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How hard is law school?

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Posted (edited)

1L is stressful and a lot of work because you have no idea what you are doing. 2L and 3L are a complete joke.

In 1L, learn very quickly that outlines and memorizing rules are what matters most for the exam. You don't need to know the "holding" of every case you read for class. Learn the rules, learn how to apply them to hypothetical facts, and that's it.

I wasted so much time first semester of 1L reading cases and I really regretted it. Once I understood how law school worked, I spent second semester of 1L learning rules from outlines and practicing hypotheticals. There were classes I didn't read a single case for. I ended up on dean's list after 1L. I wish someone had given me this advice. 

In 2L/3L, if you've secured a summer associate position you can effectively stop worrying about your grades. Also, at this point, you should understand how to study for law school exams and you can therefore stop reading for classes and just learn the subject matter 3 weeks before each exam and get B+'s.  

In 2L/3L I spent most of my time sleeping in, watching sports, and hanging out with friends. Try and enjoy this time; everyone tells you to do this but you will inevitably stress for no reason, do more work than is necessary, and then years later give some law student advice to please try and relax 2L/3L. 

P.S - Law school/ the law in general attracts some of the most neurotic, hyper-competitive people out there. People complaining that law school is sooooooo stressful are just trying to impress people by saying they're in such a difficult program. Even on this site, people claim "there's no such thing as an easy law school class."This would be funny if it wasn't such an obvious lie. 

1L is stressful because you're new and everyone is nuts. Learn the rules, learn how to apply them, and try and have some fun for god's sake. 

Edited by JJHarkington
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17 minutes ago, JJHarkington said:

1L is stressful and a lot of work because you have no idea what you are doing. 2L and 3L are a complete joke.

In 1L, learn very quickly that outlines and memorizing rules are what matters most for the exam. You don't need to know the "holding" of every case you read for class. Learn the rules, learn how to apply them to hypothetical facts, and that's it.

In addition to learning the rules, I'd jot down a few sentences on the facts of each case. Those who relate the facts of the hypothetical to the facts of certain cases you learned will receive higher grades (and that's typically the difference between a B+ and an A exam answer).

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Posted (edited)
3 minutes ago, georgecostanzajr said:

In addition to learning the rules, I'd jot down a few sentences on the facts of each case. Those who relate the facts of the hypothetical to the facts of certain cases you learned will receive higher grades (and that's typically the difference between a B+ and an A exam answer).

^ solid advice. "The facts here are similar to the facts of XYZ where the plaintiff did this." Very good stuff which can be accomplished with a good outline. 

Edited by JJHarkington
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24 minutes ago, ProfReader said:

No one can answer this. In my opinion, students who get high marks are, on average, hardworking, but some hardworking students get average marks and some students who don't work that hard get high marks. Even if we were to accept the premise that you could work your way to a B+ average, no one could possibly tell you what things they did that led to a higher mark, what things they did that didn't help getting a higher mark, how many extra hours were needed to get a higher mark, etc. 

I agree with everything you said except for the underlined. I can definitely tell people the things I did which resulted in a higher mark.

E.g. relating the facts of a case to the facts of the hypothetical. How did I know this resulted in higher grades? Because on my graded exam, the professor would make comments such as "great comparison between the facts of X and Y" or "good distinction" when I cited some facts as dissimilar.

E.g. 2. Corporate was known as being an absolute time crunch. Not known as being a particularly difficult course, but most people wouldn't get through much more than half the exam. To combat this, I put a lot of focus on repetition in order to loosely memorize rules. I organized my OBCA/CBCA in a particular way to find certain provisions quickly. I had a bullet list of main issues to look for in case I blanked, etc. Because of that, I ended up finishing the entire exam which resulted in an A.

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, georgecostanzajr said:

I agree with everything you said except for the underlined. I can definitely tell people the things I did which resulted in a higher mark.

E.g. relating the facts of a case to the facts of the hypothetical. How did I know this resulted in higher grades? Because on my graded exam, the professor would make comments such as "great comparison between the facts of X and Y" or "good distinction" when I cited some facts as dissimilar.

E.g. 2. Corporate was known as being an absolute time crunch. Not known as being a particularly difficult course, but most people wouldn't get through much more than half the exam. To combat this, I put a lot of focus on repetition in order to loosely memorize rules. I organized my OBCA/CBCA in a particular way to find certain provisions quickly. I had a bullet list of main issues to look for in case I blanked, etc. Because of that, I ended up finishing the entire exam which resulted in an A.

You took that phrase out of the context in which it was written. The question wasn't about what you did on an exam that led to a higher mark. The question was about working hard and getting a B+ average. Your examples don't show you working "harder" than anyone else. They are about doing things differently. 

Edited by ProfReader

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The other reality is that some people have a natural aptitude for this stuff. Much like the LSAT, extra work isn’t necessarily gonna lead to better results. Some people are just better at this.

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4 hours ago, ProfReader said:

You took that phrase out of the context in which it was written. The question wasn't about what you did on an exam that led to a higher mark. The question was about working hard and getting a B+ average. Your examples don't show you working "harder" than anyone else. They are about doing things differently. 

And to back this up, even though it really shouldn't require any backing up, I can say I did just fine in law school without ever doing either of the things @georgecostanzajr or @JJHarkington recommends. 

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The most difficult part for me was getting into my head that there was, to a certain extent, the "right" answer to a scenario question (i.e. spotting the right issues).  Coming from a liberal arts background I wanted to argue anything, and tried to be "creative" about it, but I spotted all the wrong issues and applied the wrong rules.  Basically failed my first midterms without knowing why, even though I put in the amount of work in.  I was studying alone and I didn't even know I had gotten the issues all wrong.  But once I got into the right direction, it was fine.

