Law school has been a fun and interesting experience (at least it was until Coronavirus), but I don’t want to sugarcoat the law school experience too much. It can also be stressful, demanding, and downright miserable from time to time. So what are the worst parts of law school?
The worst parts of law school for most people are the fact that your entire grade relies on one exam at the end of each semester, you have almost no life outside of law your 1L and 2L year, and the culture of forced competition tends to bring out the worst in people.
If you asked random law students what their least favorite part about law school is they would probably have a list similar to the one above. But it is different for everyone and luckily there are plenty of ways that a savvy law student can counterbalance the bad with the good.
Why are these the worst parts of law school?
The law school grading system does not reward knowledge of course material
I will begin by noting that not everyone hates the law school grading system. I have yet to hear of a law school that does not base their entire class grades on one final exam, so it’s pretty safe to say that if you attend law school your entire grade will be based on the final exam.
The law school grading system is a blessing for some students that are excellent test-takers. In my experience, your knowledge of the course does not always translate into good exam grades. One of my best friends in law school is absolutely terrible at multiple-choice exams. How do I know that? I know that because you can accurately predict the grade she will get depending on whether it is a multiple-choice or essay exam. She Ace’s all of her essay exams, but can barely muster a B on her multiple-choice tests.
Is that a sign that she studies more for essay exams than for multiple-choice exams? Of course not, some people simply are not good multiple choice test-takers.
This is why so many people hate the grading system in law school. It rewards good test-takers more than anything. A student might know the course material better than anyone in the class but still receive a B in the course if they are not a good test-taker.
1L & 2L year are extremely time-consuming
Contrary to the grading system, I have never heard a 1L or 2L law student say that they love the fact that they have no life outside of life school. In fact, I wrote an article on what it’s like to be a 2L law student and why 1L year is so difficult if you want to check them out.
Law school is a ton of work and the first two years are by far the most time-consuming. 1L year is difficult because everything is new and you are learning the basics of the law. 2L year is difficult because you are insanely busy all the time.
Not having much of a life outside of the law is challenging, but there are things you can do to make this aspect of law school less daunting.
First and foremost, I believe that good relationships with your peers not only decreases anxiety but it also makes your time in law school go by faster. You probably worked at least one job before you enrolled in law school. One of the things employers look for in potential employees is who will be a “good fit”. Which candidate is going to make my day go by faster and make me enjoy coming to work a little more?
It is literally the exact same situation for law students, we spend more time with one another than we spend with anyone else. If you don’t make friends and hate every student around you than you are going to be absolutely miserable. Don’t do that, make the best of the situation, and get to know your peers. You will think less and less about what you could be doing outside of law school.
The curved grading system can generate fierce competitive mindsets
Not every law school is a cutthroat environment, in fact, most of them are not. But the grading system does tend to incentivize that kind of behavior and I have seen plenty of it over the course of my three years in law school.
I want to mention that there is a difference between competitiveness and a cutthroat environment. Any law school you attend is going to be competitive, lawyers by their very nature tend to be competitive and some competition is generally a good thing. A cutthroat environment on the other hand is toxic, students are so determined to one-up each other that they are willing to backstab, cheat, and do a whole host of other things to get on top of the curve.
Most people like a little competition, but don’t want to be in the kind of cutthroat environment I just described. As I mentioned above, most law schools would not be considered “cutthroat schools”, but you will likely see a lot of that kind of behavior your 1L year. Cutthroat attitudes are the most prevalent 1L year because everyone is trying to get tip-top grades for OCI in the summer.
The good news is that the whole class pretty much takes their foot off the gas a little after 1L year is over. By then everyone has already been initially sorted into summer jobs, journals, and skills boards, so there is a lot less incentive to pull that kind of behavior.
My advice for dealing with this unfortunate aspect of law school is to ignore it and don’t become part of the problem. People get labeled their 1L year for their misbehavior, and that label usually sticks with them throughout law school. You certainly don’t want to be known as the person who tore pages out of a library textbook or disparaged other students behind their backs. The reputation you create 1L year will stick with you, so my advice is to stay away from the bad apples and make sure you don’t become one.
I hope this article has not been too “doom and gloom”, but I wanted to explain what I have found to be the worst aspects of law school. To counter-balance the somber mood of this post I have also written an article on the best parts of law school which you can check out here.