What I Wish I’d Known When Starting Law School

What I Wish I’d Known When Starting Law School

Today I’m going to be talking to you about
a couple of things that I wish I had known going into law school. I’m a 1L going into my winter quarter—we’re
on the quarter system here, but most law schools will be going into their winter semester. I wanted to make this video because I was
actually super apprehensive and anxious going into law school and, you know, throughout
the whole process because once you accept your law school and decide where you’re going,
that’s a moment of…you know, real triumph and excitement, and it feels like a huge decisive
step but then after that you have this sort of blank period of waiting. And for me personally, I felt like I should
spend all of that time prepping, or doing something to get ready, and I didn’t know
what that should be. If you are going to law school, you’re probably
a type A personality or sort of type A adjacent, and those of us who have those personalities,
we always like to go into a situation as prepared as possible. But with law school, it’s not always possible
to do that, and in fact it’s not super helpful to try and pre-learn the law. I mean, I remember the sensation of trying
to read this book on the history of the Constitution, which I had never studied before (in depth),
and thinking—oh my God, I have to get through this book, if I can’t get through this, how
will I get through law school?? And just really stressing myself out over
the summer before law school started, and…in the end none of that mattered at all and had
nothing to do with how well I did in school. I wanted to make this video now because a
lot of you probably are getting your acceptances and starting to make that decision. I know that sort of anxiety process is beginning
in some of you—it was for me. I also wanted to wait to make this video until
I got some of my fall quarter grades, to know…whether I would be, basically, qualified or not to
make this…and, turns out, I am. So! Here we go. First thing to note is that law school is
going to test you on two very separate skill sets. When you’re in the daily grind of classes,
it’s going to feel quite different from when you’re taking your exam, which for a lot of
schools is what determines your entire grade for the class. It’s not going to be like in undergrad where
you had you know, problem sets or shorter papers plus participation. For the most part, your beginning classes
are going to be determined by a single exam. For us at Stanford, we basically sat for 3-4
hours in a room all together and typed as much as we could, as quickly as we could,
and that 14-20 page essay that we generated was what we were graded on. All of that is very different from what you
need to do to prepare for class. It’s important to keep in mind, first of all,
that some people are going to seem really really brilliant in class because they talk
all the time. For one thing, the amount of speaking you
do in class, and your understanding of the material are not exactly always correlated…people
have different approaches to speaking out loud in class, and you shouldn’t feel pressured
to speak just for the sake of speaking. Secondly, being prepared for class means knowing
the minutiae of cases really well, and understanding the issues of each particular case, and while
you will be tested on issues in the final exam, it’s not always going to be the same
sort of stuff. So for example, in class if you get cold-called
(which is something where the professor just randomly calls your name and you have to answer
on the fly), the professor might ask you about the procedural history of a case—stages
of trial the case went through, like did it get appealed, where was it first heard, what
sort of court…all of that will feel extremely important in the moment of class, where you’re
speaking in front of your classmates, and the spotlight’s kind of on you…but for the
vast majority of cases that we studied, none of that procedural history really came up
on the final exam at all, because it’s not super relevant to the application of these
cases to the blackletter law itself. Blackletter law is basically the actual rule
that the case created. So that’s one thing to keep in mind. your class skills and your exam skills are
two separate things, so you do want to be very prepared for class, but keep in mind
that at the end of that road, you’re going to be asked to do something fairly different
which is analyze everything that you’ve learned in that class sort of, holistically. They use the metaphor of the forest and the
trees a lot, so for the exam you’re going to do a forest-type approach but when you’re
going from class to class day to day, it feels very much like you’re in the thick of the
forest (i.e. among the trees), and it’s easy to lose sight of the final goal, which is
to get an overall understanding of the material. Which brings me to my second point. In your orientation, you’ll most likely learn
the basics of briefing a case. The word ‘briefing’ is kind of…it was a
little bit confusing for me at first, because it means different things. Briefing a case in that situation is just
reading the case in your casebook and writing yourself a mini-outline of the important points
so that you can later talk about it in class or study, you know, make your outlines for
finals from it. You’ll also be writing briefs which are another
thing entirely, so don’t get those mixed up…We learned a sort of standard briefing structure
which is, first, facts (what are the facts of the case? what literally happened?), the
