Six Things to Know About Studying Law at University
1. It will change you for the better; the way you speak, write, and handle yourself.
One of the most difficult aspects of studying law is learning the language of the law itself. Law students will learn hundreds, if not thousands, of new words within their first year of law school alone. You will slowly start to realize that those who study or have studied law have a language, and way of speaking, all their own. As you progress throughout your legal studies, you too will begin to change the way you speak, write, and act.
The most interesting change that takes place during law school is one that you probably will not even notice. However, more likely than not, everyone else around you will. As time passes you will begin to see the world in a different way and you will begin to question everything about how it works. A simple kink in a hotel area rug now becomes the cause of a possible trip and fall or negligence cause of action. And the legal shows that once inspired you to being studying law are now unrealistic and factually inaccurate. These changes, however, are just the beginning of you becoming the great attorney you aspire to be.
2. Long days, sleepless nights, and LOTS of coffee.
There are three things that every person who has studied law can attest to, long days of class, followed by sleepless nights of studying, and the lifeblood of it all, coffee. You may have been one of those students in college who slept into the afternoon, studied a couple hours before an exam, and still managed to graduate with a 4.0 GPA. Do not expect that same mentality to get you through law school. There are, however, a few things than you can expect.
A fulltime law student will be expected to take 14-18 credit hours of class per semester. The time you spend in the classroom alone will take up the bulk of your day. Each professor will likely assign an average of 2-3 hours of homework per night; this is where the bulk of your nights will go. And your weekends, well those will be spent trying to prepare for the next week of class or outlining what you learned the week before. Studying law is no easy task, but with the right mind set and a rigid work ethic anything is possible.
3. Law school is survival of the fittest.
The majority of law schools in the United States grade students using a strict "bell curve" system. The system mandates that only a certain number of students can earn an A, B, C, etc. In and of itself this might not be too big of a problem if not for the fact that your grade in almost every class you take will be based on one final exam. In essence, about 10-15% of every class will end up with a non-passing final grade. This system breeds a sort of adversarial environment between you and your colleagues. You will find that some colleagues are often less than forthcoming with information that might in anyway help you to get a better grade than them.
Your best bet it to find a close group of friends early on in your legal studies. You want a group of friends will not only serve as support system throughout your law school career, but who will also benefit you as a study group during your final examination periods. Having a close group of friends will allow you to work through ideas together, study together, and support each other in every other aspect of law school.
4. Develop a method of studying that works best for you.
As stated above, your grade in most classes will be based solely on your performance during the final exam. The "standard" method of studying for finals involves creating weekly, if not daily, outlines of the material covered in class throughout the semester. Ideally, when it comes time to start studying for your final you will have already created a detailed outline to review in preparation for the exam. Here are some tips that have worked for law students in the past:
- Do not use a computer to take notes in or outside of class. Handwriting your notes forces you to actually think about what you are writing and then condense the information in a way that is easier for you to write and understand.
- Use different colored highlighters to signify the importance of concepts covered in class. This tip allows you to skim through your material and focus in on those concepts which are more likely to be on an exam.
- By the end of the semester you should end up with a very detailed outline approximately 60 to 80 pages in length. As you review your initial outline condense the information into a more streamlined version of your original outline. Some students find it helpful to revise their original outlines several times until they end up with a finished product that's no more than 20 pages.
5. Do not choose professors based on how easy they are; look for those who are still practicing attorneys or judges.
The most valuable information you will learn throughout your legal studies will not come from the countless pages of reading you had to do. The real life education that a practicing attorney or judge can provide to you is invaluable. Unfortunately, many law school professors will teach solely from the book without providing you with the actual contextual foundation of what you are being taught. Professors who are still in the legal profession will often provide you with personal "war stories" or real life applications of a certain concepts to aid in your understanding. This method of instruction not only helps to put the information in context, but it will better prepare you for when you actually begin to practice law.
6. Get an internship as soon as possible.
The most important thing anyone studying law can do is to get an internship as soon as possible, after your first year. Whatever you do, do not attempt to work or take on an internship during your first two semesters. However, nothing will benefit you more during your last two years of law school, and after graduation, than an internship. Working in the legal field will not only make the information you learn at school easier to understand and more relevant, but an internship will also allow you to meet people and begin networking within the profession.
5 Reasons to Study law
As people already working in the legal profession will tell you, law as a career choice is intellectually fulfilling while offering ample financial rewards. A lawyer's fundamental purpose is to help others resolve their legal problems. Law offers diverse career options and qualified lawyers are in great demand as the legal profession is expanding at a rapid pace. We will go over some the top reasons to study law and give some tips on determining if a law degree is a good choice for you.
One of the top reasons people choose to become lawyers is the intellectual challenge it provides. There is an immense intellectual satisfaction in studying and practicing law as a career. Lawyers are constantly in touch with advances in technology, studying the vast bodies of case laws, using logic and clarity to master issues of legal importance, researching complex legal issues, becoming adept at oral and written communications and analyzing case studies and statutory law. Lawyers are analysts, problem-solvers and innovative thinkers whose intellect is crucial to career success. These are just some of the intellectual rewards law as a career offers.
The opportunity to help others is another reason many people become lawyers. Lawyers are in a position to help individuals, groups and organizations with their legal problems and further the public good. Many lawyers help people that have had their lives dramatically changed because of someone else's negligence or carelessness. They have the opportunity to correct a terrible wrong and help the client get back to where they were. Because of their schooling and knowledge lawyers understand the legal system and represent people in the courtroom. Some represent elderly people that have been taken advantage of, while others help people overcome debt or individuals that could not afford representation. As lawyer Patricia Brown Holmes wrote on the ABA Journal website when asked why she loved being a lawyer "I knew then that I loved being a lawyer. I loved protecting people in a court of law. I loved the feeling of accomplishment I get from helping others fight - win or lose."
A lawyer's earning potential is a large draw for many people attending law school. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor the median annual salary for a lawyer was $112,760 in May 2010. The lowest 10% earned $54,130 or less with the top 10 % earning more than $166,400. Lawyers are among the highest paid professionals in the legal system with most earning salaries above the national average. Salaries of experienced lawyers vary widely according to the size, type and location of their employers. Lawyers with their own practices usually earn less than those who work in law firms as partners. Entry level public interest attorneys like those who work for the public defender's office or the district attorney's office start out with a salary of about $40,000 per year. Your income potential as an attorney is directly related to your motivation.
The diverse practice areas and work environment is a good reason to study law and become an attorney. Law offers you diverse career options with a variety of specialization areas in the legal profession, including litigation - criminal law, civil law, labor law, contract law, family law, corporate law and international law to name a few. There are also niche specialties such as green law or foreclosure law. Even if you do not practice law, a degree in law can open doors to new opportunities and be a stepping stone to other careers and degrees. The skills developed in law school cross over to careers such as legal consulting, management, mediation, academia and writing.
A career as a lawyer has been a hallmark of prestige for generations. While there is a lot of negativity that some people associate to lawyers these days, it is still a career that commands respect and embodies the definition of success. In a culture that considers high earnings and social status as hallmarks of success, the legal profession is still regarded as an elite profession commanding respect all around. This type of prestige is another reason many people consider a career as an attorney.
While those are just 5 reasons to consider studying law, there are several other perks. Some of those include the flexibility a career in law offers, being able to make their own hours, set their own fees and choose their own clients and practice areas. Some lawyers travel the country, or the world, to participate in trials, depositions, arbitrations and business deals. Another perk is the opportunity to work with business leaders, politicians, sports figures and even celebrities.
The legal industry is thriving and now is a great time to think about a career as a lawyer.