Updated: Jul 5, 2020
We have always been told "what to do at law school" and "how to prepare for law school" and many other similar things. However, we sometimes miss the fact that along with doing something right, you also need to avoid doing something wrong!
As someone who has learned it the hard way, this is a tip for you to understand it before you learn it the hard way like I did. So here are a few things that you should AVOID doing at law schools!
Do not Skip Classes.
"It's just one day! It doesn't matter!" - we have heard this statement countless times from our peers. But, I would strictly advise you not to listen to that statement. It is absolutely alright if you take a few days off during the semester for your own good, but going off and skipping your classes just because you "don't feel like attending" or that "the subject isn't interesting" or that "we should sometimes chill", does not work out.
It gets very difficult to get back to studying if you miss your classes regularly. This affects your attendance as well as your study routine.
Even though you may be tempted to take your day off because you are lazy to get up go to your classes, I advise you not to go down that path.
I am not saying that you have to mandatorily attend each and every class, every single day without even taking a break. All you need to do is take as many breaks as you can without letting it affect your studies and for genuine reasons.
Do not Read Casebooks.
As tempting as it may sound, for some of us to be ahead of the rest of the class by preparing every single thing during the summer break itself, this is not a good advise to read your casebook beforehand.
I used to be really happy, with the fact that I knew the cases, but it only confused me a lot when the case was actually taught in the classroom. Sometimes, we read the case, we know the facts, we know the judgement and everything, but we often don't know the application.
The same case that is used in the Criminal Law may be used in the Constitutional law as well. You cannot possibly read everything beforehand while focussing on the subjective perspective of each case.
Every professor has a different method of teaching the same case.
For example, the case in criminal law will only focus on the criminal aspect of that case, while the same case in constitutional law will focus more on the constitutional aspect of the case.
Which is why it is important that you do not learn every single case without understanding the application of the case. You may want to be the one to know all the cases but you also need to know that unless you know the topics with which these cases are related to, you will not understand a word. It is only going to confuse you a lot.
Do not Try to Understand the Law.
Yes, you have read it right. Do not try to understand the law, instead, try to interpret the law. Now the question that arises over here is, "how can I interpret the law without understanding it?"
To answer that question for you, is a simple solution. Use your own interpretation. Use your own brain.
Trying to understand the law will only confuse you even more. Every law can be interpreted in your own way. How you play with the words, and how you read between the lines, is how you interpret the law.
Law is not meant to be understood. Every practising lawyer takes years and years to understand the law and it keeps changing because you find loopholes in it. When you understand something, you do not find loopholes in it because you have realised that "this is how it is" and accept it. When you interpret something, you read between the lines and realise that there are loopholes which need to be addressed.
Understand the process. This will help you because while you understand the process of making a law, or that why this law should be interpreted a particular way, it will give you a reason to think about that law so that you can interpret it in your own manner.
Don't be "THAT" Person.
We all know "that" person. Someone who tends to disrupt the classes for fun, someone who always plays the "devil's advocate", someone who always cracks a joke and thinks that it is absolutely fine to insult the professor or other peers while the lecture is going on.
We all know "that" person and have come across them. If you are "that" person, I would advise you not to indulge yourself into it anymore.
You may think that you are very "cool" by making weird noises in the class, or by back-answering your professors, or my teasing your peers when the lecture is going on, or by bullying someone, but it is not true.
Let me break it to you, nobody thinks you are cool, except for the people you hang out with, and everybody thinks that you are straight-up annoying.
As law students, and as something my professors always said, we are not just peers, we are networks to each other, few of which just happen to be our friends. So it is not like cracking a joke once in a while makes you "that" person, because everyone deserves a laughter at times, but if you constantly do this while disturbing the class, you are the one who is going to suffer.
No matter what the professors say, they do pick their favourites. You cannot, and do not have to be the favourite for each and every professor that teaches you. It is also not your marks that make the professors choose you, but how responsive you are in their subject. You may be "that" person and score well, but the professors might still not choose you and might choose someone who scores less, but is positively responsive.
You might come up and say, "but who cares who the professor picks?" or "It's unfair that they choose some students over the others." But have you ever wondered why?
I have heard a lot of people come up to me and say, "these guys have just been buttering the professor" or "they are just agreeing to everything the professor says" or that "oh! It's because so and so has always done what the professor asked them to do" or that "we never get the opportunity because this person goes up first always and the professor is bound to choose them."
