No matter your level of academic success before, in high school, college, or even other forms of graduate school, law school is different. It requires an increased level of study, a differing approach beyond what many undergraduate and even graduate areas of focus demand of a student. Many hours in law school are spent in class, but time outside of class is just as, if not more, important.
It is important, also, to learn to think differently to succeed in law school. Succeeding in law school comes down to thinking like a lawyer. Here are four tips for thinking like a lawyer which can help when approaching the new type of study required in the law school environment.
Be Willing to be Ambiguous
The law is full of ambiguity; it is often inherently fuzzy in order to remain flexible, and interpretations to laws vary wildly. Judges and lawyers attempt to interpret laws that are clear, but there is an exception to every rule, leaving latitude for just results in cases where the supposedly clear statement of the law would be unjust.
What this means is that there is rarely a black or white answer. Unlike in math, where the addition of two numbers results in a third number that is the definitive answer, the right answer in the law is often couched in terms of probability. Accepting this is key to thinking like a lawyer and having success in law school.
See Positions from All Sides
Lawyers cannot let emotions or prior prejudices get in the way of interpreting the law. Law professors often prey upon prior prejudices to make a point with students and get them to apply the law neutrally based on legal rights and not on personal feelings.
Argue Both Sides of a Case
Even if you are given a particular point of view to attack or defend, it is important to study how both sides would attack or defend to present their own point of view. Only by understanding both sides of a case can a particular attack or defense be properly made. Defense attorneys must understand how prosecutors will present the case against their clients, and vice versa. In law school, you will often be forced to take on these roles, in classes and on exams. By thoroughly exploring both sides, you can demonstrate your understanding of the law and the ambiguities it provides.
Take Nothing for Granted
Law students should be willing to question anything. Every law, and every interpretation of the law, has a reason behind it. Understanding those reasons is key, and therefore law students should always be willing to ask “Why?”