A student asked me a funny question the other day: “Why is law school hard?” (Mostly I thought it was funny because apparently my explanation of what law school was about convinced her it really wasn’t that hard.)
But it is a valid question. Is law school really that hard? And, if so, why?
Is Law School Hard?
I think most people who’ve done it would agree that law school is harder than college. Why?
Because in college you’re spoon-fed the material. Even in upper-level classes, you could legitimately ask “Is this going to be on the test?” and get a meaningful answer.
- Law school’s more challenging because what you’re doing in class has little relationship to what you’ll be tested on.
This — in and of itself — increases the difficulty level, because YOU have to figure out what the exam is going to be like, and prepare for it. (Without much, if any, assistance from your professors.)
For some people that level of uncertainty is very hard to deal with. But, does that make the exam fundamentally hard? I have to say no.
Why is Law School Hard?
I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that law school exams aren’t actually that hard, if you’re properly prepared. But here’s the thing — almost no one is properly prepared first semester!
- Because most people are still stuck in the undergraduate mindset of “Go to class, do the reading, memorize some facts, and regurgitate them on the exam.”
If this sounds like you, you MUST change course. Seriously, disaster awaits.
Memorizing “the law” is not what law school exams are about. Do you need to know the law? Sure, backwards and forwards. But that is not enough.
I know you’re not going to believe this, but learning the law is the easy part of law school. (Any reasonably intelligent person could pick up a bar review book and understand the basics of every 1L subject in a matter of days.)
- The question is what you DO with the law you’ve studied.
If you’re don’t have a clear plan for how to apply this law to a situation you’ve never seen before — a plan you’ve worked on and thought about in advance — then, yes, law school exams are really hard.
If you have worked out a plan, and practiced using it, law school exams aren’t all that difficult. Stressful and time-pressured? Yes. Impossibly hard? Absolutely not.
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