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.
And then after that, you may then go on to decide whether it’s worth it to study law and if you possess the qualities required to succeed in the highly competitive world of legal practice. 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 not so many lawyers are happy with their jobs, it’s always worth it to do a reality of check. If anything, to be acquainted with the actual state of things in the real world, and if possible avoid making rash and unformed decisions that could lead you a death bed of regrets.
Thus it’s after such due assessment that you can better 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 overworked, 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 think like a real lawyer whether in the classroom or exam venues and that would necessitate 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 we 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 taking law. While you may not be dealing with hard numbers or mathematical equations as a law student, there’s still a place in law for numeric. As an aspiring lawyer, you’d have loads of sections which are numbers in themselves to commit to memory. Given the magnitude of sections, cutting across different statutes and legislations you have 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 memory of a Mike Ross, but being able to memorize faster would get you through law school.
And let’s not forget the bulk of case law you’ll have to memorize. In contract in particular, there’re about how many cases again? About a thousand more or less. Plus those from your other law electives. At the end of the day, you might have more cases to memorize than you could count.
(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 problem. And there’s a certain approach to such questions, like the IRAC, and it 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 although the poor grading system may have had a hand.
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 how you approach questions, this can happen to you and you’d be marked down by an examiner for poor reading comprehension.
And then there’s the matter of the exams always being a race against time. You are 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 writing further otherwise, 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 really good comes cheap?). 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 LL.B from the University of Benin and a BL from the Nigerian Law School, Abuja.
To get in touch, follow him on social media.