Everything you need to know before going to law school

It’s no secret that law school is a big commitment. But what exactly should you know about law school before you commit to it?  

We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the most important things you should consider before deciding to attend law school. To make sure you’re on the right track, download the Law Student Application Timeline to help guide you through the months before starting your 1L year, from taking the LSAT to the month before law school.

Free Downloadable PDF: Law Student Application Timeline

Law school is nothing like undergrad 

While there are many differences between law school and undergrad, the biggest differences are the teaching methods and study techniques.  

Preparing for exams 

Many students enter law school assuming their undergrad study habits will work in law school, however, it’s important to remember that some of the techniques you developed in undergrad might not be effective in law school.  

Make sure to start your 1L year with a good understanding of case briefing and law school note-taking.  

Lecture format 

In undergrad, most classes involve students listening to a professor lecturing with a presentation. In law school, most if not all professors use the Socratic Method, a format that more closely resembles a discussion.  

Students will have assigned readings and will be expected to participate in a classroom discussion guided by the professor. Get ready for cold calling! 

Law school grading curve 

Similarly, grading and assignments differ significantly in law school than in undergrad. During your undergrad education, a student’s grade is determined by homework, quizzes, and midterm and final exams.  

In law school, it’s often the case that your entire grade rests on a single final exam, and that grade is decided based on a strict grading curve. With this in mind, procrastination and cramming simply will not work in law school. Staying up to date with assigned readings, outlining, and studying is imperative in law school.  

Don Macaulay, President of Law Preview, explains the difference between law school and undergrad here:  

On the waitlist? You can still transfer to your dream school 

While getting rejected from your dream school can be upsetting, there is some good news: almost all law schools accept transfers for the 2L year. If you think you may want to transfer, spend some time before your 1L year researching transfer opportunities to assess your chances.  

All ABA-approved law schools must report the number of transfer students they took the prior year, the schools from which those students came, and the median 1L GPA of those students who were accepted; accordingly, you should consult the Standard 509 ABA Required Disclosure for any law school to which you may wish to transfer.  

How to transfer after your 1L year

To have the best chances of being accepted to your dream school, you’ll want to excel during your 1L year. In fact, during a recent survey we conducted of law school admissions deans, 97% said a transfer student’s 1L transcript is the most impactful data they rely on when deciding whether to grant admission. According to Spivey Consulting, the average GPA of transfers to a T14 school was 3.72 in 2018.  

Transferring is especially helpful if you didn’t do as well on the LSAT as you’d hoped. Law school admissions offices use LSAT scores to predict how well the student will do in law school. However, when transferring, admissions offices will use your 1L grades to predict how well you’ll do during the 2L and 3L years. 

With this in mind, getting to the top of the class during your 1L year is imperative if you’re looking to transfer.  

First-year grades are the most important 

Even if you’re not interested in transferring law schools, 1L grades are still the most important (specifically, first semester grades). Your first-year law school grades determine your class rank, and your class rank determines whether you join Law Review or other academic journals, which help you stand out when applying to jobs.   

1L grades are also the most influential factor employers use when deciding who to hire. The most selective legal employers interview students during the fall semester of 2L year for summer associate positions following their 2L year. Offers of full-time, post-graduate employment are often made only to those students who participated in a firm’s summer associate program.   

It’s simple: landing your dream job is made possible by rocking your 1L year and being at the top of your class. Taking a law school prep course will teach you how to conquer law school and excel in your first year.  

Law school is expensive 

It’s no secret that law school is expensive. While the financial burden of law school can be daunting, there are steps you can take to make sure you’re graduating with as little debt as possible. 

Download the Scholarship Organizer 

The best thing you can do to lighten the financial burden of law school is to apply to as many scholarships as possible, as early as possible. Download the Law School Scholarship Organizer to easily navigate the law school application process.  

Free Downloadable PDF: Law School Scholarship Organizer

Apply for the $10,000 One Lawyer Can Change the World Scholarship 

Law Preview also offers a $10,000 scholarship towards 1L tuition, with the top 10 winners earning from $1,000 – $10,000 in scholarship money.  

Download the 1L Budget Worksheet 

Another step you can take to mitigate the financial burden of law school is to create a law school budget.  

Planning your expenses and sticking to a budget throughout law school will help you graduate with as little debt as possible. Cooking your meals at home, making coffee at home, buying used textbooks, and utilizing free study aids can also help save money.  

Download the 1L Budget Worksheet to help plan for your financial future.