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Honestly sometimes I wish I could do 1L over again, maybe I wouldn't have done much better but I think I could have. I think @georgecostanzajr and @JJHarkington hit the nail on the head – I wish I had the same advice when I was in 1L. It took me a while to "get" law school exams and once I did, I started achieving higher grades.

If I could tell you some things that worked, I would say small summaries definitely over large summaries – in courses where I synthesized the information down, had some committed to memory, and had a summary that was short and easy to flip through – I did better on those exams. in 1L first semester I literally walked into an exam with a near 90 page summary but only really needed maybe like 5 of those pages. 

Also, what JJHarkington said about knowing the rules and practicing hypotheticals is bang on – take the rules from the cases and actually practice, practice, practice !!!! 

Study smart, not hard, believe in your self, ask your profs for advice. Sometimes, no matter how hard you work, you will get a B. That can be a tough pill to swallow, we are all high achievers when we get into law school, but at the end of the day, its not the most terrible thing in the world to just end up being an average student amongst a group of bright students. 

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Law school is hard but not impossibly hard. You're given the tools you need to succeed. A "less" intelligent hardworking student can certainly do better than a brilliant student who puts less effort in. 

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It's not that hard. Obviously I've not attended medical school, but anecdotal evidence tells me, and I believe that, med school is orders of magnitude more difficult than law school, for example.

 First year is hard because you don't know what you're doing; second year is hard bc there is so much work/reading/career preparation to do all at the same time; third year is hard because...well third year isn't all that hard, tbh.

You can make third year hard on yourself, but generally ppl find a couple of things/classes they like, focus on that, and otherwise dial it back in third year.

 

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“First year scares you to death, second year works you to death, third year bores you to death.”

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23 hours ago, Hegdis said:

“First year scares you to death, second year works you to death, third year bores you to death.”

I never believed the last part until I actually went through 3L and realized how true it really is. 

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On 5/19/2020 at 11:12 AM, Hegdis said:

“First year scares you to death, second year works you to death, third year bores you to death.”

It seems to me this adage is mostly true for people that have trouble organizing their lives around anything but school. Third year was a blast. I took a few courses I was interested in and otherwise went to the gym, played video games, hung out with friends, etc. Hardly boring if you’ve got a life outside school.

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On 5/19/2020 at 11:12 AM, Hegdis said:

“First year scares you to death, second year works you to death, third year bores you to death.”

"And The last term for Mcgillians makes them question why they went to McGill"

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On 5/18/2020 at 9:06 AM, LeoandCharlie said:

As a 3L and as someone who was a Dean’s Fellow at Osgoode, this advice is perfect. 
 

I recall in my first two weeks of law school that I felt I couldn’t do it. I even looked up how much money I’d recover from tuition if I dropped out. I had someone speak some sense into me and told me to just stick it out through the first semester and then reconsider then. I did so. I began to love law school, I just did the work and I was fine. Come second semester I did exceptionally well and was able to secure a 1L job. 
 

I then can also recall very clearly the final words I wrote on my final 1L exam. I remember the feeling of joy and happiness for having made it through what was a big learning curve. It was so rewarding. 
 

I say all this to highlight that law school can be challenging, it can be tiring and it can be frustrating. But remember, you’re in law school to learn. If you knew it all then you’d be wasting your time. You’re there to learn so allow yourself to learn. Allow yourself to feel anxious about not knowing, but do not attribute a lack of intelligence to your lack of knowledge. You’re smart and your flurry of a 1L experience does not negate that. Work hard but allow yourself time to breath. Focus on the learning part of law school. You’re there to learn. You’re not there to get a grade or to appear like you’ve got it all together. Focus on learning, being kind to your fellow classmate and enjoy other parts of life too. If you dk that, law school will be far more enjoyable. 

This is a good post. I also contemplated dropping out the first week, and I also ended up being on the Dean’s List throughout.

The basic principles you learn in 1L are mostly simple concepts (with some exceptions, looking at you rule against perpetuities). A contract requires an offer, acceptance and consideration,  Charter violations can be justified if demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society, you must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour, and so on. What is more challenging, however, is understanding how to write law exams—that is, breaking down these broad statements into discrete elements, each of which has been interpreted in some line of cases that your professor has assigned, and applying the law to novel fact patterns.

In 1L, the hardest part, by far, was the volume of reading. You don’t really know what is relevant, most of the cases involves secondary issues that you don’t understand nor are material to your course (but you don’t know that!), and you don’t know really know what your professor wants you to learn. Once you figure out what to ignore and what to know cold, it gets a lot easier. 

I also think, above and beyond actual coursework, that stress—and the ability to cope with stress—plays a factor in the difficulty of law school. I was fortunate to get a job during 1L, and I swear the less stressed I was about doing well the better I did. I may be totally out to lunch, but I think the combined effect of the volume of work, competing against the curve, finding articles, student debt and so on, and the ability of the student to adequately manage these stressors, has a material effect on performance. I personally found that I would often fall behind a bit on my reading and then get stressed about having missed something, and my mental health and school performance improved when I learned to accept that it’s ok to not have read every possible thing. In other words, I did better by doing less. By the end of law school, I was basically fucking off until the last three weeks before exams. 

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22 hours ago, Rashabon said:

It seems to me this adage is mostly true for people that have trouble organizing their lives around anything but school. Third year was a blast. I took a few courses I was interested in and otherwise went to the gym, played video games, hung out with friends, etc. Hardly boring if you’ve got a life outside school.

Strongly agree. Third year was my favourite year! I took so many fun courses: corporate tax, secured transactions, sale.. of..

 

Oh, I'm just boring.

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