The 10 Most Important Things To Know Before Starting Law School (1-5)

6 Mar
Law School

Your Prison Awaits

As the time for law school applications draws near, I find myself frequently answering questions for people about the law school life.  Students have heard about the horrors of being called on in class, the grueling readings, and the much-dreaded bar exam.  But there is so much more to take into consideration when looking at the legal programs.    So here together are the top 10 things I tell students interested in studying Law School.  Take this as you find it; these aren’t meant to warn you off or suggest that law school isn’t the place for you. Just don’t walk into it unprepared.  Law School is something that has to be your passion, or it will be pure torture.  So, if you’ve dreamed of being a lawyer since you gave your first persuasive speech in high school, here’s what you need to know. On the other hand, if you just want something that will keep you in funds while you live your life as an artist, here’s some things you might want to take into consideration.  Good luck with whatever your choice is!

  • Law Students Are Generally Good People At Heart. 

Misconception: All law students go into the legal practice because they are money-grubbing and self-entitled, and they will do anything to get ahead of one another in the maddening race to a job.

Truth: If you are going to spend 3 years with a group of people, almost to the exclusion of any other company, law students are the people to do it with.

Since the schools are full of Type A personalities, there are of course the jerks (you know who you are).  But in general, law students are very sociable.  They come to law school because they are very sympathetic by nature.  They care about and want to help people (ergo the ever increasing number of classes on Immigration, Non-Profit, and Discrimination issues).  So don’t take those warnings you’ll hear about the “cut-throat” student too seriously.  When you feel like you’re breaking apart under the pressure, fellow law students will be the first to rally around and support you.  You will find a great support group and truly make friends for life (and no that is not meant to be cliché—it’s just true).

  • Law School Will Eat Up 2-3 Years of Your Life.

Misconception:  You will be told at the beginning that you should “keep up with the things you love—like skydiving” (literal quote)

Truth: Forget it.  While the years will pass like a flash, you’re life for the duration is over.  Law school is crazy busy . . . and not like the busy of undergrad.  No,   this reaches whole new levels of craziness. No more spaced out projects, no more finals worth 15% of the grade. You’re in law school now. It’s 100% finals, 30+ page papers, and sometime more than 100 pages of reading per class.   In your first year, the schoolwork itself is insane—it’s how they weed out the weak.  Then second year and beyond, if you are serious about getting a job, you’re going to want to do research assistantships, journal positions, club leadership, internships, interviews, and more.  The schoolwork eases up, but the extra-curricular activities will be on overload and are unavoidable.

  • Law School Classes are Not Meant to Teach You The Actual Law.

Misconception:  You go to Law School to learn what is in the law.

Truth:  Law schools/professors will deny it to their death, but law school classes are not there to teach you the law.  Sure, you’ll pick up a 5-minute Sparknotes version of the basics on some of that material here and there.  However, since so many laws are state specific, you’ll have to learn all of that out of class when studying for your state bar exam.  And that’s only for the 7-8 most basic courses.  Any other specific topics will have to wait until you actually start working in the field.

The classes themselves are kind of a prequel to learning how to do the law.  You learn how to take hundreds of files and readings and slap them into 3 hours of productive skimming. How to go from quivering in your seat when called on to staring your professors down.  How to bluff your way through  on the fly answers, until you can spew BS without flinching and still sound convincing.  Ultimately, classes are just part of the process of changing you from a caring individual into the arrogant, cocky lawyer you will leave as (see Point 6).

  • Law School Will Not Prepare You For Legal Practice.

Misconception: Law School teaches you how to file all the forms, write an undefeatable contract, and handle cases

Truth:  You’re going to walk into your first internship and realize you don’t know squat.  In fact, you’re probably going to be told to forget everything law school has taught you.  You won’t learn how to write a contract, you’ll be lucky if you even see a real business contract.  They’ll tell you that “assault” is only a crime  in certain circumstances, but they won’t tell you how to handle the case, file the report, or work with the police. You might learn the laws regarding divorce, but they won’t teach you where to find the forms or how to actually go about the process.  You’ll be taking Legal Writing classes where they have you write 10-15 pg. briefs and memorandums; you’ll cite until you cannot cite any more.  And then the boss at the company you work for as in-house counsel will  tell you that they don’t want any citations at all or that they want one paragraph summaries instead.

Some classes, like trial ad and civil procedure, may try to help with this, but even then it will all depend on the judge.  Cases have been won and lost based on the fact that a particular judge wants the lawyer to hang his coat up in the back of the room instead of hanging it on the chair.  Paperwork has been rejected when the staple was crooked instead of straight.  Ultimately, you’ll learn through trial and error, but law school isn’t the place.

  • Law School Is Taught (and Graded)Backwards

Misconception: If you were a good student in undergrad, you’ll be a good law student.

Truth: Law School is the only educational program I have ever seen where your assignments aren’t practice for your lessons.  They teach everything absolutely backwards, and it screws a lot of people up.  They will give you an assignment (say read a case) and ask you to report on it. Then they will tell you everything you did wrong.  It’s the same for every class, every grade, every project.  They tell you to write a memorandum, then they tell you how you should have done it after it’s graded.  They adopt a perverted version of the sink-or-swim method.  Instead of teaching you how to swim and then letting you try it out slowly until you perfect it, they take you, dump you in the water, wait for you to drown, and then tear you up because you didn’t know to paddle with your hands. Supposedly it teaches you to be more careful because you don’t want to drown again.  Unfortunately, you already missed the opportunity to get an A on your swimming license.


One Response to “The 10 Most Important Things To Know Before Starting Law School (1-5)”


  1. The 10 Most Important Things To Know Before Starting Law School (6-10) | Deceptively Blonde - March 6, 2013

    […] is part two of “The 10 Most Important Things to Know Before Starting Law School.” You can find point 1-5 […]

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