Recently accepted by a mid-west law school, “Howard” wrote, “I never really studied much in college, cramming for tests and assume law school will be like that, but my wife tells me I will flunk out if I approach it that way. What do you say, Mr. Beaver?”
I say, “You have a very intelligent wife.”
Admission to law school does not guarantee that three years from now Howard will graduate and be admitted to the bar. “The flunk out rate for law students is in the range of 12-25%” says Lisa Blasser, a Claremont, California-based attorney, and author of Nine Steps to Law School Success: A Scientifically Proven Process for Success in Law School.
So, what explains someone failing?
“They simply are not taught how to study. Law school is not like undergrad. A very different skill set is required to succeed. When law students don’t study properly, there is a good chance they’ll underperform and unfortunately, fail.”
Blasser set out a by the numbers list of what a student has to do in order to flunk out of law school:
1 - Apply to law school to make someone besides yourself happy.
Consequences: Your heart won’t be in the game. You’ll be immersed in an extraordinarily difficult academic environment, lacking the internal motivation necessary to succeed.
2- Lack Passion to Succeed:
Consequences: You’ll lack the innate energy needed to get through that 60th hour of studying. When studying becomes unbearable, it is critical to rely on the reason you are putting yourself through the trenches. Your passion is the fuel that carries you through those difficult moments.
3 - Think that studying in law school is similar to studying in college.
Consequences: Assuming you already know how to study actually limits opportunities for learning in law school. It is unlike any other academic experience and you need a linear, systematic study process to succeed.
4 - Think that you don’t need to create a study calendar.
Consequences: Stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, guilt, no free time, being unaware of what you need to do to succeed every day, then failing your midterms and finals. Sound fun?
5 - Think that you can pull an all-nighter or cram for an exam.
Consequences: You won’t have enough time to organize and articulate your thoughts in writing in a meaningful way on the exam. Success in law school does not stem from memorization and regurgitation. Instead, success comes from having a deep understanding of the law and then applying the law to varying facts, all of which you have analyzed in detail prior the exam.
6 - Make it harder on yourself by not reading commercial outlines and supplements.
Consequences: You will get frustrated reading archaic cases/terms and may miss the issue presented in the case. Acclimate yourself to the facts, issue and outcome of a case by reading a simple overview of the case, that is drafted in layman’s terms, prior to reading the edited version in your textbook. Doing so saves time because you’ll already have an understanding of the main points, making it easier to connect the dots on the second read.
7 - Select members of your study group who don’t possess the same passion to succeed that you do.
Consequences: Study groups become more of a gossip fest, and waste of time. Associate with students who value their legal education and succeeding in law school just as much as you do.
8 – Maintain an empty happiness tank by ignoring family, not taking coffee breaks, skipping celebratory dinners, dropping loved ones and ignoring all of the things that make you feel human outside of law school.
Consequences: You’ll burn out quickly and face the possibility of anxiety and depression. Depression among law students is 8-9% prior to matriculation, 27% after one semester, 34% after two semesters, and 40% after three years.
9 - Set unrealistic goals for yourself.
Consequences: Getting a 4.0 is outside your control on the first day of class. What is within your control is accomplishing the set of tasks you assign yourself every day. The days will ultimately turn into weeks and before you know it, you will be in a place to achieve that 4.0 by completing those smaller, realistic daily goals.
Concluding our interview, she offers this encouraging advice to all law students:
“Dig deep into your heart when law school gets tough. Believe that you are 100% capable of learning how to succeed and succeeding. Be kind to yourself when setbacks arise. Don’t compete with one another. When it feels heavy, remember to chop only the wood in front of you – give 100% to the tasks you dominate each day. I believe in YOU, now go get after it!”