procedural posture which is what court did it start in…how did it end up in this court…issue
(the issue of law that the court’s opinion is trying to determine), the rule (pretty
straightforward: what rule is going to be passed down from this case), the holding (the
holding is basically another word for the outcome of the case, but holdings can be construed
broadly or narrowly, so a holding might be something like…in every case involving a
ship of this kind, x will happen or x will apply, that sort of thing), the reasoning
of the court in coming to that holding or conclusion, and then any dissents that might
be interesting or useful to understand the issue. Dissents will be most important in Supreme
Court cases. That’s the basic structure of briefing a case
for class. So again: facts, procedural posture, issue,
rule, holding, reasoning, and dissent. That’s how I basically structure them. Every case that I read, I try (I really try
but you know you can’t always, sometimes you run out of time) but I try to write out all
of those categories and then put, you know, little bullets under each one. Some people have different methods, and it’s
actually important to note that briefing the case for class that is just for you, so whatever
method helps you understand more fully what the case is about is the best method. So for some people, they switch the order
of the categories, so maybe the reasoning goes before the holding or the rule comes
after the holding. That doesn’t really matter as long as it makes
sense to you. You might also add different categories, so
some people like to split the reasoning into the plaintiff’s argument, defendant’s argument,
then the court’s approach to synthesizing those arguments or picking one side over the
other. Don’t get bogged down by the categories and
the need to produce a perfect product in your case brief. It’s really about making something that is
functional and that will help you approach your classes. The third point I would emphasize is staying
on top of your daily notes. Of course, going to class is very important
and taking good notes is very important because when you sit down at the end of the quarter
or semester to try and pull together your outline, your notes are going to be the foundation
of your review. Most of us going into law school were strong
students, and we feel that we know how to study, and that’s true, but for me, anyway,
law school involved a much greater amount of detail that I wasn’t particularly….super
interested in. For each case, there’s a lot of minutiae that
you need to keep track of, things that also feel counterintuitive because they have historical
roots in law…it’s not always clear exactly how we got to that point. It’s very important to keep track of all that
because if you fall behind, it’s very difficult to catch up. Making sure that you have a well-structured
note-taking system that makes sense to you, and that you keep on top of it every day,
every week, it feels very tedious and difficult but it’s going to pay off at the end when
you’re trying to make that outline. We have a database called SLATA and we use
those outlines. Former students of a class can upload their
outlines and you can use that as a guide for creating your own. I did that, but it’s not enough to just rely
on that because obviously course material changes from year to year so it’s very important
to have your own notes to rely on. It also feels weird to try and go off of someone
else’s notes because it’s like picking someone else’s brain. Things are organized differently, and things
are emphasized differently. Having your own notes is very important. The last thing I’ll mention is how important
it is to try and carve out time for yourself. I talked to current students here before coming
and they did tell me that fall semester was going to be extremely difficult and honestly,
going in I was like, “I was an English graduate student, I used to sit and read for like,
8 or 10 hours a day…how much harder could it really be?” It’s harder. Fall quarter we basically had 4 hours of class
a day, and literally almost the entire rest of the day I would spend reading for the next
day’s classes, and I would also spend all of the weekend reading, except for Friday
nights and maybe like, one morning or afternoon, like Saturday afternoon or Sunday afternoon
but most of the weekend was also spent reading and it was very, very difficult not to burn
out. Luckily, my boyfriend—now fiance!—-was
living with me and he really helped take care of me and made sure I wasn’t totally just
getting this tunnel vision, but beyond that, you really can’t rely too much on other people
to take care of you. You need to look out for yourself, and part
of that is making sure that you put your body and your health as a priority. Making time to work out, making sure you’re
eating, and trying to maybe cook for yourself also…those are all nice things that give
you a little bit of room to breathe. Otherwise it can get very overwhelming very
quickly. It’s difficult to find that balance, and it’s
something that you have to actively cultivate in yourself before you start school. So those are my very basic, very general tips,
things that I wish I had known going into fall quarter. If you guys have any questions, please feel
free to leave them in the comments below, if you haven’t subscribed yet, please subscribe,
and let me know what else you would like to know about the law school experience. I would love to talk to you guys about it! Thank you, see you next time 🙂

