How Hard Is Law School?

Congratulations! You have passed the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) and have been accepted into law school! Now, the fun starts! For those considering law school, cost can be a true deterrent. Another factor that many take into consideration when contemplating going to law school is how rigorous the course of study will be. Law school will likely be a much harder course of study than what you experienced when getting your undergraduate degree. There are many reasons why law school is harder than undergraduate school. Even with its challenges, about 40,000 law school students graduate each year, meaning that it is, indeed, possible to graduate with a law degree!

1. Law School Courses are Taught Differently

In most American Bar Association (ABA)-accredited law schools, classes are taught differently than they are in an undergraduate college program. You probably became used to a didactic style of teaching and learning during undergraduate studies, in which you memorized facts and dates using short-term memory skills. Law school, on the other hand, utilizes your critical thinking and analytical skills, focusing on long-term memory. Instead of a lecture-style class, which you likely experienced in many of your undergraduate courses, law school courses are taught in a more Socratic-style of teaching, in which professors ask students many direct questions, and much discussion goes on among the students. Although it can seem intimidating at first, this method of teaching helps you to develop your critical thinking skills under pressure, something that you will need to be able to do in your law career. Students in law school are expected to be able to argue multiple points of view and positions, accepting that a right answer to a given problem might not exist. It is also important for law school students to remember much information, as it will likely be used by you in the future, either in another class or in your career as a lawyer.

2. Studying Law School Subjects Is Harder

Because of the different ways law school courses are taught, studying also requires a different approach than what you might have used in undergraduate school. You must understand an exhaustive list of ideas and materials comprehensively, which involves much more than memorization. Many law school students turn to study groups to study concepts that they have learned. Other resources that can help law school students in studying include your college’s law library, supplemental materials, and, if available to study, past exams.

First-year law school classes tend to be the most difficult of any that you will experience in your three years of law school, as you are getting used to new subject matter and heavier readings. Some of the hardest classes in law school, according to current and former students, are:

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3. Grading Is Different in Law School

You might find that the grading system in law school is vastly different from that of your undergraduate college. In fact, some law schools completely do away with letter grades, instead grading students on a scale that may include terms such as honors, pass, low pass, and fail. Many of the assignments you turn in might not be graded throughout the course, so the ones that are graded count for much more. It is also difficult to know how you are doing in a course in which you are not given grades or having your efforts ranked. Most law professors grade strictly on a curve, using their personal discretion. This means that your grade is dependent upon the grades of others in your class, making it even more difficult to get good grades in law school.

4. Class Participation is More Important in Law School

You might have been the star of your undergraduate class, participating in every lecture and offering opinions and viewpoints that were appreciated by your professors. This will likely be different in law school. You are expected to dress in more business-like attire, and be well-groomed when you come to class. The classes are also much more competitive than those of your undergraduate school. You should think about how you look, how you sound, and how you act when attending law school classes, and dress for success. You never know who might show up to one of your law school classes – such as a potential employer scouting for new talent. Also, if you look and act like a lawyer, it’s easier to see yourself, and for others to see you, as a lawyer.

5. Anxiety is Higher in Law School

It’s understandable that the anxiety you feel as a law school student will be higher than what you experienced in undergraduate school. You might be working full- or part-time while in law school, and potentially having to commute to school as well, which increases stress and anxiety, giving you less time to focus on studies. Make sure that your family and friends are aware of your increased schedule and let them help you out as much as possible. Also ensure that you have free time for yourself, to unwind and take care of your own needs.

If you are a law school student experiencing high anxiety and stress, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Turn to your college’s counseling center or Office of Student Services for immediate help. Other helpful resources include:

Top 10 Hardest Law Schools to Get Into

In 2020, 24/7 Wall Street reviewed data on ABA-accredited law schools, including the median LSAT scores they accepted, the typical undergraduate GPAs of those accepted, and acceptance rates, and came up with the following schools ranked as the hardest to get into in the U.S.:

  • University of Southern California (3.4% acceptance rate)
  • Duke University (4.1% acceptance rate)
  • University of Virginia (5.3% acceptance rate)
  • Vanderbilt University (3.4% acceptance rate)
  • Northwestern University (4.5% acceptance rate)
  • Harvard University (6.4% acceptance rate)
  • University of Pennsylvania (3.7% acceptance rate)
  • Yale University (4.7% acceptance rate)
  • University of Chicago (3.6% acceptance rate)
  • Stanford University (3.8% acceptance rate)

Top 10 Easiest Law Schools to Get Into

Test prep company LSATMax examined acceptance rates, GPA and LSAT scores at law schools and came up with this list of the easiest ABA-accredited law schools to get into as of 2021:

  • Southern Illinois University School of Law (50% acceptance rate)
  • Charleston School of Law, South Carolina (55.6% acceptance rate)
  • Thomas M. Cooley Law School- Western Michigan University (86% acceptance rate)
  • Loyola University of New Orleans College of Law (60% acceptance rate)
  • Southern University Law Center, Baton Rouge, LA (65% acceptance rate)
  • North Carolina Central University School of Law (LSAT min 140, 2.9 GPA accepted)
  • Appalachian School of Law, VA (63% acceptance rate)
  • Willamette University College of Law, Salem, OR (76% acceptance rate)
  • Concordia University School of Law, Idaho (60% acceptance rate)
  • Roger Williams University School of Law, Rhode Island (69% acceptance rate)

What Can I Expect in Law School?

