Five things to know before going to law school

DSC_0747-01
Hallowed halls of Malcolm Hall

I’m not exactly a fresh law graduate but most readers of this blog are here because they’re either in law school or currently internally debating with themselves on whether to go to law school or not. Some are considering whether to even stay in law school. More recently the choice is now whether to even take the PHILSAT* at all.

Most readers are curious on what law school is really like. Since I’ve been out of law school for a time I’ve enlisted the help of H**, who is currently in law school, for inputs in this article.

***Main points are inputs from H.

So as a throw-back, let me share some of the things that you should probably know before going to law school.

 

1.  Law school takes up most, if not all, of your time.

A lot of people who go straight from college right into law school are shocked at the sudden change of pace. As a law student you are expected to have the initiative to photocopy your own cases, research the journal articles, books or other readings contained in the law professors’ outlines. The research part is time-consuming enough. On top of that you have to meticulously read through voluminous materials (supreme court cases, journal articles, law commentaries). Studying for a two hour class could easily translate into 3-5 hours of prior reading, leaving you with little time for romantic dates (no!), gym time, Facebook time, and generally time to yourself.

 

2.  Law school is more difficult than your average masters degree.

Others enter law school under the misguided notion that it is like your average MBA or masters degree, where you just spend two to three hours every weekend listening to the professor give a lecture. It is not. Law school is more difficult than your average undergraduate degree (and to think I suffered through several courses of CALCULUS in my Economics degree) or even your average masters degree.

The difficulty lies not only in the subject matter, which is complicated in itself, but also in the language employed in law. Law uses a precise and formal type of English language. Certain key words must be carefully used in certain context, otherwise you change the meaning completely. You might eventually grow into it but it will be jarring at first.

There will certainly be a learning curve. You’ll have to get used to the socratic method employed by law professors, which is essentially a daily verbal exam requiring you to answer a series of questions to show your line of thinking to arrive at the answer. That is why reading cases for your classes gets extra difficult because you’ll have to be able to recall the details later on.

DSC_0748.JPG
Malcolm Hell, joke.   A classroom at Malcolm Hall.

 

3.  Law school is expensive

If you are paying for your own way for law school , it is very expensive. On top of tuition costs, you’ll have to buy law books, codals and pay to photocopy your readings. On the other hand, the average graduate masters degree doesn’t require as much, financially.

There is also an opportunity cost of paying your own way for law school especially for working students. Money that could’ve been put to work in investments now goes to a non-income producing (at least at the moment) expense –law school.

 

4.   Law school makes you gain weight

Law school is a drain on your wallet, but not on your weight. The long and arduous studying, combined with the stress of daily recitations and constant competition (not really but more like pressure to keep up with them) with your law classmates will have you reaching for that beer / wine / chocolate / ice cream / random junk just to keep you sane. The all nighters also wreak havoc on your body clock and affect your metabolism, making you gain weight.

 

5.  Law school will make you irritable.

If you have mental issues or are emotionally fragile, law school isn’t for you. First off, professors will not hesitate to release their passive aggressive sarcastic insults upon students who are caught unprepared. Second, the pressure to keep up with your classmates and to read the mountains of cases will get to you. Combine all these with a lack of sleep and you will become irritable at one point or another. If you have mental issues, law school may not be a good place for you.

Anything else we should add to this list?

George

*Passing the Philippine Law School Admission Test is a precondition for entry into any Philippine law school. It’s a recent Legal Education Board requirement.

**Real name withheld for privacy

Advertisements

16 thoughts on “Five things to know before going to law school

  1. Hi. I got hit by the 5th point.
    Being a lawyer has been my dream. I, too, want to offer legal help, and I cannot stand seeing injustices. I dream of tackling international issues, too, so I am praying to survive law school so that I can pursue int’l laws later. And oh, I passed the PhilSAT already.
    But I got hit by the 5th point. I’ve been active on debates and on public speaking, but deep inside esp on personal matter, I am not totally emotionally stable. I can easily be frustrated by words alone (esp by superiors) and my undergrad proved that to me many times (graduated Med Lab science and recently passed the boards). I learned how to cope eventually every bout, but I am afraid of how worse law schl can go.. Do you have any advice before I officially enter law school? Thanks. Know that your blog is a blessing.

    Like

    1. Hi Lej thanks for reading. You alone would know your (emotional) limits. Enjoy law school while it lasts, it gets much worse in law practice. Haha. Seriously though, just do your best, manage your time and take a break every once in a while, find a hobby, preferably physical exercise. Wish you all the best in law school!

      Like

  2. I didn’t know you went to Malcolm Hall too! Schoolmate!

    I think law students should also have an inkling about what they want to do with their law degree because the financial and emotional investment in going through law school and taking the bar is pretty high to just be cavalier about your post law studies future.

    I find that the best option financial wise for a new lawyer is to enter the judiciary as a court attorney because the salary grades and bonuses are very generous. However, there are little opportunities for career advancement as a court attorney and the work gets repetitive.

    Working for a private firm will be taxing and the pay will be low, but you’ll learn heaps as a new lawyer and if you survive the trenches, the pay increases exponentially, specially if you’re made partner or you make the leap to form your own law firm. Working in a private law firm also makes you attractive to big companies, leading to a more relaxed pace with a fat paycheck.

    Working for an NGO is also a good alternative. I think the pay varies depending on the NGO but you get the psychic satisfaction of channeling your energy towards a cause you really believe and that is priceless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Malcolm represent! Kaya pala, great minds think alike (re personal finance). *wink*

      Thanks for the comprehensive addition to the list. I’m sure more newbie lawyers now will want to join the judiciary! I started at a law firm though and while it was bloody (madugo with matching sweat and tears lol), it gave me such invaluable experience, which made subsequent lawyer work after that just such a breeze to do.

      Like

  3. I didn’t know you went to Malcolm Hall too! Schoolmate!

    I think law students should also have an inkling about what they want to do with their law degree because the financial and emotional investment in going through law school and taking the bar is pretty high to just be cavalier about your post law studies future.

    I find that the best option financial wise for a new lawyer is to enter the judiciary as a court attorney because the salary grades and bonuses are very generous. However, there are little opportunities for career advancement as a court attorney and the work gets repetitive.

    Working for a private firm will be taxing and the pay will be low, but you’ll learn heaps as a new lawyer and if you survive the trenches, the pay increases exponentially, specially if you’re made partner or you make the leap to form your own law firm. Working in a private law firm also makes you attractive to big companies, leading to a more relaxed pace with a fat paycheck.

    Working for an NGO is also a good alternative. I think the pay varies depending on the NGO, but you get the psychic satisfaction of channeling your energy towards a cause you really believe and that is priceless.

    Like

  4. I had almost 3 years of law school in my belt. My father was a lawyer (actually, still is) and he was counting on me to take over when he dies. Tuition was free as I work for a university as a computer programmer. I remember spending majority of my time in the library devouring Supreme Court Report Annotated (SCRA) cases. I stopped when my ex moved to the U.S. forcing me to drop out. Working in the U.S. was really a matter of fate for me. Sometimes, I still daydream becoming a lawyer as I find the career really interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. don’t forget bar review! lol. i lost weight during bar review. must’ve been the 20 minute walk to the library everyday, rain or shine + budget mode ‘coz manila was (still is) hella expensive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no more memories flooding back! Haha. Bar review is one of the worst times! there are no more professors but it’s now our own responsibility to make sure we actually pass the bar. That results to 10 hr days of just reading and just the all-in-your head pressure to perform.

      Thanks for adding to this list frt.
      good for you, losing weight during bar review. I, on the other hand, just gained lbs as I tend to snack while reading

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s