At Law Preview, we know a thing or two about being law school ready, and we’ve got the numbers to prove it. You’re probably starting to think about what steps you should take this summer to achieve 1L success. Law Preview helps you prepare for the law school experience and ultimately your legal career. Wondering if you’re ready for law school? Take the quiz below to find out.
1. The grades you receive during the first year are the most important grades you’ll receive in all of law school.
Your first-year grades not only determine your eligibility for Law Review and other academic honors employers seek, but also dictate what job opportunities are available when you graduate. The most selective legal employers recruit law students at the beginning of their second year, and they often only interview law students who finished at the top of their 1L class.
2. The subject matter taught during the first year of law school is largely the same, regardless of the law school’s geographic location and/or US NEWS Ranking.
While the electives for the first year of law school may vary somewhat from school to school, at almost all law schools, students are required to take the same core first year classes — Civil Procedure, Contracts, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Property, Torts, and Legal Research & Writing.
3. The Case Method is synonymous with the Socratic Method.
Although both teaching methods are similar in that they rely on students reading legal opinions (cases) prior to arriving at class, that’s pretty much where the similarity ends. During the 1L year, most law professors teach using the Case Method. They start their first class by discussing an assigned case and, through class participation and perhaps some lecture by the instructor, help students boil that case down to a fine point of law. Then, the professor repeats this process with subsequent cases that typically build upon the law that students have already learned. So, in most law school classes it’s not until the end of the semester that a student begins to see how a body of law takes shape, and how the various rules, standards and tests they’ve learned throughout the semester interrelate. By contrast, the Socratic Method derives its name from Socrates (470-399 B.C.) who, as you may recall from Philosophy 101 in college, walked the streets of ancient Athens questioning citizens about democratic principles, the obligations of citizenship, public morality, and the role of government. He pretended not to know the correct answers, and instead sought to elicit the truth from the subjects of his interrogation. This is the approach used by professors who employ the Socratic Method – they engage in limited lecturing, and, instead, question their students incessantly, forcing them to evaluate legitimacy of an argument or a rule of law under a barrage of factual variations. Ultimately, the professor may lead the student to the truth through logic and common sense, but, most often, the professor will not confirm the wisdom of the student’s answers.
4. Regardless of your law professors’ teaching styles, there’s probably little benefit from gaining a basic understanding of various subjects covered during the 1L year prior to the start of classes.
Without a basic understanding of each area of law, most law students are forced to read the assigned cases in a vacuum; reading cases without any context/understanding for where those cases may fit in the larger course is much like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle without having the benefit of the picture on the front of the box — no doubt it can be done, but not without considerable effort and inefficiencies.
5. If a student wants to get a basic understanding of each substantive topic covered during the 1L year, they can simply purchase printed study aids that can be consumed prior to the start of classes.
Although there are ample study aids that help explain each core 1L class, they are written as supplements to what a first-year law student is learning in class; therefore, such study aids assume a certain amount of knowledge that a pre-law reader is unlikely to possess. Top law students walk into law school armed with a general road map for each of their courses by working with some of the best law professors from around the country who provide an overview of each core 1L class. Using a lecture format, professors can explain many of the theories that drive each area of law so that students can better understand not only how their courses are structured, but also the purpose of individual (black letter) rules they will cover during the semester.
6. Students who enjoyed academic success in college and/or achieved a high LSAT score will likely enjoy similar success in law school by applying the same study and test-taking techniques.
Success in law school cannot be achieved based on intelligence and hard work alone. Because the learning curve during the 1L year is steep – introducing new subject matter (e.g., Torts, Property, Civil Procedure, etc.) – there is little time develop new study and test-taking skills used by the most successful students. Instead of adopting a trial-and-error approach during the first months of the all-important 1L year, many top students prepare by learning the following academic success strategies that they can then begin to execute from Day 1: Case Briefing and Case Law Analysis, Time Management, Effective Note-Taking, Creating Usable Course Outlines, Learning the 5 Steps for Drafting an A+ Exam Answer.
7. Most law schools implement a strict grading curve during the first year of law school.
To accommodate a system where grades carry so much weight, most law schools impose a strict grading curve – one that allows for only a certain number of A’s and, yes, F’s. Unlike undergrad where your professors had broad discretion when handing out grades, in law school you will not be graded on what your professor feels was “A” effort; instead, your professors must award A’s only to those students who demonstrate a complete mastery of the material in comparison to the rest of their classmates. It is for this very reason; many smart and capable students receive the first C’s of their academic careers during the 1L year.