The road to becoming a lawyer is littered with potential pitfalls
Think law school's just about studying? Think again.
Law school holds the potential for unparalleled growth and knowledge, but one wrong move can lead to setbacks from which you may struggle to recover.
In this guide, we’ll unearth the top ten mistakes law students make and reveal strategies to ensure success.
Mistake #1: Failing to create a disciplined schedule
Congratulations on your law school acceptance! Your achievement indicates you probably excelled during your college years. Prior success can be a trap though, as what worked in college might not yield the same results in law school.
There’s no question about it: law school has a significantly heftier workload than college. Without a set schedule, you'll quickly fall behind. Here, everyone is smart, and success often hinges on discipline and managing time well.
Prioritize tasks and set daily goals. A combination of traditional methods, like to-do lists, and digital tools, such as Todoist or Pomofocus, can be beneficial. Block study times, set reminders for breaks, and always factor in time for unexpected contingencies.
Mistake #2: Treating other law students like competition
The competitive nature of law students can make law school feel like the Hunger Games. But looking at the experience as a zero-sum game can be detrimental. Collaboration often leads to broader perspectives and deeper understanding.
What’s more, the legal world is small, and your fellow law students will soon become your fellow colleagues. Law school is a good time to start building bridges, not burning them.
Mistake #3: Not using practice exams
Merely consuming content doesn’t solidify knowledge. Application, on the other hand, offers practical insights and exposes areas needing further refinement.
Many law students don’t realize their law school library contains years of prior questions and model answers from active professors. When preparing for an exam with a professor, see if their previous exams are available in the library. If so, practice writing out answers, focusing on clarity and precision. Evaluate your answers against model answers, identifying areas of improvement.
Mistake #4: Blindly joining a study group
Study groups can be terrific for bonding, grasping the material, and holding yourself accountable. But hey, don’t ditch what’s worked for you before law school. If group study isn’t something you’ve done before, jumping in might do more harm than good. Remember, it’s all about what suits you, not just going with the crowd.
Mistake #5: Neglecting your mental health
Burnouts, unfortunately, are incredibly common in law school. An ABA study surveyed more than 3,300 law students and found that:
- 17 percent of law students surveyed experienced some level of depression
- 14 percent of law students surveyed experienced severe anxiety (23 percent experienced mild to moderate anxiety)
- 6 percent of law students surveyed reported suicidal thoughts
- 25 percent of law students surveyed were at risk for alcoholism
Paying attention to your mental health can be even more important than paying attention in class.
Integrate regular physical activity into your routine. Yoga, meditation, or simple walks can drastically improve mental health. If overwhelmed, institutions often provide counseling services—utilize them. Remember, it’s a sign of strength to seek help when needed. Our Lawyer Happiness Worksheets can help you track and improve your mental health as well.
Mistake #6: Over-relying on commercial outlines
Commercial study aids can offer structure and clarity, but they can't replace the benefits of crafting your own outline. A custom outline will not only align better with your specific class but also, it's the act of sifting through a semester's content and forcing yourself to distill the core points that truly deepens your understanding, rather than just skimming a commercial outline.
Mistake #7: Not participating in class
Law students, especially first year law students, are particularly reluctant to participate in class. It's natural to fear potential embarrassment among peers. Yet, those who take an active role in their learning tend to outperform those who remain passive.
Regular participation in class signals your engagement and interest to the professor, fostering a positive academic relationship that may prove invaluable down the road.
Mistake #8: Not building relationships with professors
Law school professors, with their vast experience, can provide invaluable guidance. Ignoring this resource can mean missed opportunities for internships, recommendations, or research collaborations.
Make it a habit to attend office hours. Engage in discussions about topics that intrigue you or areas where you're uncertain. Displaying a genuine passion for learning not only paves the way for a fruitful relationship during law school but can also open doors when landing your first job and beyond.
Mistake #9: Ignoring practical experience
Law school is not just about hitting the books. Gaining practical experience can provide students with insights that theoretical knowledge cannot.
Seek internships, clerkships, or volunteer opportunities. Engage with practicing attorneys or join moot court competitions. These experiences will not only provide real-world insights but also equip you with the skills necessary for post-graduate life.
Mistake #10: Failing to network
Many students believe that networking starts post-graduation. However, building a robust professional network during school can open doors to unanticipated opportunities.
Attend seminars, workshops, alumni meets, and student bar events. Engage with professionals on platforms like LinkedIn. Not only does this provide insights into the legal profession's realities, but it also aids in post-graduate job searches.
Embarking on a law school journey is both exhilarating and demanding. As we've outlined, the pitfalls are many, but with awareness, discipline, and proactive strategies, you can navigate them successfully. Embrace every opportunity and learn from every challenge. Your law school journey is as much about personal development as it is about professional achievement. Best of luck!