100 thoughts on “What I Wish I’d Known When Starting Law School

  1. Yay for this video! It’s very hard to find Asian youtubers who are in law school! As someone who is Asian, female, and also have no lawyers in the family, I would love to hear your tips on how to navigate law school as a minority. I’m going to law school and nervous about being stereotyped as “the quiet asian” who’s not fit to being a lawyer by my profs/peers. Any advice is appreciated <3

  2. I have much respect for Asian women. They are good in business, responsible & detailed. Asia women seem more dedicated & intelligent. I like to work with them and for them. I am a European descent over 60 man. I am considering studying Paralegal for personal reasons & career change. I found this video helpful.

  3. I'm pretty sure I'm a type B personality, what are some things I should consider before going to law school?

  4. I'm in middle school
    my aunt asked me what I wanna be
    and here I amd anyone else?

  5. No matter where you study laws, man you won't sleep hahaha her eyes tell us the long nights, a message from a laws student from Colombia

  6. I'm an English major, interesting to hear you spent 8-10 hours a day reading, that's probably why you got into law school 😛

  7. GOD! She is gorgeous. Im on my way to Law school. Thanks. If I meet you ANYWHERE, you will be my wife. No questions asked! lol.

  8. I am a senior, and I have no idea what I want to do with my life. Everyone around keeps pushing me to go into law but I am 1. scared 2. completely lost! I went to a law program for high schoolers at NYU and it didn't necessarily pique my interest. Any advice?

  9. This is great, thank u so much! Its be great to see what ur process is for organizing ur notes before during and after the fact!

  10. My daughter who also has a YouTube channel wants to become a lawyer, will definitely forward this video to her.

  11. I wish I'd known that law school doesn't teach you how to practice law, and therefore getting an internship and staying with it as long as possible is vitally important.

  12. This is really helpful.
    I wish I knew certain things like this before I got into law school.
    I'm here now and feel like I'm lagging behind and it's quite overwhelming. I'm having a hard time finding time to read everything. Any advice?

  13. I don’t even know why I’m watching this I have no interest in studying law but great video though‼️

  14. First semester: Note taking, highlighting, case briefing, looking up unknown terms in Black Letter Law.
    Second Semester: Quimbee and your friend’s summary right before class.

  15. I thought when did Jisoo started going to law school and have a youtube channel . but girl, you are so pretty and look alot like Jisoo from blackpink

  16. My mom is a lawyer but she hasn’t worked in awhile because she stayed home to raise my twin and me, plus, lots has changed since she went to law school. Thanks for the info

  17. Thanks so much. I’m going into exam session at my 1st year of Law school. Still trying to figure things out but I feel more confident and comfortable with things ☺️

  18. I don't really know how this video came up on my feed, but if your law school professor is one of the 99% who use a standard issue spotter exam, I would just focus on taking that exam. Get a few of their old practice exams and figure out how they like the exam to be organized and what issues tend to come up. Get a good outline and profit. There was really little need to get too in depth into the cases as most of them are just dicta and legal reasoning based on precedents you won't apply on the exam

  19. It's so interesting to see how it works in other countries…I'm in my final year of law school in South Africa…we don't get cold called because it discourages people from coming to class so we have the option to take our names off the list and it mostly works on a voluntary basis…our system of briefing is called FILAC which is quite similar to yours but the general format is geared towards answering exam questions and how judgements are usually set out, Facts (what happened), Issues (what the court was attempting to solve/answer), Law (what the judges decided, I guess what you call the Rules), Application (how does the law or the rules apply to the set of facts I've been given) and Conclusion (what you'd finally decide after taking everything into account)…we aren't allowed to type for our final exams and they don't last that long, finals are usually 3 hours maximum…I agree with your way of seeing the divide between class skills and exam skills because it is like the 'forrest from the trees'…in my university (University of Cape Town) and I think a few others in South Africa we have 'Magic Notes' which is a collection of previous years' students' summaries of cases, lectures, textbook chapters and articles and this has helped everyone deal with the volume of reading that is required for law, and you get access to them via your connections with other students even though law is so competitive. Lecturers do discourage us from using it as well because besides the work changing over the years, the volume of work is also supposed to grow your capacity to deal with the large amount of mental work you'd have to cope with in practice and taking shortcuts doesn't train you sufficiently I feel. Thanx for making this video ?

  20. It's a pretty nice video… for americans… And you're very attractive… I wish I was your friend…

  21. Here is what I wish I would have known…don't go. When you get out and get to big law you have no life and leaving at 9pm is an early day. Do something else. Drop out.

  22. Thank you so much! This was really insightful past the general statements saying; Yes Law school is difficult! Thank you!

  23. I thought I was smart until I got into law school. IM a 1L, and I can testify that getting ready for finals feels like you're the losing character in a Mortal Kombat fight.

  24. i'm starting law school this fall and i'm so glad i found this video! thank you for explaining everything in such a concise way!

  25. SO HAPPY I RAN INTO YOUR VIDEO!! Going to watch the rest of your lawyer videos, I’m debating into going for Healthcare Law despite financial issues but very scared and definitely want to take a 1 year break after undergrad school!!