Free Download: 1L Budget Worksheet

There is a lot of reading and writing  

One thing you can count on in law school is that you’ll be doing a lot of reading. Your textbooks in law school will be casebooks filled with judicial opinions. You can expect to read several cases before each class, which often means reading 50-100 pages per day.  

In undergrad, you’re probably used to writing essays and reports. In law school, you’ll be writing case briefs and summaries. A case brief is a written summary of the case that identifies the operative legal rule and analyzes how that court applied the law. To write an effective case brief, you’ll need to learn how to conduct legal research.  

If you’re concerned at all about how to outline, write case briefs, or conduct legal research, Law Preview teaches students how to do these things before stepping foot in a law school classroom.  

To learn more about Law Preview, download the course syllabus today.

Free Download: Law Preview Course Syllabus

You probably won’t be the smartest person in the room   

It’s important to remember that law school classes comprise the best and brightest.  

Entering a law school classroom will quickly make you realize that, unlike the typical undergrad classroom, most law students possess a laser-focused work ethic. Couple this with the fact that grades will determine your ability to interview for the best jobs, and you’re left with a fiercely competitive environment.  

This environment results in three distinct personality types among law students: the gunner, the “common law” student, and the slacker. Take our law student personality quiz to see how you’ll match up against your law school competition.  

Take the Quiz: What’s Your Law Student Personality?

With all of this in mind, it’s important to remember that your classmates are also part of your future professional network. One day, these people will be your coworkers and potentially established lawyers at a firm where you may want to work. Remember that while your classmates are your competition, making friends in law school is an essential part of your self-care plan as well as your future.  

You will get called on 

“I love when the professor calls on me in front of the entire class,” said no one, ever. This cold-calling teaching style that law school professors commonly use is also known as the Socratic Method. Professors force law students to use critical thinking skills to analyze cases, preparing students for when they’re eventually in front of tough judges.  

Cold-calling will typically involve the professor asking the student to summarize a case and answer a series of hypothetical questions. The best way to eliminate the anxiety you have surrounding cold-calling is to make sure you’re as prepared as possible for the class. Make sure you’re doing all the reading as well as outlining the cases.  

Another way to prepare yourself for cold-calling is to take our Law Preview course. Law Preview simulates a law school classroom by including cold-calling by actual law professors. Even if you’re taking our on-demand program, you’ll still be able to watch professors calling on other students as well as learning how to outline your readings, so you’re better prepared for class.  

Self-care is important 

What makes a good law student? Balance. If you don’t include any self-care in your weekly schedule, you’re more likely to burn out, and your grades could suffer. This is why it’s crucial to make sure you’re scheduling time for the things that bring you joy.  

Self-care looks different for everyone: it might be 20 minutes of exercise every day for one person. For another, it might be scheduling an hour of video games every evening. Whatever it is for you, make sure you include it in your schedule.  

Getting creative is another excellent source of self-care. Studies have shown that creative outlets can reduce stress and improve productivity. According to Entrepreneur, “Just like physical exercise, creative stimulation engages and focuses our minds on the task at hand — and distracts us from feelings of stress and anxiety.” 

Setting boundaries is essential 

In case we haven’t said it enough already, law school is nothing like undergrad. The time you have available for socializing and self-care will be vastly different from what you might have had in the past. It’s important to set boundaries with the people in your life regarding the time you have available.  

After you’ve made sure to schedule time for the things that bring you joy, you’ll want to make sure you let your loved ones know that your availability might be different during law school.  

Let them know that law school is more than a full-time job, and sticking to a structured schedule will help you excel. You can assure them that they are still a priority but that your law school needs are demanding and may take precedence. You can even offer to brainstorm with them ways that you can maintain a healthy relationship through these challenging three years.  

A law school prep course will help prepare you for law school  

So, what’s the best way to prepare for law school? Take a law school prep course.  

As the nation’s #1 law school prep course, we know the importance of 1L grades. That’s why our courses are built to give you an in-depth understanding of core 1L material, as well as teaching you the skills and techniques you need to get to the top of the class.  

With Law Preview, you’ll learn: 

  • An in-depth overview of core classes including Torts, Contracts, Criminal Law and more 
  • How to case brief and take note 
  • Proven exam-taking strategies 
  • How to be an expert at cold calling  
  • Legal writing & research 101 
  • Academic success skills  
  • And more 

Sign up for Law Preview today and learn the skills you need to get to the top of the class.  

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