We have published an article that is very similar to this one before but now we are publishing it in the context of a pre-law tip. Why? Because if you understand exactly how law school is different than college, you will be way ahead of your peers.
Law School Summer Prep Tip #4:
Understand how Law School is different from College
Specifically, understanding the primary differences between law school and college will help you in two ways: First, it will help you to familiarize yourself with law school and what will be expected of you. Second, it will help you to understand that because law school is very different from college, you cannot use the exact same study strategies that you use in college to succeed in law school. Law school is a new game and you need a new skill set if you want to succeed.
Below are some of the differences between law school and college:
1. The vast majority of your assignments in law school come from casebooks rather than textbooks. You will be expected to read several cases each night. The cases are usually difficult to read at first since they use a lot of legal jargon that you will not be familiar with right away.
2. Most law school professors use the Socratic Method to teach. That is, instead of lecturing, professors randomly “call on” students to answer questions about the law and the cases assigned. Many of the questions are difficult and do not necessarily have a right answer. The point of the Socratic Method is to ask questions until the student does not know the answer.
3. For most of your substantive law courses, one exam will determine 100% of your entire grade. Unlike undergrad, there are not usually any graded quizzes, midterms, essays, or homework assignments in first-year law school courses. The exception to this is any Legal Writing or Legal Research class you may take.
4. Law School Exams are difficult! They require you to be very analytical and write long essays in response to “fact patterns” (or stories) in a short period of time (usually three or four hours). You will be expected to demonstrate that you know the law and are able to apply it to a given set of facts. Usually, there are no (or few!) short answer, fill in the blank, or multiple-choice questions.
5. Many students do not receive A’s their first year of law school. First-year law school exams are graded on a strict curve with the vast majority of students receiving B’s and C’s. Second and third-year courses are generally graded more leniently.
6. Law school is a lot of work. It requires that you put in a significant amount of time and effort. You will be assigned hundreds of cases to read throughout the semester, and you will have many legal writing homework assignments and projects to complete. You will also be expected to find time to make outlines of the law and take practice exams.
7. Many students feel a high level of anxiety in law school. This is due to the amount of work assigned, the method of teaching (the Socratic Method), as well as the uncertainty that most students feel about their grades given the lack of feedback throughout the semester. Many students also feel pressure to compete for the few A’s that are given so that they can get good internships and jobs and keep their scholarships. While law school is a lot of work and students sometimes feel a lot of pressure, it can also be a very rewarding and challenging intellectual experience.
As you can see, law school is very different from undergrad. It is not enough to just know that on an intellectual level, though. Instead, internalize it and shape your study routine around the differences. Do not use the exact same study strategies you used in undergrad and expect to succeed in law school. For more 0L tips as part of our Law School Summer Prep series, please click here.
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