Preparing for law school was something I never really gave careful thought of during undergrad, much less in my high school years. In fact, I was in a completely different sphere before I studied law.
You see, I’m a registered nurse practicing my profession in clinical and community settings. So, it is unsurprising for me to have dedicated almost 8 years of my post-undergrad life to the allied health field.
Meanwhile, I didn’t have the much needed preparation during my high school life either. Back then, I was torn between being a professional singer and lawyer. Sadly, the former dream prevailed and dictated my extracurricular activities during those days.So, imagine the culture shock I’ve had when I finally studied law in 2013.
10 Skills You Must Develop If You’re Preparing for Law School
I completely know how hard it is to be blindsided in law school. Like you, I’ve been in the exact same spot as you’re in now.
And honestly, I don’t want you to suffer the same fate as I had. So, I thought I’d round up some of the skills you’ll need to develop to become the best law student that you can possibly be in the near future.
If you prefer video discussions, you may watch here instead:
At any rate, here are the skills which I highly suggest you develop as you prepare for your law school journey:
Start preparing for law school by improving your reading comprehension
Contrary to popular belief, studying law is not solely about memorization. Actually, I must say, it is reading comprehension for the most part.
Comprehension takes place when one is able to grasp the meaning of the text or material he reads. Simply put, it involves understanding of anything you read.
Reading comprehension is important in law school because this skill allows you to extract the essence, application, and interpretation of the law and technical terms used in the legal parlance.
Without a good grasp of this skill, you’ll have a problem understanding — much less memorizing — basic legal provisions and principles, which serve as foundations for a more complex study and deep appreciation of the law.
Increase your reading speed.
At the outset, reading speed is not the sole determinant of one’s success in law school. However, if you’ll ask me, a mastery of this skill makes every law student ahead of his game.
Well, law students are expected to finish reading hundreds of pages of case texts, textbooks, codals, and modules everyday. While it’s nice to have great comprehension of these materials, you have to somehow do it faster than how you would leisurely read a novel. Consequently, the only way you can finish all your assigned readings is if you’re fast enough to read as many pages or texts in a lesser amount of time.
Enhance your listening skills.
Listening is one’s ability to decode a message. It is one of the skills that every law student should improve and master.
But before I tell you why, allow me to share this short true-to-life account I’ve had back when I was in my freshman year:
There was this time when I was on deck for recitation with 4 of my classmates. (This is a usual thing in law school. Believe it or don’t, your class would probably end up standing at the end of the period if no one gives the professor the correct answer!)
After I’d answered the question on the facts of a case we were discussing, my professor then asked another student on deck. It was a question related to what I recited.
Unfortunately, that student wasn’t listening attentively to what I said. So, she asked the professor, “Sir, can you repeat the…”
That night, we ended up standing for another couple of minutes because our professor was kind of pissed with the scenario.
Based on this anecdote, you’ll realize how important attentive listening is in law school. It will not only save your ass in a grueling recitation, but it will also allow you to fair good during lectures.
Finally, you’ll appreciate the importance of having good listening skills during your legal apprenticeship. Accordingly, good listening skills will enable you to make pertinent questions whenever you’re interviewing a client in your law firm or legal aid clinic.
Hone your analytical thinking skill.
Law school trains its students to become lawyers, who are experts in collecting and examining information from clients, problem-solving, and decision-making. Accordingly, these processes require in-depth analysis of the facts of a given scenario or case at hand. Therefore, it’s better to harness your analytical skills the earliest time possible.
There are various ways to improve your analytical skills while you are preparing for law school. Practicing your decision-making on the choices you make everyday is a good place to start.
Harness your communication skills (a “must” for preparing for law school).
I get a lot of worried questions like, “Do I really have to be a good English speaker / writer?”, “Do I need to be a good public speaker?”, “Should I be a gifted writer to ace my law school exams?”.
Well, at this juncture, I’d like to emphasize you don’t have to be “great” or “good” to start with. This is because we don’t begin highly skilled at something in the first place.
Everything – even the simplest task – requires practice for one to be good at it. So, don’t be too anxious about this.
