What I Wish I Knew Before Law School
By: Kathleen Elliott Vinson
“If only I had known that before law school” students often lament with regret. It may seem like some students have inside information, depending on their prior experience, education, or network. To level the playing field and start off law school in a positive direction, review the ten common myths below. Understanding how each myth is dispelled by the truth can help law students be successful.
|1. I’m on my own.||1. Plenty of people are available to help . . . you’ve got to ask. For example, go to your professor’s office hours and ask questions. Seek out assistance and support from your law school’s Academic Support Program. Finally, the Dean of Students Office is a great resources for questions or assistance – after all, it’s right in the name of their office.|
|2. I’ll probably struggle because I didn’t do great on the LSAT.||2. Hard work and determination are much more important than a high LSAT score. Grit and perseverance will play a large role in your success.
|3. If I just go to class and pay attention, I’ll do fine.
|3. Class is just the start. Law school is student-centered learning. You need to put in the work before, during, and after class.|
|4. I just need to survive the grind of law school.
|4. Thrive don’t just survive. Don’t forget about your wellbeing during law school. Check out any wellness programs and resources your law school may offer. For example, at Suffolk we offer Wellness Wednesday programs each month. There are also numerous apps that you can use to practice mindfulness, such as Calm, Head Space, or the Smiling Mind.
|5. Learning to “think like a lawyer” doesn’t really mean much.||5. Reading, researching, writing, and analyzing “like a lawyer” are critical professional skills.|
|6. I won’t need to adjust my basic routine and schedule during my 1L year.||6. Effective time and stress management are critical to succeeding in law school.
|7. If I don’t “get it” right away, I probably never will because my intelligence, abilities, and talent are fixed and can’t change.||7. Having a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset can have a positive effect on learning. Welcome challenges and don’t fear failure. “Don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits!”|
|8. I’ve always been a decent test taker, so I’ll be OK.
|8. Law school exams are unique. Review old exams that your professors have given in prior years. Take practice tests and seek feedback even if you think you are not ready. Don’t squander the opportunity to practice applying your knowledge and skills, getting feedback, and making adjustments. After taking a test, review it with your professor or teaching assistant to find out what you did well and what you didn’t do well so you know what to repeat or adjust on future exams.|
|9. I’ve always been a good writer, so I don’t need to worry about it in law school.
|9. Legal writing is a different type of writing and takes time to develop. Welcome feedback from your legal writing professor.|
|10. I can treat law school like college.||10. Your legal career starts on the first day of law school. Your professors may write you letters of recommendations or serve as references. Your classmates will be your colleagues one day in the legal field. Some may become judges you argue before. Some may be partners or supervisors you may seek a job from and some may refer you cases. The way you treat people, your professionalism (or lack thereof), and the habits you form in law school may carry over to your legal career.|