Law school is undoubtedly different and more challenging than undergraduate studies, but somewhere around 40,000 law students graduate every year, meaning a law degree is indeed attainable.1 Law school’s difficulty level will depend on how well suited you are to the work, and in turn the work will determine how well suited you are to a legal career. And it is always important to keep in mind the the challenges you face in law school will mold you into the best lawyer you can be.
If you are considering law school, there is a decent chance you are a driven and high-achieving individual. It is also likely that you have given adequate thought to your reasons for seeking a legal education. If you have not considered whether or not law school is truly right for you, take the time for proper reflection before worrying about just how hard law school is going to be. If you have spent time contemplating this choice and are either set on attending law school or are still on the fence, considering what makes law school hard and what makes it rewarding might just help you make your final decision.
What Makes Law School Hard?
The following list is a sampling of the agreed upon elements that make law school difficult, based on the reflection of law graduates. Overall, most will note that the first year of law school, or L1, is the most challenging year and will require you to work harder than you ever did during your years as an undergraduate.2
The workload is the first thing that comes to mind when former law students say that law school is hard. You will be expected to do a lot of reading, most often on dense legal cases that will require you to understand (or look up) legal jargon. You also need to closely read and understand the case studies, textbooks and other readings the professors assign, often supplementing your learning with additional research. Skimming documents will not cut it in law school.
If you tend to procrastinate, this is a habit you will need to work on before starting school. Since you are unable to cut corners or leisurely peruse any assigned readings like you may have in the past, the more you procrastinate, the more behind you will be. A pattern of procrastination will not do you any favors when you get to your final exams.
You will likely have one or two exams and some assignments to set your grade in the first place, but your final grade will depend on how well the rest of your classmates do on exams. Only a certain percentage of students will do well, based on the curve, which often serves to make exams more intimidating.3 To overcome the curve, you need to make sure you understand the material through and through (see all the reading noted above), and understand it better than your classmates.
Intimidating Teaching Methods
The days of undergraduate lecture halls are long gone once you enter law school.
This is good news for those of you who had a hard time focusing through an hour or more of an unengaging lecture.
The Socratic Method is popular in law classrooms, meaning that you should expect your professor to ask lots of questions. Your answers to these questions will determine how well you understand the material you have been assigned, and will allow the professor to poke holes in your thought process—so you will need to get used to being wrong. The Socratic Method ultimately improves your critical thinking skills, reasoning and logic, and will allow you to think critically under pressure.4
There are many positive outcomes derived from this method of teaching, also known as “cold calling,” but it can still be intimidating for new law students. You typically do not know what the professor is going to ask and will be required to think on your feet in front of your peers. By the time you graduate, public speaking and quick thinking—which are both needed in the courtroom—will be much more comfortable for you, but you will have to go through the discomfort first.
High Pressure and Stiff Competition
All of the elements previously listed here contribute to the pressure and competition you will find upon starting law school. The workload, having few exams to set your grade and the curve place high pressure on the shoulders of law students. You are also expected to perform well when you are called on in class.
Since law students are typically high achievers already, they feel pressure to be at the top of the class. This pressure, paired with the curve, creates stiff competition between classmates, but it is not all doom and gloom. Going through these experiences and competing through the years of law school will forget bonds that can help make law school easier.
What Makes Law School Less Hard?
It is important to remember that the hardships you will face in law school are meant to mold you into the best possible legal professional you can be, and the best version of yourself, for that matter. Despite the competition between classmates, law school is a social experience. You will want to study with your classmates and take time away from the books to relax together.
Once you get through L1, the following years are not necessarily any easier in terms of workload, but you are better. You will understand the testing methods, you will know the professors better and you will generally feel more confident in your abilities.
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- Retrieved September 9, 2021, from testmaxprep.com/blog/lsat/how-hard-is-law-school?v=2
- Retrieved September 10, 2021, from lawschooli.com/how-hard-is-law-school/
- Retrieved September 10, 2021, from thoughtco.com/reasons-law-school-is-hard-2154876
- Retrieved September 10, 2021, from thoughtco.com/what-is-the-socratic-method-2154875