Lies Law Students Believe


Your first year out of law school is one giant reality-check of all the assumptions you had at law school. As someone (marginally) older and wiser, who is now a real-life, actual lawyer, these are in my experience, a few of the biggest ones:

Assumption: If you don’t love law school, you shouldn’t be a lawyer.

Lots of law students in their final years of study start to doubt whether they should be lawyers at all. They give up looking for jobs, studying hard and doing extra-curriculars, or consider dropping out altogether. Usually, it’s because things at law school aren’t great – they didn’t get fantastic grades or they’re finding lectures boring. Since those last years are crucial grades-wise, this can all be very damaging to future prospects.

Source // tumblr

I call it the law-school slump

Reality Check: Being a lawyer is nothing like law school.

Think about it. When will you ever get a single piece of paper containing all the facts in a case, the way you do in exams? Lawyers spend months talking to people and reading hundreds of documents just to ascertain “the facts”. Entire trials revolve around what “the facts” actually are, before you even get to talking about the law.

As a lawyer, you’ll learn and use a whole new set of skills. Just because you didn’t enjoy lectures doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy being a lawyer. The same concepts you found dull when studying could be fascinating when applied to a real case you’re working on, or your work might be totally transactional and you’ll never have to read another case again. Unless you genuinely despise the law, hang in there and give the lawyer thing a try. You might actually like it.

Source // giphy

This could be you.

Assumption: (Only) straight-A students are going to be good lawyers.

If you’ve got great grades, you might be pretty confident that you’re going to be Harvey Specter once you get into practice. If you didn’t get great grades (i.e. most people), you probably think you’ll never be Harvey Specter, no matter how hard you try.

Reality check: Everyone will have a lot to learn, and will make lots of mistakes.

I’ll say it again: being a lawyer is very different from studying law. EVERYONE faces a huge learning curve in their first few years. Just because you did well in exams doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be great at drafting documents or dealing with disputes. While that A+ you got in Equitable Remedies might mean you know what an interim injunction is, you probably have no idea what you have to do to get one. Be prepared to make lots of mistakes, and accept that you’ll have a lot to learn – and probably won’t ever stop learning.

Source // imgur

Pretty much every law graduate in their first job, ever.

Similarly, just because you weren’t a top student doesn’t mean you won’t make a good lawyer. I don’t want to sugar coat it - if you really struggled at law school (i.e. failing or barely passing most of your subjects), you might struggle in practice. But if you’re a B average student, you could very well discover once you start working that you actually are good at law, you just weren’t that receptive to the way it was taught.

Assumption: If you don’t have top grades and didn’t get a summer clerkship, you’ll never find a job.

Many students feel that if you aren’t a top student, finding a job (and especially getting a summer clerkship) in this competitive market is hard.

Reality check: It's hard, but definitely not impossible.

Lots of people with average grades do find good jobs, and there are three tips I can give you in that regard. First, you have to be realistic. Accept that finding a job won’t be easy, and will take time. Second, be creative. A big firm may be off the cards, but what about a suburban law firm, a sole practitioner, a Community Law Centre or a NGO? Finally, do everything you can to mitigate average grades. If you’ve written a good essay, try to get it published. Get involved in extra-curricular and voluntary activities - these can get you experience doing legal research or mooting, and some good references and connections.

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