Law school is challenging, but the difficulty level varies greatly depending on your skills and learning style. To get through the rigors of law school, you must be prepared for a significant commitment of time and energy. Courses are demanding, with large amounts of reading and frequent written assignments. You can anticipate encountering complex legal theories and concepts that will push your analytical thinking abilities. Class participation is crucial, as discussions often aid in understanding intricate topics. Moreover, examinations often include case analysis, where you are expected to draw upon your knowledge of multiple areas of law.

That said, how hard is law school ultimately depends on your perspective and how well you adapt to the demands of this rigorous academic environment. It’s not just about memorizing laws or legal procedures. It’s about learning to think like a lawyer, a unique and challenging way of approaching problems. But with the right mindset, commitment, and preparation, you can navigate law school successfully.

Course Breakdown

Your first year in law school is typically structured around fundamental courses, often called ‘core classes,’ designed to introduce basic legal concepts and provide the groundwork for more advanced study. These usually include subjects like Constitutional Law, Contract Law, Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, and Torts. Some schools also require a course on legal research and writing, a critical skill for any practicing attorney.

You have more flexibility in your second and third years in your course schedule. You can choose from various elective courses that allow you to delve deeper into specialized areas of law, such as Corporate Law, International Law, Intellectual Property Law, Environmental Law, or Family Law. This is when you get to shape your law school experience to align with your career goals. For example, if you’re interested in corporate law, you might opt for courses in business associations, securities regulation, or mergers and acquisitions.

In understanding how hard is law school it’s necessary to note that the difficulty of courses can vary depending on the topic and your interests. Some students find constitutional law challenging due to the theoretical nature of the subject, while others might need help with the practical components of a course in trial advocacy. All law courses require a robust time commitment to complete the required readings and fully understand the material.

Apart from traditional coursework, law schools usually have other academic requirements. These may include participation in a legal clinic, completion of a substantial research paper, or contribution to a law review or journal. These experiences will provide practical training and augment your understanding of the law, but they also add another layer of complexity and commitment to your law school experience. Again, whether these requirements are considered ‘hard’ depends mainly on your work ethic, time management skills, and passion for law.

Different Types of Law and Their Difficulty

The field of law is vast and diverse, with each specialization carrying its own set of challenges. For instance, Intellectual Property Law protects copyrights, patents, and trademarks and requires a firm grasp of legal principles and the technical details of the subject matter. Furthermore, Corporate Law, which deals with the operations and governance of corporations, involves intricate and complex regulations and could be challenging for those who do not have a strong interest or background in business.

On the other hand, Criminal Law, which involves understanding statutes, common law principles, and constitutional mandates, often appeals to those who enjoy investigative work and courtroom drama but can be challenging due to the high stakes involved. Family Law, dealing with sensitive matters such as divorce, child custody, and adoption, requires emotional resilience and excellent people skills.

Environmental Law, a rapidly evolving field addressing legal issues related to the environment, climate change, and natural resources, is complex because it intersects with many other areas of law and is often subject to legislative change. It can be a challenging field but also immensely rewarding for those passionate about environmental issues.

Finally, International Law, spanning issues from human rights to trade disputes, demands a broad understanding of legal systems and international relations. This field is particularly challenging due to its vast scope and the constant interplay of diverse international laws and treaties.

Remember, the perceived difficulty of a legal field often depends on your interests, skills, and background. It’s not just about the inherent complexity of the subject matter but also how well it aligns with your abilities and aspirations. Therefore, when choosing a specialization, consider the academic rigor of the field and how well it matches your passion and career objectives.

What Can I Do to Make Law School Easier?

Overcoming the challenges of law school requires a strategic and proactive approach, starting with effective study habits. Leveraging study guides and supplements can help consolidate your understanding and make dense legal materials more digestible. Resources such as case briefs, outlines, and flashcards can be invaluable tools when preparing for exams.

Participation in study groups can also be beneficial. Discussions with peers can provide different perspectives, clarify doubts, and reinforce understanding. However, ensuring these groups stay focused and productive is essential, as they can sometimes become social gatherings rather than study sessions.

Moreover, joining professional associations and student organizations can provide networking opportunities, mentoring, and exposure to different fields of law. For example, the American Bar Association and the National Lawyers Guild offer law student memberships, and most law schools have a variety of clubs and societies relating to various legal interests. You can also visit the official bar exam websites to stay updated on rules and regulations and find resources to help prepare for your exam.

Time management is another crucial factor in law school success. Creating a study schedule that allocates sufficient time for class preparation, reviewing, and self-study is essential. Also, consider the importance of breaks for maintaining mental clarity and reducing stress.

Lastly, maintaining physical health and emotional well-being is vital. Regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and sufficient sleep can significantly impact your ability to concentrate, retain information, and perform under pressure. Also, don’t hesitate to seek help if you’re struggling with stress or anxiety; many schools offer mental health resources and counseling services.

Getting Started

While law school is indeed demanding, it’s manageable. With diligent preparation, effective study strategies, and a balanced lifestyle, you can navigate the rigors of law school and emerge as a competent and confident legal professional. You can make law school a rewarding and fulfilling experience with the right approach. Good luck!

Still interested in getting your law degree? Read also, How long is law school.