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7 Things You Need to Know About Law School Before Committing


Law school is not for the faint of heart. Law school is a soul-sucking, but rewarding experience. It is not easy and it’s rarely fun, but if you’re determined enough to power through and earn a degree, you already know this and don’t scare easily. If you’re considering one of the most rigorous career paths in the country, you’re likely preparing to study a lot. Before submitting that application, take a deep breath and add a few things to your ever-growing pro/con list.

1. Law school is not undergrad round two

There are no party buses, easy breezy assignments or make-up exams. There’s no way to prepare for an Elle Woods-esque transformation. You just have to trust yourself and prepare as much as possible. Leave any notion of prancing down memory lane behind. The only thing you might have in common with your younger self is an abnormally large amount of caffeine pumping through your veins.

2. A J.D. isn’t a guarantee

Your fancy new law degree doesn’t change the job market. Job-hunting is hard in today’s climate, even for the bright young brains of the world. With plenty of planning, you’ll know where to go to get the job of your dreams. Your years of hair pulling will only prove your passion and dedication behind the degree. They have nothing to do with available positions. Nancy,* a current law school student, says that research is the most important factor. She says, “Most importantly, think about what type of law you think you want to do, what type of firm or government position you want.” Then, research whether or not the law schools you're applying to are a good fit for those types of jobs. As you navigate law school, keep networking and reaching out for job placements. Like any other industry, it’s all about who you know.

3. HTGAWM makes all-nighters look cute

Yes, coffee and co-working happen. A lot. But designer outfits, real-life murder and perfectly coiffed hair with sleep deprivation? Not so much. Nobody will be around to document your hard work and intense study sessions. Cutesy coffee dates are long gone. Studying in law school is more like voluntary solitary confinement. You’ll have a finite amount of hours until you need to fully comprehend decades worth of material. Time management will never be more vital.

Related: A New Milestone for Women: First Time >50% In Law School

4. Be wary when dishing free legal advice

When you do manage to get out of the library and into the real world with the other humans, everyone will want to pick your brain for free. Regardless of the niche you’re studying, people will expect you to know everything about the law and answer their desperate questions in return for a smile. Explaining various procedures is one thing. Sitting down for a one-on-one in-depth consultation is another. And doling out advice when you don’t know the answer is an entirely different issue. Be courteous, help your contacts where you can, and always include the fine print up front.

5. Self-care is more important than graduation

If you find yourself struggling with the immense stress of law school, how can you expect to practice law afterward? This intense time of growth and learning is also about creating a productive and balanced life. From here on out, you will face tough days, cases, and clients. As Nancy says, “It's tougher than what you see. Maybe not the actual workload, but the emotional toll it takes on you.” It doesn’t get easier, but it does lend itself to a routine. Figuring out how your mental and physical health plays into your daily race is integral to you walking across that graduation stage.

6. Alcoholism is real

Need a drink? The answer, while you’re in law school, is almost always yes. The precarious combination of high-stakes work, crushing student debt, and social isolation can leave you drained. Nancy says, “Sometimes schools or groups organize ‘bar reviews’ which is a play on words for just meeting up at a bar, which is a great way to meet people. You don't actually have to drink, though!” The easy and readily available solution for many lawyers-in-training is alcohol. Though commiserating with your community is understandable, Nancy’s right. You don’t have to drink to fit in. Choosing a pricey depressant may not be the best answer to your woes. Instead, try the old standbys of sleep, hydration, meditation, and healthy eating. Taking care of your body first will help naturally fight the impending stress.

7. Being a know-it-all won’t help you

No matter how well you know the material (or think you know), save it for the exams. You’re smart. You got yourself here. Don’t blow it by letting your ego say stupid things. Speaking up simply to show off puts a target on your back for both professors and peers to give you a hard time.

Committing to the cost of law school, both mentally and financially, is a heavy decision. However, committing to shaping the world into a better, more just place is the easy motivator. If you’re up for a challenge that never ends, grab your pink scrunchies and open those textbooks. It’s study time.

*Name has been changed.

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