The Truths about common law school myths that every first-year and pre-law student should know.
Law school is fraught with situations that can make you doubt yourself. And to make matters worse, well-meaning students often repeat law school myths that they’ve heard from other students. Below are five common misconceptions about law school and the truths about these myths.
Law School Myth 1: Students with a certain major or advanced degree will score better on tests.
When it comes to law school test-taking, very few people have an advantage. This is because law school tests are unlike any other test you’ve ever encountered. So no major or advanced degree leads to automatic success in law school.
Law school exams level the playing field. The best ways to gain an advantage are to:
- Pay attention in class and take excellent notes.
- Hone your writing skills.
Many students will tell you that you do not need to be a strong writer to succeed on law school exams. I very much disagree because on a law school essay, you need to be able to convey your point. This doesn’t mean that students with an undergraduate degree in English will do better than you. Like exams, legal writing is also markedly different than any type of writing you’ve ever encountered.
Law School Myth 2: Students need an Outline from a 2L or 3L to succeed on exams.
I graduated in the top 10% of my law school class, and I never used another student’s outline. I’m a firm believer that you should do your own outlining, and the bulk of your outline should come from your class notes. Most professors don’t test on subjects they don’t teach.
There is nothing wrong with using another student’s outline or supplemental materials, especially if it gives you confidence and clarity in your understanding of the law. However, creating your own outline is the best way to prepare for law school final exams. This is because it helps you learn the law by putting everything together and seeing the bigger picture.
Law School Myth 3: Students who worked at a law firm prior to law school have an advantage in Legal Research and Writing.
Legal employers are unable to give pre-law students substantive research and writing assignments. This is because pre-law students haven’t taken any first-year courses to establish the foundation necessary to complete research and writing assignments.
Students who work at law firms prior to law school are generally tasked with answering phones, making copies, and other administrative functions. Some students may have the opportunity to draft witness lists or other simple pleadings, but this won’t give them an advantage in Legal Research and Writing.
Don’t get me wrong. There are benefits to working at a law firm or other legal employer before law school. Students who do so gain exposure to working in an office environment and an understanding of professional expectations. But realistically, you can gain these skills with other employers. So if you didn’t work for a legal employer prior to law school (most students don’t), please don’t feel you are disadvantaged.
Law School Myth 4: Students who get a “C” in a course will never get into Big Law.
This myth went around when I was a student, and it really upset and scared a lot of students–myself included. But I personally know students who earned a “C” in a course and work in Big Law or other positions that require certain academic standing.
Large law firms do care about GPA, but a “C” is not the end of the world, and there are many ways to overcome that grade. Including working to bring your grades up next semester, which brings us to our final myth.
Law School Myth 5: Students who don’t do well their first semester can expect the same outcome next semester.
After counseling law students for five years, I can personally tell you that a lot of movement happens between the first and second semesters and thereafter. Students who did well first semester often become overly confident. And students who didn’t do as well as they hoped often catch up to the overly confident students.
If you didn’t do as well as you’d like first semester, the first step is to assess where you can improve. Use the resources at your law school, like talking to your professors, to establish why you didn’t score higher. Sometimes, it’s an easy fix. You might need to practice law school multiple choice or learn to write a law school essay.
Regardless, there are a lot of ways to improve your grades and ranking, and your first semester grades aren’t necessarily a harbinger of things to come.
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