So I'll break another news to you, the professors are really smart at knowing who actually is responsive and who is just trying to get favours from them by being pretentious. They have also been through law school, and have obviously seen a similar pattern of behaviour amongst their own classmates. They can identify the ones who are genuinely interested in their subjects and students who are just trying to gain their interests because want to be a part of everything they do. So more often than not, the professors choose people based on their calibre rather than their grades.
At the end of the day, it is your professors who are going to help you and not your peers. Whether it is for class-related doubts or your Letter of Recommendation when you are going to apply to other Universities, it's the professors who will always help you.
Don't "Do Nothing".
While most of us when we initially join law school think that it is very important to constantly study and not involve ourselves in other activities. This can affect you negatively.
I learned this the hard way, but it is not like you have to do every single thing, be involved in every single activity, but you definitely need to be involved in something!
While grades do matter in most cases, but it is also important to keep yourself occupied in other co-curricular and extracurricular activities in your law school or outside.
Whether it is your Moot Court Competitions, or your Research Papers, or your Paper Presentations, Seminars, Conferences, anything for that matter, is really important. You do not have to be involved in everything, you just have to be involved in something! (Productive obviously)
Don't Fall Prey to Unhealthy Competition.
This is probably one of the most ignored as well the most important advise at law school and I figured that this should be addressed because it is not addressed enough.
Often, this takes place amongst the students who tend to score really well in their examinations but it is not limited to them only. While it is alright to know how much your peers have scored (mostly the list of marks gets floated amongst all so everyone knows how much everyone else has scored), it is NOT okay to compare yourself with them and compete against them.
Your only competition in law school and in life, is your own self. Compete against your own self. Compete with yourself to improve yourself.
How much are you going to compete against everyone else? There will ALWAYS be someone better than you, whether at your own law school, or at some other law school doing better. If you are going to get jealous of your peers for scoring more than you and arguing with your professors about it, you are just a victim of unhealthy competition.
I do know a couple of people, who are so competitive, that they cannot stand someone else doing better than them. If someone else is doing better than you, does not mean you have done horribly. It just means that you know where to improve yourself.
Work on improving yourself rather than criticising how others have scored better than you.
There is nothing wrong in aiming to be the best, but what is wrong, is trying to pull others down, so that you can be the best. Nobody has ever become the best by pulling someone down. They become the best by making themselves go up.
Unhealthy competitions can be mentally stressful and the only thing you can think about is, "I have to score better than him/her/them".
Let's say you have scored better than the person you were aiming to score better than, now what? Are you satisfied? Are you truly happy? Is this why you were here?
If you measure your growth through someone else's timeline, it will affect you a lot. You won't actually grow, but you will tire yourself out while trying to compete with someone who only sets bars against themselves. The only time you won't grow tired of a competition is when your competitor is you, yourself!
The difference between healthy competition and unhealthy competition is very simple. A person who has a healthy competition does not get upset by the fact that someone has scored better than them, but instead analyses where they have gone wrong. While a person who has an unhealthy competition with others, always criticises HOW the other person has scored more than them, or that they cheated or any other illogical reason you can come up with.
How does it matter if they attended a Conference without informing you? How does it matter if they went to a Moot Court without informing you? How does it matter if they do not tell you about stuff they are planning on doing? They are here for themselves as you should be.
If you think that you are entitled to know everything that the other person does, you are mistaken. Getting angry because they did not tell you that they went to a conference without informing you is silly, because if they can find it, so can you!
You are also not entitled to tell anyone about your plans.
If you are scared that person "A" will do better than you, so you should not help them out, it is fine. But if you think that they do not deserve to be helped because they score better than you, that is silly.
If you realise, if someone has to score well, they will score well regardless of your opinions about them. If you are insecure about the things you do only because your insecurity arises from the fact that person "A" is your competitor, you, my friend, are leaning in the wrong direction.
Maybe the answer that was written down by person "A" in the examination was exactly what the professor had asked in the question paper, and no matter how well you wrote, if you didn't write what was asked, you are bound to lose marks.
Unhealthy competition is when you think that you helping someone will make them better than you while healthy competition is understanding that regardless of what the other person scores, you will do well for yourself.
Unhealthy competition is when you dislike someone for being academically better than you and working for their own betterment rather than working to help you while healthy competition is when you realise that every person over here will have to make way for themselves and you are your sole competition.
I hope that these tips will help you in understanding Law School better and that you are going to do well.
If you want to add any more tips, let me know.
If you haven't already, check out my Instagram account- https://www.instagram.com/shivanispeakslegally/