Five Things You Should Know Going Into Law School
Five Things You Should Know Going Into Law School: If you are about to enter law school you need to get ready for a whole new world. Law school is unlike anything you have done before. Notoriously hard and frustrating, it will push you to your limits. But it is also fun and exciting and does not have to be super stressful! Law school changes how you think, it changes your life, and it changes you. Your first few months will be a transition. But this transition will be easier if you know a few things going into law school. Below is a list of five things you should know going into law school.
Five Things You Should Know Going Into Law School
1. Law school changes how you think, not necessarily how you learn.
The first thing to know going into law school is that your study habits most likely won’t completely change. For some reason, people get to law school and decide that they should be studying in 1L study groups. Maybe seeing Legally Blonde growing up makes new law students believe this is what you have to do in order to succeed your 1L year.
A 1L study group can help some students. For them, it helps to bounce ideas off of each other and talking things out with a group. But for others group study is just not an option. Some students learn better alone and a group would only hold them back. If you know you study best alone then continue to study alone. You do change how you think in law school but you do not have to change how you learn.
If you decide to study in a group, you still need to watch out for some of the setbacks that happens when you study in the group. Make sure your study group does not turn into just another social group where you gather ‘round and gossip about classmates instead of discussing the cases for class.
Another study staple of law school is outlining for finals. Many students wait until the last minute to outline, which we do not recommend! (Check out our in-depth guide to outlining here.) A lot of students also make the mistake of reading every single case, which we also do not recommend!
Don’t be pressured to “follow the pack” in law school. Instead, keep in mind what worked for you before – as it will probably work for you in the future.
2. Everyone embarrasses themselves with cold calls.
The Socratic Method (and “cold calls”) are scary. Suddenly you find yourself explaining a case to an impatient professor in front of all your peers. You, and literally every other 1L in the country, have to deal with this as first year law students. So don’t get too worked up if you embarrass yourself. Practically everyone else will embarrass themselves as well.
If you leave the class feeling like an idiot there is something you can do. Own up to the fact that you don’t understand the material and go see the professor during office hours. Professors can be intimidating during class but many are quite helpful during office hours. Stop by and get to know your professor and the material. They may help you understand a concept better. That way the next time you get cold called you will have a better grasp of the material and your professor will be less intimidating after some one-on-one during office hours.
3. Make time for friends and family, but understand you may not have as much time as you did before!
Law school takes up a lot of your time. There will be days, even weeks, when you spend most of your time doing something for law school. Classes, journal, pro bono, internships, meetings, and job hunting take up your life during the three years you are a law student. Even your summers may be spent working at summer internships and jobs.
This leaves little time for friends and family. Hopefully you have friends and a family that understand how hard law school is and that you won’t be able to hang out as often as you used to. Your future may hold less vacations with friends and family and more quick coffee meetups.
It is unfortunate that you have less time for fun but you can still fit in time for those you love. A movie date or a dinner helps you catch up with friends and realize that there is life outside of law school. Try to get your friends to come visit you instead of you taking a weekend to visit them. If they insist you visit them then they better get used to the idea that you will have to do homework while you visit.
Luckily, law school ends. Once you graduate and pass the bar you will be amazed at the time you have to pursue a life now that you are not in law school.
4. It’s easy to pigeonhole yourself.
This is one of the most important things to know going into law school. Some people go into law school knowing the type of law they want to practice and how they plan on getting there. They take all the right courses and get the right internships so they have the proper experience to be hired after law school.
You might be one of these students but you might get to your internship or sit down in your course and realize something that many students have realized before you, you hate this area of law. Then you are scrambling to take different courses and get different experience so you can pursue something else after law school.
Lately there is such a push to specialize in an area of law right out of the gate. Try to avoid this if you can. Even if you are 100% sure you want to be a corporate lawyer or a prosecutor try not to pigeonhole yourself so early on in your legal career. Law school is an opportunity to experience different areas of the law. Try to experience as much as you can. For your courses focus on bar prep courses. These course not only prepare you for the bar but help give you knowledge you can use in a variety of legal jobs.
For your 1L summer job I highly recommend working a judicial internship. You get a wealth of experience at a judicial internship which can help you out no matter what you want to go in to. Be it public or private, litigation or transactional, there is something for everyone in a judicial internship. Employers love seeing it on a resume and it can expose you to different areas of the law and help you decide what you really want to pursue.
But don’t freak out if you make it halfway through law school and realize you want to change your plan. You can always find good ways to present your past experiences to help you break into a new field. Keep yourself open and let yourself discover what you want to do, not just what you think you want to do.
5. Transferring is an option after your 1L year.
Finally, our last thing to know going into law school is that it is OK to aspire to a transfer. As much as people pretend it does not matter, law school rankings are important for some career paths. As your 1L year progresses you may be doing great in your classes and considering transferring to a better ranking law school with better bar passage and employment rates.
It can be taboo to talk about transferring your 1L year. In some schools, students are open about their goals of moving up to a better school. In others it is never mentioned until 2L year starts and students are missing. Don’t let your classmates’ opinions affect your choice to transfer. Whether you want to stay or leave, the decision should be yours and yours alone.
When you start your 1L year work hard on your grades and look critically at your school and career prospects. If you get great 1L grades and you think transferring will be best for you then do it. Don’t worry about what others think.
Law school is tough. It changes how you think, challenges you and changes your life forever. You are about to embark on a challenging journey, but it will be worth it! We hope this list of things to know going into law school makes your transition easier!
Caitlin, a recent graduate of The George Washington University Law School and a JD Advising Uniform Bar Exam blogger, wrote this post on 5 Things To Know Going Into Law School. Caitlin is a practicing attorney in Washington, D.C.
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