Undergrad to Law School: How to Make the Switch Successfully

The transition from undergrad to law school can be quite challenging. But you can make the transition smoother on yourself if you're prepared and know what to expect.

In particular, there are three key areas where you can expect a different experience from undergrad to law school:

1) Professionalism

It’s not that you were necessarily unprofessional in undergrad, but in law school the stakes are bigger. It’s important to realize that your reputation in law school is the beginning of your reputation as a future lawyer. Law school classmates will be colleagues for years down the road, much more than you probably realize at the beginning of your 1L year.

As a lawyer, you'll forever get questions from friends and family asking if they know a lawyer who can help with X, Y, or Z. When that happens to your current law school classmates in the future, you want them to think of you, and not in a negative way.

The consequences of not being on time, prepared, respectful, and a kind, willing participant are real. Law school will present tough, stressful times as well as fun, social times. Make sure that you're being a kind, competent, and respectful classmate throughout.

2) Humility

If you’re headed to law school, it is likely that you’ve done well academically, particularly in undergrad. You may be used to praise, or perhaps you pride yourself on always be the best in a classroom. Additionally, you may be used to schoolwork coming easily to you.

But here's the thing: in law school, you’ll be in good company, because most of your classmates have experienced similar academic success. Which means you should be prepared for a change. Most law schools grade on a curve and rank students based on their academic standing. Most people won't get A's, and it's almost guaranteed there will be times when you're one of those people.

So remember this: being an average student in law school doesn't mean you’ve fallen far, or you're not smart. It just takes some getting used to and, more importantly, some extra work to get to the top. So be humble and work hard.

3) Self-Assessment

In law school, your final exams can literally make or break your grade in the course. That’s because, unlike in undergrad, one course may be based solely on your final exam or a single assignment.

That’s why it's critical that you self-assess throughout your semester to ensure you’re understanding the material and to adjust your approach as necessary. This, of course, will be most difficult in your first year and it will take some trial and error. But you’ll learn new techniques for self-assessment as time goes on. What’s most important for you to understand right now is that law school final exams and assignments are not things to be taken lightly. And crucially, you should begin anticipating and preparing for exams well before Finals.

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