Is Law School Hard Or Just Seems So? Honestly Explained.

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Why Is Law School Hard?

Generally, law school is more difficult than most undergraduate college programs. How hard is law school vs. college comparison is generally straightforward, with law school beating college in difficulty in most categories. 

So, is law school hard? It is not that simple. For example, undergraduate engineering or science programs may be either comparable or more difficult than law school programs. It also depends on several factors.

I will not sugar-coat it – undoubtedly, law school is hard.

Program difficulty. As said above – an engineering degree is more likely to be more difficult to obtain and a law school program may be easier. But law school is hard because it requires more intense reading and writing and thinking than an undergraduate program. Therefore, how hard is law school – depends on which program we compare it to. 

School rank – in the undergraduate world, the higher the school rank the more difficult it is generally to study there due to higher requirements. It may be the opposite in the law school world. 

I found it slightly easier to get better grades in higher-ranked law school – Rutgers School of Law – to which I transferred from lower-ranked school – Southern Illinois University School of Law. Even lower-ranked law school is hard.

Individual abilities. How hard is law school – answer also depends on individual aptitude and abilities. When I went to law school, there were a few students who had an exceptional memory and ability to read very fast and write well – natural ability. 

Those students undergrad or law school were pretty comparable and they did not sweat in either. Law school is hard for those who do not work on themselves and easy for those who do. 

A student classmate was an ex-medical doctor, and he said law school is hard ad that it was more difficult for him to be in law school thanks to confusing reading and unclear approach to solving problems. 

He said medical subjects were very intense but more straightforward than law subjects taught in law school because they involved specific solutions. Therefore, the answer to question how hard is law school depends also on previous education  as well as life and work experience. 


Is law school really that much more difficult than undergrad?

How much is law school harder than undergrad?

How hard is law school compare to undegrad: It is true, law school is harder than undergrad in several different ways.




Is law school reading hard? Gosh, when it comes to reading – definitely law school is hard. An incredibly high volume of reading required in law school and it was probably designed on purpose to weed out weak links.


Way higher volume than in most undergraduate programs, except, maybe, for philosophy and English and literature studies. If anything, law students learn how to read, comprehend and understand volumes and volumes of complex legal material.


Some professors told me that it is hardly possible to read everything assigned in law school. Law school is hard also because of the complexity and vagueness of law topics. 


Also, I found that some reading assigned was almost useless on exams. Therefore, law students will have to make judgment calls as to what to read and what to skip and will have to use law school study aids – the best friends for any law students.


They will have to summarize plenty of cases – legal opinions written by courts. But, there are study aids they can buy which already summarized many of those cases for them. Some people say one cannot skip reading in law school – I will tell you again that it is not possible to read everything. Most of my classmates would read study aids instead of textbooks at least sometimes. 


Writing and Law School Grading System


How hard is law school depends on grading system – on difficulty obtaining good grades. A major difference between undergrad and law school is the grading system. Is law school grading system hard? Hell, yeah! Law school is hard to grade students. Law students are graded on a strict curve in their first year, also called 1L year.


Is law school hard when it comes to grade consequences? Unlike in undergraduate where overall GPA matters, in law school each grade may matter when you get hired at a good law firm after graduation. Also, because of the curve law work fiercely for each grade. 


It is like if someone wants to get an “A,” they would have to be in the top 5% of their class, not less. Then, many students who were formerly “A” students in undergrad, suddenly become “B” or “C” students in law school. All because their classmates are even better and smarter.


That is a major blow to egos and some dropout after they receive results of their first semester finals. Law school grades are hard to get. Law school is hard on personal ego and self-confidence. My advice is to learn not to give  damn about things.


Professors usually do not tell you this, which is not fair in my opinion, but law school grades depend mostly on one final written exam. And that exam will be brutal, especially the first time. 


Undergraduate programs have quizzes, papers and other methods to test students several times in the course of the semester to give a student an idea where he or she stands. 


Law school is hard because does not have that at all. There will be no quizzes or real testing of students’ knowledge during the semester. 

Therefore, law students have no possibility to assess their level of knowledge and have no idea how they do in class until they receive results of their final exams. By then, it is too late. Therefore, everyone studies like crazy. 

So, law school exams are the hardest part of law school

How hard is law school? I would say that the core answer to this question lies in difficulty of law school exams. Law school is hard because law school exams are unlike anything students encountered in an undergraduate. I recommend to start practicing writing law school exams in the first month or regret later. 


On exams, law students face weird legal essay questions that may have layers and layers of answers with applicable legal concepts and theories. The more of the students properly mention and properly apply, the more likely they will score more points, getting a better grade. 


