Is Law School Hard? | How To Overcome the Difficulties On the Path of Becoming a Lawyer

One of the biggest questions a student mulling his/her future in the legal field asks: "Is Law school hard?" 

If you think about it, this question is reasonable, since law is in the same level of medicine wherein students must study a minimum of 7 years (any 4-year undergrad and at least 3-year law school program), or sometimes longer. 

But aside from the length of study, is law school really hard? Are you expected to study every waking hour? We went over some popular study materials and created this LSAT books review to help anyone preparing, and now we'll break down this dilemma and hopefully help you decide if law school is really the best option for you. 

Is Law School Hard? Pretty Hard, And Here’s Why!

How difficult is law school, you ask? Aside from the infamous, yet effective LSAT prep, there are several reasons people think law school is challenging. Here they are: 

The Case Method of Teaching Can Be Frustrating

Undergrad courses are similar to high school. Every topic discussed can be straightforward. This changes dramatically when you reach law school since most professors will use the case method (use real cases to discuss specific legal scenarios)

The case method works because the goal of students is to learn the law and fact pattern (key facts of a particular legal case that is included in almost all major exams).

As a freshman, the case method can be quite confusing and frustrating, but as you get used to it and master the technique, this will become a second language to you.

If you spent the first or second semester learning this and you still feel lost, maybe it's time to seek the help of a tutor or professor.  

The Socratic Method Can Be Intimidating

The Socratic method has many names, it has been referred to as the Elenctic method, Socratic debate or method of Elenchus. But if you've watched any movie with a law school theme or a TV show like 'How to Get Away with Murder', you'd probably have an idea what the Socratic method is.  

In a Socratic method, the professor calls on a student and showers them with question after question about the topic. If you're new to law, this experience can be intimidating. It's even known to make students cry or drop out of the program completely. 

But the Socratic Method you see in film isn't really as dramatic in real life. In fact, professors even tell students beforehand who will be "on call" for the next class, so they'll be able to prepare for their turn more thoroughly. 

Likely Only One Exam for the Entire Semester

Here's another new thing to get used to: once you figure out how to get into law school and actually start studying, you'll see that aw school programs tend to have only one exam for the entire semester instead of several long quizzes throughout one sem.

This can be problematic to some students because: 

  • Making up to a failed exam is possible when there are 2 or more exams within 1 semester.
  • No other exams available means students cannot get feedback from professors after a particular exam, which makes it harder for students to gauge if they are on the right track.
  • Having one exam per semester seems harder because more topics are included in one go.
  • The stress/pressure is higher since this one and only exam for the semester will definitely influence your grade. 

However, you can learn to adapt to this schedule and train yourself new studying techniques to help with major law school semester finals.  

Few Opportunities for Feedback

The answer to how hard is law school varies between students, but if you are someone who needs feedback or guidance to confirm if you are on the right track, then law school could be challenging to you. 

The main reason why freshmen law school students think this is so is because there is only 1 exam for the entire semester, so they'll only be able to see how good (or bad) they performed once grades are released. 

To fix this dilemma, you should try to seek feedback from professors, a colleague, tutor, or law school advisor, so you'd have time to improve or study before exams. 

The Curve Is Brutal

In high school or pre-law courses, the grades you get is entirely dependent on your own merit. 

When it comes to law school grading, you have to understand that students will be graded on a strict curve. This "curve" is the permitted range of each letter grade a particular law school can award, for example, 0 to 3% A+, 3 to 7% A, and so on. 

This means that a law school is required to give out a set amount of A, B, C, or Ds. So if you submitted a paper that the professor deems worthy of an A, but the professor has already given 10 As to your classmates, you could be given a B instead if yours isn't as good as the other 10 student papers. 

The curve depends largely on the school, and the grades of your classmates, since the more high-achievers you have in your class, the higher your chances of experiencing how brutal the law school grading curve can be. 

You Need to Learn to Think a Different Way and in a New Language

Before you begin law school, you have to train yourself to think differently than what you've been used to in the past. Going to law school is similar to learning a new language. 

As we've discussed above, the fact pattern will become your new vocabulary. It will be ingrained with every subject you take in law school, so preparing yourself for this "new normal" would make it easier for you to transition. 

On top of fact pattern, you also have to master the use of legal vocabulary (both in written and verbal manner). 

You Need to Learn to Think on Your Feet

In law school, students must be able to react to events decisively, effectively, and without prior thought or planning. Simply put, you must learn to think on your feet.  

Unfortunately, not everyone is tuned to think this way. Some students excelled in high school and pre-law because they memorized everything by the book.

If you are serious with law school, you should be able to answer difficult questions on the spot. And since you are not expected to recite everything you've read in a book, but use them as examples for a current case, critical thinking will be put to the test more often than you hope.  

During your first year in law school, you'd be put to the test in numerous debates and oral arguments, which can be challenging if you are shy, have stage fright, or fear public speaking. 

Class Preparation Is Hard Work by Itself

Preparing for class can be very difficult to many students since the law school ways of teaching, studying for exams, or even performing in class is very different to undergraduate programs. 

As long as you are at a loss at using fact patterns on either real cases or theoretical situations, you will find that class prep is hard work. You should accept this early on and study harder outside class so you could catch up. If you find materials harder to grasp, find a tutor or classmate who could help you figure things out. 

Note that law school professors may not have time to sit with students one at a time, so learning class materials is entirely up to you. 

Competition Is for Class Standing, Not Grades

You may have heard that the competition in law schools is fierce, and this is absolutely true due to the grading curve. 

If you do well in class and your professor notices you, this would definitely affect your final grade. And since getting A’s does not just mean getting perfect scores on your paper, but competing successfully with your classmates as well, it can be frustrating for some students. 

Note that your class ranking is important for your grades and in turn, your future career. Everyone in the class knows this and will be working as hard (or sometimes harder) than you, so you must be ready to push yourself to the limits.

The Level of Competition Is Generally Higher Than in Undergraduate

Those who are highly competitive tend to excel in law schools simply because everyone is expected to be at their best, so the level of competition would be generally higher. 

If you had a 4.0 GPA from your undergrad program, this doesn't necessarily mean you'd be ready for law school. In fact, many students who were standouts at their undergrad program also question is law school difficult once they experience the first few months of law school. 

The good news is you can thrive off the energy of the people around you. Being around people who are motivated, focused, smart, and competitive as you can also be a good thing. It just depends on how you use the competitive atmosphere.

So, Is Law School Hard! Yes, but It Is Manageable!

To sum up, is law school hard? The answer depends entirely on you. 

  • Are you used to challenging yourself?
  • Do you thrive under stress?
  • Do you compete well against others?
  • Are you ready to work hard? 

If you answered yes to all, then you'll be alright. Don't be intimidated with new methods of learning, grading, debating, or competing. And if you begin to struggle, know that there will always be help available if you ask. 

Leonard Haggin

I created this site to help students like you learn from the experiences my team had learned during our extensive academic careers. I am now studying Law at Stanford, but I also make time to write articles here in order to help all you fellow students advance in your academic careers and beyond. I hope our efforts on Study Prep Lounge will arm you with the knowledge you need to overcome whatever trial or test you find in front of you.

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