Law School Isn’t What Sucks About Law School


“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are law students.”

No matter how many times you hear a law student complain about spending hours in the law library or some gunner wrecking the curve, the simple fact of the matter is that the problem isn’t law school. The problem is us, law students. One of the most common complaints about law school is that it’s hyper-competitive; that cutthroat gunners will steal vital books from the library or intentionally give incorrect “help” to other students in order to improve their own grades. And yes, this does happen. But it happens in business school too. And medical school. And landscape architecture school. And equestrian school. Really, assholes abound in pretty much all fields. More importantly, these same gunners will be pulling the same tricks after law school too; they’ll “accidentally” forget to send your brief to the partner for review or they’ll “forget” to tell you about an obscure but vital case they found on the same subject just a couple weeks ago.

It’s not law school that’s making nice people into gunners. No, they were gunners before law school and they’ll be gunners after. Of course, sometimes this complaint just means that everyone will work harder because law students are a bunch of arrogant type-A jerks all high performers. The net result is a high-stress environment with fierce competition for the top spots. But that’s not the nature of law school — it’s the nature of law students. Stop needing to be “the best” and start focusing on the specialty you want to build and the competition won’t matter as much.

Another common complaint is the time requirement. Sometimes it’s pretty bad. There will be days when you’re up for 18 or 19 hours. That just goes with the territory. Overall though (as commenters readily pointed out), you really don’t need to spend that much time working. Even if you are getting paid to help 1Ls with their research and writing assignments. Most of the people who complain about law school taking up “all” of their time are only complaining because they want everyone to know how busy they are. It’s absolutely possible to put in fewer than 40 hours a week and do well in law school. The bare requirements don’t take that much time. When a person complains that law school takes up too much time, what they’re really saying is that they’ve volunteered for everything because either they don’t know how to say “no” or because they have no personal life and no idea what to do with themselves if they’re not loaded down with work. (To forestall the commenters, I’ll admit that upon examination of my own social life, I tend towards the latter.)

Others complain that in law school success is measured relative to your peers, not on any absolute scale. This is a complaint that you only see from the straight-through students or the former waiters. Students who have previous careers know that this isn’t a fault of law school. Rather, it’s a fact of life in any “real job”. Before law school, I built employee ratings systems for Fortune 500 companies. Guess what? They rate employees on a curve. Like it or not, if you’re the second best person in the world at what you do, and you happen to work next to the gal who is #1, she’s going to be getting the raises and promotions, not you. Bitching about this one is counterproductive. The sooner you learn to survive with being ranked on a relative scale (say, by developing niche knowledge, or just by being that guy everyone likes because he always shares his doughnuts) the better things will go for you.

Finally, employment prospects get thrown around a lot as a stressor. After all, we’re loading up on debt (Well, most of us are; God knows I am.) and yet we’re not guaranteed a job. Thing is, employment prospects aren’t good for anyone right now (unless you happen to live in North Dakota) and unless you were living in a cave somewhere, you knew that coming in. Granted, a law degree isn’t an automatic ticket to a six figure job in the way that it once was, but the fact is that for people with a bit of foresight and the willingness to push into the now hot legal areas, they still have great job prospects. The problem isn’t law school, it’s students like us assuming that a sheet of paper with the letters “J.D.” and a bar card will cause money to fall out of the sky. It’s our own lack of planning here, not law school.

Bottom line:  Law student, heal thyself.

Post image from Shutterstock

The Northwest 3L spent 6 years in the "real world" cultivating cynicism and a dim view of humanity in the telecom and software consulting industries before deciding that the best way to deal with having zero debt in a down economy was to load up on student loans and truck on off to law school. Asked for a description, his friends replied, "says inappropriate things." Grainy, out-of-focus film footage suggests that he attends law school somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

2 Comments

  1. JD2012

    December 8, 2012 at 1:04 am

    law school wasn’t that bad.

    Hell I went to cooley and I survived. (and that is saying something)

  2. noname

    March 21, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Whats wrong with most of you pampered law students complaining about studying ? OMG I has work 23901239 hours all my life, OMG I has debt, OMG I has not enjoyed law school. Go out and get some, change your topic, go study theoretical physics if thats not for you, or be a bad student, but don’t be comlpaining all the time, this is really annoying.

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