Law & Legal Studies

Dispelling the Law School Myths

Dispelling the Law School Myths
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Noodle Staff December 12, 2012

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For all the excitement attached to an acceptance into law school, the anticipation of the first year is often met with great trepidation. Certainly, some of this anxiety is rational and warranted. Grading curves foster the competitive over the collaborative and the Socratic method is clearly a form of psychological torture designed to place students on an island. With that said, I am here to dispel the myth of the first year of law school.

First, a disclaimer. Law school is hard and the first year is important. My point is simply that difficulty and importance should not equate to fear. Further, it is my belief that much of the myth surrounding the first year is embellished, generally by those who take pride in embellishing it. The following will serve as a partial set of recommendations to extract the anxiety that is misappropriated to the first year of law school.

Avoid the library:This is extreme but I caution you to ignore the advice, not the rationale. The library is a haven for intimidation practices. Students sprawl out on tables with volumes of treatises and law journals in preparation for anything from a classroom discussion to a final examination. This would be of little concern to most students except that law school places individuals in direct competition with each other. Thus, a students natural inclination is to assume one is less prepared if one does not match each student in the library, treatise for treatise, law journal for law journal. In reality, it is nearly impossible to do a significant amount of research beyond what is assigned on a daily basis. These students with their book collections are basically just a bunch of peacocks with their feathers up. Do only that which is necessary to retain the information assigned.

Choose a study group judiciously:It is not always best to pair up with the brightest students unless you are one of them. If you were training for a 5K race, you would not engage in track workouts with Usain Bolt. If you did, the experience would be nightmarish. The entirety of the workout would consist of getting lapped while begging for water breaks until your will to run is broken. Apply the same logic to study groups. If you like to take shortcuts when studying, attempt to identify others who wish to game the system as well. If you are deliberate and comprehensive, identify the students who grind away on the weekend. There are many paths to success. Choose wisely.

Embrace being wrong:The Socratic Method is designed for students to eventually work their way to the correct answer. It is also serves to provide daily nausea. The general approach is for the professor to randomly select a few students each class and subject them to this prolonged question and answer session. In that way, each class is like a law school hunger games lottery. So inevitably, you alone will be asked a series of questions to which you seemingly do not have the answers. The truth is that most students around you will be just as perplexed. It is designed that way. So some questions will be answered correctly and others incorrectly. Just as is the case with the LSAT though, there is no penalty for a wrong answer, so any answer will do! Eventually, the student gets to where he/she needs to go, and the rest of the class will respect your courage (or will be preoccupied by their Twitter accounts).

So take my counsel, or dont, but just know the first year hype is not all that it is made out to be. And one more small piece of advice; highlighters are like crack for law students. If the Mayan calendar is correct, you will want them for currency.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle. He has been managing editor of the website for over four years.

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