Kinds of communication you need in law school
Before we proceed, take note that Philippine law schools use English as medium of instruction. The Philippine Supreme Court, collegiate courts (a.k.a. third level courts), and trial courts (second and first level courts) likewise use the same language in promulgating their decisions.
Okay, let’s continue.
There are two kinds of communication that you have to harness while you’re preparing for law school — written and oral communication. In law school, you have to be at least good in both.
Oral communication skills is essential when you recite in class or do practice court and complete your legal apprenticeship in the latter part of your studies. Trust me, you’ll do a lot of talking in law school.
On the other hand, written communication is needed during exams, your Legal Writing subject, and legal apprenticeship. In your Legal Writing class and legal apprenticeship, your professors will assign you pleadings and other paper works to draft.
Do not be overwhelmed; you can practice your communication skills now while preparing for law school
So, do you feel any pressure right now?
Again, there are ways to develop both your oral and written communication skills. You don’t have to be good at it right away. And the best part — you can practice NOW.
Accordingly, one way to practice your English speaking skills is by reciting a lot in your high school or college classes. It will not only make your class standing grade sky-rocket, it will also give you an avenue to practice on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, you may hone your English writing skills by keeping a journal or joining school writing clubs. It will also help if you’ll use grammar checking or proofreading softwares/apps such as Grammarly. This app really helped me a lot in making my law school essays and assignments seamless. Hence, I really suggest you give it a try here.
Develop advocacy skills.
Admittedly, there is nothing much to persuade the professors about in law school. This is because everything you recite or answer in your examinations should ALL be based on Philippine laws and jurisprudence (Supreme Court decisions). So, I noticed that “advocacy” is not much of a thing in Philippine law schools.
Nonetheless, I believe it’s still necessary to hone your advocacy skill because this is something that will help a future lawyer, like you, you in advancing your clients’ causes. Hence, I still included it in this article.
Advocacy consists in effectively conveying your message, negotiating, and asserting an interest, position, or initiative. It’s like making known to others your say about something or a situation. (For example, if you’re a animal welfare advocate like me, you’ll most probably be seen telling people about how deeply you care about animals and persuading them to do the same.)
Usually, one may start honing this skill during his stay in law school as it is at such time when he’ll be more exposed to argumentative statements and exercises. However, I believe the earlier you do this will yield you better results.
Personally, I find law students who have developed advocacy skills thrive in law school. The mastery of this skill enables them to make a strong position on any legal question while supporting it with adequate legal basis.
Have better time management skills.
Law school work load is toxic (I’m not even exaggerating here!). Imagine the hundreds of readings you have to complete in less than 24 hours! My family, friends, and fiance have always been bewildered of the fact that I can juggle these and having a full-time job.
Well, I’m not doing any sort of magic to make all these possible. All I’m doing is using my time wisely every single day. And that’s where time management comes in.
Time management is a person’s skill or ability to plan, organize, and accomplish things in a day through the productive use of his time or waking hours. This is a skill that will enable you to get things done within a certain period of time or even lesser.
Honestly, I suck in time management back in high school. I was a come-what-may girl back then. It was only during my years in nursing school when I got into managing my time wisely. Then, the only time I really got a hang of it was when law school happened.
You can do it too. The secret to this is practicing time management as early as now.
You may begin by eliminating all the activities that are not urgent or important, but are taking up much of your time. Cut down your social media use or Mobile Legends, perhaps?
Meanwhile, if you’ve already begun your law school journey, I personally recommend that you track your study time. This way, you’ll be able to know which subjects are taking up much of your time and those which require a few hours in a day. Consequently, this would help you manage your time and prioritize your waterloo subjects. I have a study tracker that can help you do this more easily.
Now, if you think you have to learn more how to manage your time wisely — in preparation for law school, you definitely should check out this ebook.
Acquire organization skills.
There’s more to organization skills other than putting things in their proper order and managing your time. Additionally, this skill involves the ability to use your resources and energy to achieve your goals and do your tasks in an efficient manner.
