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How to Prepare for Law School

You’ve figured out how to get into law school, and committed to a top law school — now how do you prepare for success in law school?

Hofstra Law Professor Miriam Albert, director of Hofstra Law’s Edge Ahead online summer pre-law program, discusses how you can get a head-start, and ace your first year of law school.  “Based on my 25 plus years in legal education, and my own law school, experience, here are some tips to ease your transition and increase your odds of success.”

What is law school like? 

Law school classes are different from the typical undergraduate classes. Many law school classes have upwards of 75 students which can be intimidating. Most law school professors will “cold call” students, meaning students must answer a question even if their hand wasn’t raised. This can be a daunting experience, and students must be prepared to answer.

Classwork and assignments are different too. “Law, for the most part, is taught by reading case law and statutes,” says Professor Albert. “That’s not something some students have experience with or even exposure to.”

How can you prepare for class?

Before class, students must unpack legal opinions into what’s known as “case briefs,” a specific organizational template to help extrapolate what a given judicial opinion concludes, and even more important, why the court ruled that way.

“As a 1L, I had no idea how to properly brief a case and in fact, my initial briefs were mostly me copying over the opinion! This was time consuming and not particularly helpful,” says Professor Albert. “In order to succeed, incoming law students must develop new study habits and learn how to organize and structure case briefs and notes.”

Law school may also require a different work ethic. Many incoming law students will need to adjust their study habits and worth ethic to be set up for success. Reading and briefing cases is very time consuming.  Professor Albert says, “You may not have any feedback on how you are doing in a class until the midterm, or in some classes, until the final. This can create real anxiety.”

How are law school exams different?

Law school exams are very different from undergraduate exams. “In undergrad, you are often asked to provide information in response to specific prompts,” says Professor Albert. “In law school, you still need to know all that information, but now there is a second critical step — you need to unpack the right rules and apply them to the fact pattern to support your conclusion. It’s a different world.”

What can you do during the summer to prepare for law school?

The best way to prepare is through practice. And that is how our Edge Ahead program is designed — so that you can practice briefing cases; taking organized and effective notes in class; crafting a comprehensive and useful course outline for the final exam; and even practicing taking law school assessments.

“Knowing that you have begun building the skills you need for success will help you take your place at the top of the class.”

“Our students will have multiple opportunities to speak in a law school class setting, realizing the dreaded ‘cold call’ is nothing more than an opportunity to show off your hard work,” says Professor Albert.

The program’s small classes will allow participants to get to know the professors, who will also offer valuable feedback on substantive assessments on exams in Torts and Contracts and a Legal Memorandum in our legal writing course — three important first-year courses.

“And finally, participating in a program like Edge Ahead will help you avoid ‘imposter syndrome.’ Everyone has moments of doubt about how they are doing; it’s the nature of a process where there is essentially no significant feedback until the final exam,” says Professor Albert. “Knowing that you have begun building the skills you need for success will help you take your place at the top of the class.”

Edge Ahead is open to anyone attending any law school in fall 2020.

Learn more about Hofstra Law’s Edge Ahead program.