Writing must be very clear so that the professor will be able to spot exact theories, exact concepts, exact case titles, and why and how they apply. 


Professors will not judge own theories or philosophical thinking, but only what students had to learn in a semester. No esoterical staff – straight to the point, black letter law in outline form – this is how most recommend writing law school exams. 


Is law school hard – you can see that it is. The undergrad is different. What students’ study and do in class over a semester is pretty much what they will encounter on exams. Same material, the same set of skills, answering the same question or doing calculations.


 Therefore, undergrad students usually come to finals pretty much prepared to excel on the final exam. Even in my MBA classes finals pretty much met most of my expectations and were predictable. The school would bend over to ensure exams correspond with what we studied and did in the course. 


It was different in law school


The law school is hard also because law school exams comes from the fact that over the semester law students only do a lot of reading and more reading of esoterically convoluted principles underlying legal theories – “why”. 


But, on final exams, they have to display a completely different set of skills. That includes the ability to type fast, recall and apply by listing exact and numerous specific legal concepts pertaining to a specific hypothetical scenario written by a professor – “what” and “why” and “how.” 


Is law school hard, or what? Am I making you reconsider your decision to go to law school? Well, I’d rather scare you now so that you are prepared. 


Frankly, not much during the semester will prepare law students for the particular task of writing law school final exam except for their self-studies. 


Many law students have unpleasant surprises because they come to finals with a completely different set of skills – comprehensive reading and esoteric legal philosophy, versus the necessity to write out the practical answer in an outline form very fast. 


Law school is hard because there is no right or wrong answer on an exam – as long as one argues both sides and spills out as many truly applicable concepts as possible. I never through that would actually be so difficult.


If in undergrad professors test students on knowledge of concepts, in law school it is all about figuring out their application, combination, and priority. 

Although reciting a bunch of legal theories one thinks are applicable gets law student basis points, it is also a short and brief discussion of how they are applicable that boosts the grade. 


That’s why answer to question of how hard is law school compare to undergrad depends on how difficult were your undergraduate exams. Is law school hard – in most cases, law school exams are more difficult that anything you encountered in undergrad college. 


Memory and ability to process information


Law school is hard because it is all about reading and processing large volumes of information. If you can read and absorb materials fast, have a good memory and can type exams fast and well – you will be fine. 


It is impossible to memorize all the material for exams. Therefore, on exams, you will be allowed to use outlines prepared by you. And in semester study aids are your best friends and a lifeline.


Essentially, the law school boils down to understanding and memorizing concepts. Because it is impossible to read and memorize all the rules. But good memory helps.


Important note: final grade in law school does not account for class participation and is based only on a single final exam at the end of the semester. Curve means there are only a few As in each class in the semester. 


That means, that most students will NOT get an A or A-, no matter how hard they try, because there are even smarter people in law school. 


Or, those who can type 3 times faster than the rest, or have the natural ability to memorize 100 pages per day without a sweat. This creates serious competition for grades among students. 


Another note: overall class discussion in law school is designed to help you start understanding legal concepts but bears not much relationship to black letter law knowledge required on the final exam and bar exam. 


Reading, preparing outlines and using study aids is the best way to prepare for finals. Law school is about self-study – much more than undergrad. 


Law schools will continue to do it this way because the supply of law school applicants is steady. The glorification of being a lawyer in society does its dirty trick. 


Lack of real work preparation.


Unlike some undergrads like accounting or engineering, law school does not teach students specific skills to practice law – like, at all. You will never draft a contract or even answer a complaint in law school. Law students learn only legal theory and general concepts.


Hardly any social life in law school


The major difference between law school and undergrad is that, unlike in undergrad, there will be no life outside law school – too much studying, especially in the first 1L year. 


On the other hand, some of the friends made in law school will become friends for life. We, as law students, did have a solid social life. But we realized that it is hard for outsiders to understand what we were going through, so we hang out mostly with other law students. 


Still, we had our share of fun, partying, traveling, but mostly on a reasonable level without anything crazy. In law school majority of people are pretty focused and serious about their careers, so we did not have nut heads getting us in trouble like it often happens in undergrad. 


Studying was a top priority for everyone. On the other hand, many law students are not easily approachable, so you will need to find your little tribe to stick with. 


There is hardly any time for anything else besides law school in the first year as 1L. 1Ls live and breathe law school studies or they can fail. Second and third years is when law students start having a life outside of law school. 


Law school is hard because it is boring 


Contrary to popular opinion, the law is incredibly boring. It is technical, dull, uninteresting, leaving almost no room for creativity. Exception upon exception upon exception. In my opinion – the Great Bullshit.


Invented by people over the last several thousands of years. The only true good thing is that the law puts value on human life. Unless defendant has exceptional lawyer – then law often falls through. 