Consequently, this is a skill you combine with time management in order to achieve your desired outcomes. Therefore, it is not enough that you know how to use your time wisely.
Being an organized person means you know how to do things more efficiently while managing the time you have in your hands. Basically, it’s doing everything and with anything you have at hand to make things or situations work for you.
For example, an organized law student would not only make sure to finish all the assigned readings for his next class. He would also see to it that his books are properly bookmarked, his notes readable and readily accessible, and all his materials are in order for easy retrieval. This way, he can study more efficiently both for recitations and exams in the future.
Improve your interpersonal skills.
Your interpersonal skill consists in your ability to interact well with people. It is usually understood interchangeably with communication skills because it usually includes good grasp of the latter. But aside from this, interpersonal skills involve the ability to control or manage your emotions.
So, apart from being a good communicator, developing your interpersonal skills would entail you to develop the ability to adapt with all kinds of people in law school without having your emotions or biases get in the way.
Say for instance, a student, who is notoriously known as a snob in your law school, approaches you to ask the topics assigned for a specific day. You can’t just shun her solely on the fact that you’ve heard bad things about her. In this scenario, having good interpersonal skills will enable you to interact with her without letting hearsay get in the way.
Should I really develop interpersonal skills while preparing for law school?
Yes, my friend.
Interpersonal interaction is inevitable when you study law. No matter how smart or hardworking you are, there will be a lot of times that you’ll have to approach and work with your classmates. You’ll have to talk constantly with groupmates for a course project or coordinate with your class beadle (a.k.a. class secretary) for some class activities.
Indeed, “no man is an island”.
But, ultimately, harnessing your interpersonal skills will help you be a better lawyer in the future. A mastery of this skill will enable you to build meaningful connections with fellow lawyers, officers of the court, prospective clients, and other stakeholders.
So, if you haven’t begun improving on this skill, you may want to start now.
I’m an introvert… How should I hone this skill?
There’s no forcing you to become a social butterfly or life of the party anytime soon. Actually, you don’t have to be like these, or change your personality, just to develop your interpersonal skills and thrive in law school. You may take things slowly and interact with these people only when you’re comfortable doing it. What matters most is you try and keep trying.
To get you started, perhaps, you may want to start by connecting with people you haven’t interacted with yet. They could be schoolmates you always see but never really had the chance to talk with. Or maybe, neighbors you regularly smile at but haven’t got the chance to have chitchats with?
Stress management (preparing for law school is definitely not complete without this)
Stress management is the act of using various techniques, strategies, and doing activities that enable your body to adapt with stress (or stressors). So, anything that relieves stress can be used as part of your stress management.
Frankly, law school is, what I like calling, a “stress factory”. Readings, recitations, professors, school activities — each of them is a stressor in a unique way. And to top it all, you’ll have an encounter of all these stressors [almost] every single day. Hence, stress management should really be a “skill” that you have to master if you want to live a happy law school life.
Personally, I think there’s no exact formula for stress management. Neither can there be one-size-fits-all technique or strategy to do it. Actually, it all depends on your preference.
If you’ll ask me, my top stress reliever / stress mangement strategy of all time is getting LONG HOURS OF SLEEP. I don’t know but I just feel so revitalized after one. Meanwhile, some of my classmates would watch Korean drama series after a gruelling law school day, while others would party until the wee hours of night after our class.
Again, it’s all up to you. If it makes you happy and kisses your stress away, then, stick to it.
Preparing for law school is a good way to get ahead of your game
Borrowing some of Ms. Adelaide Namki Hong‘s words (one of SB19‘s trainers), adequate preparation will never betray you. There’s no better way to address what lies ahead in your future law school life than to prepare as much as you can in the present.
Of course, there will be bumps ahead which not even extraordinary diligence can prevent. However, with sufficient preparation, you’ll be able to take any blow with lesser damage and with more strength and determination. Just like an athlete who had undergone rigorous and consistent training, you pretty much know that you’ll stand a chance than those who slept on their laurels.
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May the odds be ever in your favor as you start your law school journey.