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5 Important Lessons to Learn in Law School

By Catherine Hodder, Esq. | Last updated on

This post was updated on January 11, 2023.

While most law students think law school prepares them for legal practice, that notion is far from the actual truth. Law schools teach law students how to think like a lawyer rather than how to practice law.

Fortunately, though, many of the legal life lessons that students learn during law school will actually help them when they pass the bar and start practicing in the real world.

Here are five of them.

Civil Justice Is All About Money

When push comes to shove, nearly every civil case, with the exception of some family matters, is about money — not “Justice" with a capital J. Even if a plaintiff who is hellbent on justice wins their case, all they're actually going to get is money. For many law students, it is mind-blowing to find out that damages, aka a financial injury, are an actual requirement of many causes of action.

Arguments Are Everywhere

Even if all the objective evidence appears to point in one direction, the other side will always have an argument. If you can't learn to see both sides of a legal problem, you will have a harder time foreseeing your adversaries' arguments and preparing your own counterarguments. That is why when you ask a seasoned attorney a direct question, they will preface their answer with "It depends."

Contract Breach Isn't Bad. It's Business.

This one is a shocker for most 1Ls in their contracts course, but it is very true. If a business stands to make more money (or lose less money) by breaching a contract, it likely will and probably should (but there are consequences). A client may take a course of action that exposes them to a lawsuit for more significant gains in the long term.

Decisions Take Time

Like receiving grades back after finals, getting orders back from the court can take time. Sometimes a lot of time. And while you're waiting for a decision, as you did with grades, life moves on.

As a student, you can sometimes take time off after finals, but you won't have that luxury when you are practicing. You will have to work on other cases or even that same case while waiting for big decisions to get handed down.

Self-Care Is Critical

Law school is challenging. However, when your clients' lives and money are on the line, lawyering is a much more stressful endeavor. Learning to manage stress and engage in positive self-care is critically important for law students who plan to work as lawyers.

The legal profession reports higher-than-average rates of depression and anxiety. Fortunately, state bar associations have lawyer assistance programs to provide lawyers, judges, and, yes, even law students with the help they need to deal with substance abuse or mental-health issues.

Your Law School Experience Sets You Up for Your Career

Overall, how you prepare and conduct yourself in law school will serve you in your career. Learn to keep yourself organized, prepared, and ready to take on challenges with a positive attitude. Adopt a healthy lifestyle and school/life balance to enforce good habits. Although law students are competitive, practicing cooperation and teamwork now will help in real-life problem-solving and negotiations with opposing counsel.

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