Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Law School: Loved it or Hated It?

thumbs upSome lawyers say they loved law school, while others hated it – but few have neutral feelings about their experience.

That’s the result of this ABA Journal poll. The magazine asked readers to share their feelings about their years studying legal ethics, torts and the Rule Against Perpetuities.

The responses – a number of which came from graduates of North Carolina schools – generally fell into three categories. Here’s a sampling of each:

Loved It

  • As God as my witness, I truly loved law school. At this point in my life, all my memories from law school are good ones.
  • Took extra classes, was graduated early, became friends with professors, and overall have positive memories.
  • Yes I did. Both times. I went to UNC right out of engineering school at NCSU in 1973 but had to drop out for financial reasons after one year. I went back to the brand new law school at Elon when I was 57 and graduated at 60. The second time around was less stressful and more fun. The whole “scare ‘em to death” paradigm just doesn’t work on someone who is older than most of the professors.
  • I loved law school. Each case was a new story to understand. The professors were engaging in a supportive manner. My classmates were smart and challenging. Wake Forest was a great community and I am thankful for the opportunities going to law school, and going to law school there, have given me.
  • I truly enjoyed law school! I had the luxury, however, of attending full-time right after undergrad, before I had any other responsibilities. I probably would have felt differently if I had to juggle classes between working or taking care of a house or family.
  • I never viewed law school as a vocational course to teach me everything I needed to know to walk straight into practice. To me, the value of law school was, and still is, learning different ways to think about issues and problems. Law school taught me how to do mental gymnastics, which has been incredibly helpful in my career.
  • Law school was the first time I could use any word I wanted, or talk about any subject I wanted, and people understood what I was saying. I loved law school for the people.
  • Law school threw together people who came from different environments but who all shared intensity and curiosity and raw intelligence. I loved law school for the challenge, for the mental rushes, and for the people. The University of Dayton was small but mighty, and its alumni represent it well.
  • Law school was maybe the three greatest years of my life. It was also a brand new city and state for me (Lawrence, Kansas) which really opened my eyes in many positive ways. KU Law School rocks … go Jayhawks!
  • I loved law school – every minute of it. Even the classes I didn’t like or struggled with. I was a non-traditional student, had been a full-time mom for 20 years prior to law school, and getting back into an environment of learning was wonderful.
  • Enjoyed it for the friends that I met there, I also met my wife there. My former professors are great contacts for my firm. I didn’t enjoy 8:00 AM classes, but who does? The only people I know who say they hated law school are those who didn’t complete the degree or pass the bar.
  • I enjoyed law school. I noticed that the students that enjoyed law school the least were the ones who only took classes and did not participate in the larger school community. I worked on two law journals, did a year-long clinic representing tenants in landlord-tenant court, and worked part-time in the admissions office. Moreover, I occasionally walked to the U.S. Supreme Court, waited in line and got to watch the Supreme Court in action. I am happy to never have to take another final exam again, but I have no regrets about either going to law school or attending Georgetown.
  • When I began [evening school], I felt as if I had won the lottery. The evening division was full of remarkable people. The woman who sat to my left was a portrait painter. The guy who sat to my right drove a beer truck. The woman who sat behind the portrait painter was a chemical engineer. We had a professional lacrosse player, a biology professor, and half a dozen cops. It was the door to a whole new world for me, and I was glad to have it. Sixty six trials later, I would do it again.
  • Would I do it again? Absolutely. Without law school, I would not be practicing law. Meeting the challenges of my law school years made me stronger and gave me confidence

Hated It

  • If by “like” you mean loathing it as a complete waste of time learning esoteric bodies of law (or former law) that obviously would have negligible impact in the real world, then yes, I liked it. Most of these classes could have been reduced to a few outlines for swift review instead of forcing students to pay for tediously long classes.
  • After 30 years in the real legal field as a case handler and paralegal - and studying for the bar which I take in four days - I did not like law school. Law school should have taught in direct correlation to bar preparation and exam taking. Let electives expand on the law if that’s an area a person would like to pursue more. I made great friends (students, faculty and staff) and enjoyed my clinic work, but wished I was more prepared to study for and take the bar exam. Actually with a direct approach in law school, I would be reviewing, not studying, for the bar exam.
  • I was disappointed at the academic challenge and the body of useless law you learned. You took a class for a semester and then had a closed book exam to see if you passed the course, something I would consider malpractice.
  • I have practiced law since 1988 and can honestly say law school taught me almost nothing about how to practice law except for some civil procedure stuff from Duke Crowley, International Shoe, very sad. I hope it has gotten better but when mentoring young attorneys, obviously not.
  • I despised law school. Aside from a few classes (largely those taught by adjuncts who knew about the actual practice of law) every class was an exercise in philosophical hang gliding.
  • I hated every second of it, but I was working in a law firm throughout law school and I loved working in the law. Some say it has changed, but 30 plus years ago law school had little if any resemblance to the practice of law. To this day I discourage my children from ever attending law school unless they have masochistic tendencies.
  • I absolutely hated law school. I hated the egoism, the personality changes I saw in people the first year, and the general snobbishness that law school cultivated. Yes, it’s a professional school, but that doesn’t make its professors or students a more elevated type of being than others. In fact, I hated law school so much I quit.
  • I was married with an infant son, working full-time and commuting 105 miles each way to attend classes. I would not do it again.

Somewhere in Between

  • After 30 years, I still have mixed feelings about law school. For me, it was the necessary route to practicing law, which I had always wanted to do (and still enjoy). But I was self-supporting, working long hours in a demanding, non-legal job in addition to a full-time class load. As a result, I had no time for the other activities, like moot court, student organizations or a social life, that rounded out the experience for other students. On the upside, I had excellent, interesting professors who were generally committed to helping students learn.
  • I have mixed feelings. While I enjoyed reading and learning the law, one of the assistant deans did something mean and hateful to me. I carry the scar of the pain it caused me in my heart. Nevertheless, I am very grateful for my law school and I would do it over again. My [training] is a valuable tool because it teaches me to think critically, flexibly and analytically, and to apply complex reasoning to a set of facts.
  • After working as a paralegal for a year and a half, I decided I wanted the whole enchilada, why do a lawyer’s work without actually being a lawyer? So I went back, and I'm glad I did.
  • Contrary to my feelings about law school, I loved my bar review course. I learned more in those six weeks than I did in the entirety of law school.
  • Was it all roses and fun? Heck no. Is life all fun? Heck no.
  • Until 2008 I recommended law school to anyone who asked. Now I am more circumspect in my support, but I tell them I wouldn’t change a thing.
  • I attended law school at Vanderbilt from 1963-1966. It was the hardest three years of my life. We went to school six days a week. We stood up to recite. We had number grades and 85 was A. I wouldn’t take anything for my Vanderbilt degree, but it was not pleasant.
  • As a 20-something in a large metropolitan city (Chicago) with its vitality and nightlife, I barely recall law school.

Source: ABA Journal


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

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