Anyone aspiring to study law would want to know what exactly it’s like to be a law student and how to succeed at law school. Who wouldn’t? You would want to confirm the reports you may have heard from friends and law-inclined relatives about how difficult it is to actually study law or survive law school’s make-or-break pressure cooker.
Don’t give the light of day to anyone who says you are being too neurotic for been reflective. Nope, you are not. It’s rather like doing what lawyers call due diligence. In a profession where so many lawyers are unhappy with their jobs, it’s always important to determine if studying law would be the right fit for you. If anything, to know the true state of things in the profession before making any rash decision you might regret in future.
Thus it’s after completing this research that you can better tell if you are indeed cut out to be part of the noble profession or your interests would be better served elsewhere. In any case, you can’t go wrong thinking things through.
With that out of the way, lets take a long hard long at the reasons why studying law may be hard for you, the aspiring lawyer.
(1) Reading Is A Grind
As part of normal campus life, nearly all students are expected to hit their books on a regular basis. But compared to other students, law students are required to do much more studying. In uni, law students are often overworked and the reading is a lot more tedious and intellectually demanding.
Perhaps this is more in keeping with our claim of being “the only learned profession.” Wouldn’t it actually be misleading to bear such a grandiose appellation and not have the scholarship to match? I wouldn’t expect less! As a law student, both lecturers and professors have high expectations of you, reading-wise.
You have to know how to research like a boss, while rummaging through unending loads of statutes, case law, law databases and other legal authorities that are a goldmine for practicing lawyers. To say nothing of the stacks of legal texts you have to assimilate before each day of class. And slack of any day, and you’ll have hell to pay with your unsmiling and joyless law teachers.
You’d be expected to learn how to think like a real lawyer, whether it’s in the classroom or in your law exams, which can often mean taking legal positions backed up with persuasive authorities than having “mere opinions” or citing fictitious authorities.
From the first day you set foot within the law faculty, nonstop reading becomes your middle name, until the day you finally graduate. Throughout your days in school, you have to make a habit of reading every so often, not because you feel like it, but because you have to. You’d make it through though, if you could learn speed-reading.
(2) You have to commit a lot to memory.
So you dread numbers? Did that have anything to do with your choosing law as course of study? If it did, I have to say you made a wise move choosing a career in law. While you may not be dealing with hard numbers or mathematical equations as a law student, there’s still a place in your studies for numbers. As an aspiring lawyer, you’d have loads of sections to commit to memory.
And that’s before we’ve thrown in the bulk of case law you’ll have to memorize. In contract law alone, you might be dealing with a thousand case law or more, plus those from your other law electives. At the end of the day, you might have more cases to memorize than you could count.
Given the magnitude of materials you’ll have to memorize, you’ll be needing a memory sharper than that of the average person if you are to survive. It may be impractical to want to have the eidetic memory of a certain Mike Ross, but if you can just learn how to memorize faster, that would get you through school.
(3) Law exams are always tricky .
In my first year in the university, I chanced upon a very shocking revelation: that you can read your law books throughout the semester and still yet flunk a law exam. Here is why. In almost all law exams, questions are set in such a way that it looks as if you are being asked to advice a real life client with a hypothetical legal problem. And there’s a certain approach to answering such questions, using the IRAC rule, for example, and this goes beyond just being able to regurgitate whatever you had read or were taught in class.
If you make this mistake, you’d fail. In the exams, the examiner steps into the shoes of the client and, you the law student, that of the lawyer whose advice is being sought. To succeed in these exams, you must have fully understood the materials you’d read in preparation for the exams, appreciated the question posed, while also being able to distinguish and isolate the key issues raised in the questions.
For more on this, see the application of the IRAC. Law questions require a lot of analysis and, on many occasions, students don’t get them right. This is perhaps the reason why the failure rates are ever sky high at the Nigerian Law School, the poor grading system regardless.
In answering law exam questions, there’s a risk a candidate could misunderstand the question asked and reach a conclusion too far divorced from the law on the issue. “Tricky!” you might say, but that’s just how it is. If you are not very careful with your approach questions, this can happen to you, and you can be marked down by an examiner for poor reading and comprehension.
And then there’s the matter of the exams always being a race against time. You are often given more questions than you have time to solve. In the exams, candidates are never allowed to overrun the allocated time, not a second more. Once your time is up you have to halt yourself from any more writing or you’d be penalized.
This lack of time during exams can put even the calmest and composed of students under overwhelming pressure and bring them this close to hitting the panic button.
So what do you think? Are these enough reasons why you should abandon your dream of becoming a lawyer? It’s not like the other alternative fields are any easier to get into. (Don’t they say nothing good comes easy?) Even if they seem so, you’d still have to do your homework if you are to succeed. For me law isn’t any harder than the other professions. But don’t take this to mean it would be a stroll in the park getting through the university. In any event, expect lots of reading if you do eventually decide to study law. It can’t be helped!
A youngish lawyer with penetrating insight, Patrick Herbert is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Lawstudenthub, a site dedicated to helping new wigs find their footing in a trickily slippery legal profession and stay current with emerging developments in the legal industry. He holds an LLB from the University of Benin and a BL from the Nigerian Law School, Abuja. In his spare time, Patrick doubles as a professional writer and copyeditor.
If you have any urgent enquiries, you can email him @[email protected]