The second-year will be very boring. Unlike in undergraduate college, not a single professor will try to make the class more entertaining or interesting. In the third law, students cannot wait until they finish law school. Undergraduate classes allow for much more creativity and fun in class. 


Is law school that hard?
How exactly hard is law school?

At the same time, law school is not that hard, for those law students who approach it right. There is a widespread misconception about how hard is law school. But when answering the questions about is law school hard or not many sources often do not go into some important little details that make law school hard. 


First of all, the hardest time is the first year of law school – 1L year. That is when the law school is really hard. That is when a law student sets his or her law school GPA for the most part. I mean, it is possible to increase grades in the second or third year, but even among employers the first year often carries greater weight than the rest of law school. 


In the first year, there is practically no time for anything else besides studying. Law students spend all their free time studying and socializing with each other, often discussing law school events or subjects. It is almost impossible to work, but I did work in the first year. Probably, my GPA suffered a little bit, but I had no other choice. I do not recommend it – the first year is critically important and is already very stressful. 


There is NO possibility of cramming in the last few weeks before the exam like an undergraduate. Is law school hard – that also depends on tons and tons of reading of difficult legal material. That experience is new for most students who never encountered law texts before. It is highly recommended that law students start preparing for law school exams pretty much from day one of the law schools. Otherwise, unlike in undergrad, it is hardly impossible to catch up. 


We breathed law school, and almost slept in it. Once I was kicked out from the parking lot by university cops closer to final exams because I decided to sleep in my car so that in the early morning I would go straight into the library. Law studies fully absorbed our time. 


The second year is easier. Classes do not have the brutal curve of the 1L, and now people focus more on actual material rather than just trying all methods to increase grades. We already knew how to take law school exams and generally, the atmosphere was more relaxed than in the first year. Some people still tried to catch up and improve their GPA injured in 1L. Some succeeded.


Some took electives, which I think are kind of useless unless they cover topics related to the bar exam. Do not get me wrong, people still studied hard, but…not as hard. Now everyone was smart and we studied smart, used study aids where we could to save time and energy. 


Other people began looking for work or internships. Some, including me, began working at the law office for low crappy wages, but with real-life legal work experience. Some did a legal clinic or a law journal. 


In the third year everyone was more anxious about job prospects than about law school studies, except for people who were at the top of the class – those focused both on grades and job prospects. I got a few tops in the class grades in my class in the third year because subjects became very practical. 


Frankly, the third year was a drag. I think the third year of law school is unnecessary and does not add value. Rather, it is a good opportunity for law schools to charge students more tuition.


In the third year, most of the law students focus on trying to find part-time work, internship, courting future employment prospects. That takes most of the energy, time and worries for most law students. Most of us were already tired and bored with law school and could not wait until this was over while worrying about the bar and future employment. 


The good news is that unless you can get in top 20%-10%, your grades do not matter much for your career, and your job is essentially not to be kicked out of law school for completely failing on exams. Just make sure you pass the bar exam after graduation. 


Law school vs undergrad – the final verdict

Now you know answer to question “is law school hard?” Overall, if someone tells you that law school is like college, it is not correct. Law school is more like college on steroids, antidepressants and lots of coffee or tea. 


Law school is more demanding and more stressful than an undergraduate. But it is a professional post-graduate program and that is how it should be. Law school is hard.


But, I would say, that law school is not just more difficult than undergraduate college but rather more intense than many undergraduate programs and involves somewhat more difficult and complex concepts. 


Well, I am foreign-born and English is not my native language. While the law school was superbly language intensive experience, I found that a certain structured approach to learning material does not depend on the language skills, but rather on the ability to analyze material and figure out how to apply it. 


Law school has a more professional environment and that’s a plus. Although, we had idiots here and there. I suspect that someone thought I also was an idiot, so I kind of did not give a f**k and focused on doing what I needed to do. 


Also, law school is probably less difficult than such undergraduate majors as programming, engineering, science, applied economics – anything involving higher math for that matter, and possibly philosophy.


So, the law school is not that hard, it is just often quite demanding and quite different from most other programs, and that is what makes law school more difficult than undergraduate college.


I wish it would cost less and there would be better prospects for graduates. Because I have met many smart and hardworking people among law students. There are always bad apples, but lazy people rarely survive law school and usually drop out. 


By the way, people drop out for many other legitimate reasons too. I am not judging them – some are now better off than those who stayed in school. 


And do not forget student debt. Law school student debt often at least comparable and even higher than student debt incurred in the undergraduate program.


The key is that going to law school must be for only one reason – if you want to practice law after graduation. Any other reason is worthless. If that is what you want – you can handle the law school.

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