students. Buy a law dictionary and use it every time you encounter a word you do not know. Consider the background (facts) of the case and try to answer: What problem is the judge trying to solve? What negative future consequences is the judge trying to avoid? What assumptions does the judge make?
Reread the case if it does not make sense the first time. Read up on “briefing” and “outlining” cases, a skill that teaches you to break a case into its elements. This is the most important strategy to develop your reading skill in law school. Lastly, talk about the cases with your friends and other students. A good tip: do not talk about the cases, exams, or anything else academic when you are at parties, bars, or other events. These are times to unwind and have fun, not dwell on school and stress everyone out.
Get a Job!
Your grades are essential in securing your success, so take law school seriously. A summer job after 1L year is vital, and opens doors to other jobs after 2L year and upon graduation. Use your law school’s resources to perfect your resume and cover letter. The Career Services Department is a great source of job postings and interviews. Find a professor to serve as your adviser throughout school. Lastly, join student clubs and organizations, as they provide great networking opportunities.
Obtain a law school preparation book and read the entire thing. Write down your reasons for attending law school, and have more than just, “I want to make money.” Lastly, do the work. There is plenty of time for fun and personal activities. If you treat law school like a day job, and put in 8 hours every day, success will come!