Life After the First Week
"The first week is over, now what?" If you are like most first year law students, you've already asked yourself this question. The first week can be overwhelming. Your former hobbies are now being replaced by reading and briefing cases, preparing course outlines, and forming study groups. However, don't despair, with a little preparation, and the right mind set, law school is not only manageable, but is somewhat (emphasis on somewhat) enjoyable.
First things first, prepare yourself for a lot of work, the workload is tremendous, but "workable." The first year dropout rate, nationwide, hovers around 20 to 40 percent. This sounds high, but it is largely due to the amount of work required to make it through your first year. The days of attending class once a month and studying the night before are long gone. What worked in college, will not work in law school. For the most part, people fail out not due to their lack of understanding, but rather, due to their lack of preparation. Law school is a three-year practice in self-discipline. Once you are able to discipline yourself to actually put in the requisite amount of studying, the rest will follow.
With a few exceptions, most areas of law are not that difficult conceptually to grasp (even that intimidating contract class). The difficulty lies in putting in enough work to be able to quickly recognize the legal issues, and to adequately apply the law that you have learned to complex fact patterns. The notion that you must be a genius to graduate from law school is unfounded. If you need more convincing, just watch the late night "Have you been injured in an auto accident?" commercials. Put a few of these under your belt, and you'll believe that anyone can make it.
So now you're probably thinking, "OK, so maybe it's not that tough, so tell me how to get through." Well, here goes, success in law school can be boiled down to one simple equation: Butt + Chair = Success. It sounds simple, and it is, but it is also often neglected. You will be surprised, law school is filled with people that don't take the first semester, or the first year seriously. For the most part, this is why law school has such a large first year drop out rate.
The price of law school, and the realization that failing out after one semester doesn't exactly build up your resume, should be reason enough to work hard. However, the most important reasons must come from inside. When it really comes down to it, you're not competing with your classmates; you're competing against yourself. Once you've learned to overcome the personal challenges in discipline, law school is very "workable."
In future articles, I will specifically address the tools needed for success, (e.g., old exams, case briefs, study groups, etc) until then, "empty your cup" as the Chinese saying goes, and prepare to refill with the new language of the law.
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