Friday, December 7, 2018

My Advice: In Law School, Use The Processes That Work Best For You

The biggest law school myth is actually somewhat true. When starting the process of applying to law school, you start hearing about how you’re going to get buried in work. And about how the deluge just keeps going until the day you retire. That’s not totally a myth. The work is tough, and it can certainly get overwhelming.

But that truth goes hand-in-hand with another one: That law school is a different experience for each student. If you are applying to law schools now, you might be imagining, for instance, that you have to change who you are, and how you think, just in order to get by. But the truth is that a big part of the process of learning to be a good law student is finding your comfort zone – the place where you can adapt to the kind of work you have to do without feeling that you need to change the processes you already use.

For instance, I really took to heart all the advice I got from professors during orientation, about the Cornell method of note-taking, and how to create outlines for my courses, and all the essential elements of the case briefs I needed to write for every single case I read. I’m glad I listened carefully, because that advice helped set expectations of the kind of work I’d be doing, and made me understand the “standard” approach to law school.

But some of those processes felt awkward for me. I’m not good at taking notes by hand, for instance. And I can get bored if my note-taking process becomes too routinized. I realized I had to find the best note-taking style that worked best for me, and I had to write briefs that were useful later when I was studying, but that didn’t take me hours to put together. I made outlines that were color coded and full of emojis and written in my own goofy dialect.

This “comfort zone” approach centered on the realization that I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel – I could use the processes I’d honed in four years of undergrad and seven years of professional life to understand what I was learning. These were processes I felt comfortable with; processes that I knew worked for me.

My best advice, then, is to not get too caught up on the “myth” that law school necessarily molds your brain to one type of thinking. All kinds of people become lawyers – quiet people, assertive people, analytical people, creative people. The key is to figure out how to succeed by using the strengths you already have.

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