Are you an aspiring Annalise Keating or Amal Clooney? Can’t wait to walk around campus with your brimming brown case files and smart black briefcases, ready to quote Lord Denning at a moment’s notice?
While the law field has a reputation for the glitz and glamour (no thanks to Netflix), law school is anything but a walk in the park. Here are the irksome realities of law school that will have you pulling your hair out by the time you graduate.
#1. There’s a lot of reading involved
You might have been forewarned about this by a concerned friend or condescending relative, but this is absolutely true. Buckle up for 23 pages of case law and Shakespeare-esque judgements that will send your head spinning within the first week of law school.
Remember that scene in Legally Blonde when Professor Stromwell picks Elle Woods to give her the facts of a case on her first day at Harvard University? This happens IRL.
Your tutors will expect you to rattle out the facts of popular legal cases such as Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. (a 1890s case where a company that made flu medicine promised £100 to anyone who still got the flu after using their product) and Donoghue v Stevenson (how the ‘neighbour principle’ came about because a dead snail was found in a bottle of ginger beer) faster than you can think “I’m reconsidering this Law Degree!”.
But don’t stress it! You’ll get the hang of skimming through ratio decidendi and ploughing your way through lengthy obiter dictum. There will be plenty of resources at your disposal and with enough hard work, you’ll be a pro in no time!
#2. You’ll have to learn Latin
Just as you’re getting the hang of decoding cryptic messages from judgements written in complicated verse, law school will have you speaking a whole other language — Latin, to be exact.
If you’re wondering why on earth do you have to learn this archaic language (and frankly, it’s shocking that anyone still speaks it), Latin was the common mother tongue of many civilisations for centuries and became the legal language of choice around the world. Unfortunately for you, the same principles are used until today, both in court and in the classroom.
At first, you may be alarmed to find your lecturer spouting gibberish, but you’ll grasp these strange sounding words in no time. From mens rea to mala fide, nemo dat quod non habet to nemo judex in causa sua, what was once a foreign language will soon roll off your tongue with ease.
Fair warning: peppering your daily conversation with Latin terms may give you star status amongst your impressionable classmates, but beware of being branded a pretentious fool amongst your other friends.
#3. Studying amidst intimidating classmates
“I thought I was smart once — that was before law school.”
Law school is a natural habitat for the bright and brilliant, so you can guarantee that at least 80% of your cohort know exactly what they’re talking about. If you used to hear crickets every time your teacher asked a question in secondary school, your classroom experience is about to change drastically.
Brace yourself for argumentative classmates and opinionated know-it-alls. You’ll even find yourself vying for your lecturer’s attention and actively trying to prove yourself during tutorials.
#4. Dressing the part isn’t as cool as you might think
There may come a time in law school where you’ll have to don a suit during your university’s mooting programme, or simulated court proceedings.
While strutting around in a blazer and crisp white shirt might make you seem cooler than the mere mortals around campus, don’t be surprised if the novelty starts to wear off sooner than you’d expect.
Not only is our tropical weather meant for anything but a suit and tie, having to get out of bed for lectures will be worse when you have to iron that 3-day old white shirt that’s overdue for a wash.
While dressing up might be tedious, you can take it as a glimpse into your life as a lawyer. Insisting you dress the part is your lecturer’s way of introducing you to courtroom etiquette and standing out amongst your uni mates will remind you of the prestige and responsibility that comes with this line of work.
#5. Your attendance is the least of your concerns
While your peers from other courses are busy cooking up ideas to get their attendance sneakily recorded in class, the number of times you attend your law lectures isn’t as important as how much you grasp throughout the semester.
Although your sleep-deprived self will try to convince yourself otherwise, missing just one class is enough to derail you for the next week or so.
This is especially true for subjects taught by lecturers who vehemently refuse to spoon feed students with notes. Instead, they bombard you with a barrage of information during lectures.
So here’s some advice for the future — unlike your Evidence Law final exam, that Happy Hour can wait. Put that night out on hold and make sure you get to class!
#6. Mooting season will be the death of you
The mooting component of your Law Degree is set to be the most hellish 2 weeks of your law school experience. This is the time where you get a taste of what it’s like to be in a courtroom to argue a case. Get ready for sleepless nights spent scouring the depths of the internet for case law to support your arguments and a flurry of highlighting the night before submission.
Don’t be surprised to see your whole class divided into appellants and respondents (the two opposing parties in a case being heard by a higher court after the losing party wants that decision reviewed). You might even experience an odd moment of suspicion when you catch one of your ally teams fraternising with the “enemy”.
Rest assured that mooting is not only designed to test your legal knowledge and presentation skills, but your patience as well.
#7. Written exams are an Olympic sport
Be prepared to perform feats you didn’t think were humanly possible. Writing exams while working your biceps? Possible. Never thought you could churn out 7 pages worth of answers in under an hour? You can and you will.
So if you thought studying for your finals was hard, you’ll quickly discover that preparing for exams is only the tip of the iceberg. Law exams are a race against the clock as most papers require you to answer 4 essay questions in 3 hours. That gives you 45 minutes to answer one question — near impossible every single time.
Multiple-choice questions? Pfft.
Law school may sound like all grief and gloom, but being surrounded by your friends and enduring the tough times together will make your university experience one of the most fun times of your life.
While law school is not for the faint-hearted, the heavy workload is great preparation for your future in the field. With enough passion, drive and support from your mates, you’ll succeed with flying colours!