  26. This sounds like a lot of procedural bullshit and not a lot of actually studying law. This confirmed what I thought law school was. Thanks.

  27. I’m reapply to law schools as I write this. I experienced server burn out and decided to take a year break for my health. I wish I would have watched this video b4 entering law school bc you hit the nail write on the head.

  28. Many thanks for your informative video! I currently study LSAT and read One L by Scott Turow to know about what being in the legal profession would be like. It has been very helpful.

  29. Hey I am a Taiwanese student studying international law. It’s awesome for me to listen to your videos to practice law-related English. Were you born in the US, and are you Chinese? Can you speak any of them?

  30. Great, now I'm freaking out even more. I went through 5 yrs of law school in Romania, and am preparing for another Master (in Law) after finishing a MBA in 2 yrs about a decade ago. Ever since I was in high school, I worked a full time job and was a full time student. Now I feel like I should take a part time job or have a sugar daddy LOL The problem is that I am a type A leader…You laid out everything very nicely, and I agree with you; retired attorneys advise me to team up with other people and exchange notes which is not my way to learn. So, I'll stay true to myself and just exchange ideas instead. Thanks, great video!

  31. I want to express my appreciation for your chutzpah and candor in acknowledging how the US Constitution and its history has no bearing whatsoever on success in American law school.

    Anyone who has been paying attention already knows this but thanks for putting it out there so clearly for those who haven't.

  32. i am honestly too stupid to ever do this. respect to those who are willing to try. then again i would never want to be a lawyer or anything else related to law

  33. I thank you for sharing your experiences. I have a question. Has this always been a life pursuit of yours? Or did the thought of attending law school happen later on in life?

  34. I agree it’s important to have your own notes but I’m always fascinated by others ways of taking notes as it inspires me and opens up my mind.

  35. That’s funny because I’m medical & I just wanted to see if law struggle too & by the looks of it- hell yeah?? I feeeeel yaaa medical school is no different ??

  36. When you say blank period of waiting how long is it between undergraduate graduation and starting law school?

  37. I want to pursue my law degree however i don't have the pre requisites. I'll have to do another first degree in order to matriculate into law school. I do have a paralegal diploma and I'm considering to do my first degree in paralegal studies. do you think there are other degrees that will be more useful for law school?

  38. I plan to do law after graduation and now I'm in dilemma of choosing which course to major tho i really wanna major in philosophy as i think it might help in law later, but like i said i have second thoughts and really am confuse which course would be beneficial for law.

  39. Thanks for this video! I was wondering if you recommend specific technology going into law school (ipad necessary??)

  40. Awesome video! And VERY good advice on briefing cases and preparing for class, and how it matters much much less than the final 🙂

  41. Im 53 seconds into the video and everything she said is what im going through right now!! Such a relief to know that it’s normal???

  42. I guess my college didn’t fail me when it came to this because my professor drilled this in our heads in my criminal and procedural law class. We alwayssss had to brief and had discussions.

  43. I finished high school this year and I was planning to go into medicine, but lately I've been interested in law. I am good with words and love intellectual challenges. I have no problem working many long hours to get what I want. Writing isn't my number one passion but I'm okay with it. And I'm interested in understanding the psychology behind people's actions and how to use it to my advantage. What can you tell me about law school and being a lawyer, specifically a criminal defense attorney?

  44. Thanks for this. Finishing up my undergrad in criminal justice and looking forward to law school next fall. Not applying to anything of the sort of calibre of Stanford as my options are limited here in Texas and using the G.I. Bill, but definitely excited and anxious at the same time.

  45. learn how to brief a case but after that rest

    then go all out during the first semester – it's the most important one

    when you interview for summer jobs, only your first semester grades will be available

  46. Thank you ?? so much for this video. I was so happy to hear you discuss about note taking. Students struggle with taking good notes ? my issue would be how much studying is too much? I did hear you say you balance out me time with your significant other. I’m currently single, and that’s my biggest complaint making time for relationships. You know being a pre law Student studying the LSAT I don’t have time now . It’s about 6 to 9 hours to focus in Lsat lessons. Any pointers on lsat test which is now digital .

  47. I cant stand people like this. You made this video to "help people out" but lookin at the comment sections you just scared those people away from even trying in the first place.

  48. Re talking in class vs. actually knowing the material, you left off the fact that most people have scripts and outlines of all the lectures, as handed from from past students. If people seem brilliant in class, I'd venture to guess that 70% just sound that way because they are reading from prior years' scripts (or maybe that was just me………)

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