When you’re trying to survive the day to day grind of law school it can be easy to lose sight of the purpose behind pursuing a law degree: to be a lawyer! And it doesn’t help that the teaching method used in most law schools – which usually involves a lot of convoluted questioning in class followed by a comprehensive all or nothing exam at the end of the semester – doesn’t seem to resemble what most lawyers do in their professional lives. The disparity between what you anticipate doing as a lawyer and what you’re required to do in law school can sometimes make all the effort you put into studying feel pointless and irrelevant to your future career.
But, there really is a method to the madness of law school. The tasks you have to complete as a student are actually helping you develop and refine skills you will need as a lawyer, and appreciating that connection can help you stay motivated and focused on giving school your best effort. If you’re feeling a little indifferent to law school, consider how the following assignments are actually preparing you to be to deal with rigors of practicing law.
Attending Class and Cold Calls
Showing up is important. Lawyers have to juggle a lot of deadlines, meetings, and responsibilities, so you need to be able to manage your schedule and show up on time for all of your appointments. But the best lawyers don’t just show up, they show up prepared. Attendance requirements for class and cold calls help train you to manage your schedule and to show up prepared to defend your position, each and every day.
The reading assignments for law school can seem overwhelming at times, not just because they’re so long, but also because the reading is challenging, complex, and yes, usually a little boring. But all that reading will actually help you be a better attorney. Lawyers do a lot of reading, whether it’s going through contracts, researching case law, or analyzing an opponent’s brief, so they must be efficient (but careful) readers. So while all those long, boring reading assignments may seem pointless, they’re actually helping to improve your reading comprehension and training you to be a more efficient reader.
This is one area where the connection between law school and practicing law is actually a little more direct. As a lawyer, your written work is often the first, and sometimes the only, thing that a judge or client will see. It’s absolutely crucial that you are able to effectively communicate in writing. Law school writing assignments can be hugely time to consume and difficult, but you’ll be glad you had this practice when it comes time to start writing those 30 page appellate briefs.
The infamous Socratic Method is one of the most loathed aspects of law school. Gunners aside, most students don’t look forward to being put on the spot in class. But sparring with your professor over a case is actually great preparation for practicing law. The Socratic Method forces you to think critically and form persuasive arguments while also anticipating the opposing side’s argument and making adjustments quickly. As a lawyer, these are the same skills you’ll put into practice when you’re arguing at a hearing, defending a client at trial, or even just analyzing the facts of your case.
Every law student has a story about that professor – the one that was a ridiculous hard grader, the one that humiliated a student in class, or maybe the one that seemed incapable of giving a clear answer and left you to learn the law on your own. It’s almost a right of passage to have to deal with at least one cranky professor in law school. It may be hard to appreciate in the moment, but figuring out how to cope with a cranky professor is actually great preparation for the cranky clients, attorneys, and judges that you’re sure to encounter as a practicing lawyer.
You may think outlining is just a way to help you study for exams, but the process of creating an outline also gives you a preview of some of things you’ll need to do on a daily basis as a lawyer. Outlining requires you to synthesize a lot of complicated material into an organized structure that is easy to comprehend. It’s a difficult skill, but it’s one that will help you when you’re drafting briefs that contain complex arguments or complicated technical details. Good outlines also require you to be diligent and detail oriented, which are key qualities for any good lawyer.
Basing your entire grade on a single exam at the end of the semester may seem like an unfair way to assess your work, but it’s not too far from the way you’ll be judged as a practicing attorney. Not only do final exams train you to perform under pressure, but they also get you used to the idea of winning or losing your entire case based on a single ruling from a judge.
It can be hard to stay motivated in law school when the practice of law seems so far away or so different from what you’re doing on a daily basis as a law student. To help you stay focused and diligent, make an effort to see the bigger picture. Your law school assignments aren’t pointless busy work, they’re actually preparing you for your future career.
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Other helpful interview tips:
- How to Act Like a Professional in Law School
- How to Ace Your Law Firm Interview
- Job Hunting 101 What Makes You Unique
- Behave Like a Professional in the Legal Workplace (podcast)
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