How to Prepare for Law School in College: 5 Tips to Ensure Success


How to Prepare for Law School in College: 5 Tips to Ensure Success

Very shortly into your first few weeks of law school, you’ll hear about a hundred times that the purpose of law school is first and foremost to train you how to “think like a lawyer.” But how can you get ready to think this way and perform well in your critical 1L year? Is there anything you can do in college in order to make sure you’re better suited for the law school environment? What’s the trick for how to prepare for law school?

Contrary to what most people outside of the law school bubble believe, you don’t really go to law school to “learn” the laws or even to prepare for the bar. There’s simply too much material to cover, much of which would be entirely irrelevant to your career. Instead, you’re going to be trained in analogical reasoning and logic — on how to deconstruct an argument into its constituent parts and chip away at it. You’ll focus on how to apply the law to novel circumstances and facts based on how it was applied in other similar cases and how to understand the policies underlying certain laws.

If you’re wondering how to prepare for law school, know that you’ll be learning and interacting in the classroom in a format very different from your college courses. Instead of taking copious notes on a series of lectures and instructional readings, you’ll be reading primary materials and discussing them in a Socratic-style each day. This style does not lend itself particularly well to “cramming,” which may have worked for you in college. You’ll need to be comfortable thinking on your feet and coming up with your own arguments, rather than reciting what you know to be the professor’s or author’s views.

So, how do you prepare for this style of study and learning if it’s so different from college? Here are five tips for how to prepare for law school in college:

1. Take courses that are reading and writing-intensive

In law school, you are going to have more reading than you’ll be able to do without driving yourself crazy. You need to be able to distill arguments and insights from complex volumes of information in a reasonably timely fashion. By taking courses in subjects like History, you should be able to at least partially replicate this experience.

For example, in History you have to identify bias, determine an author’s viewpoint or thesis about historical events, analyze trends and spot patterns, and compare similar historical situations to draw parallels. This is much of what you will do in law school. You will need to be able to construct and articulate your own nuanced and well-reasoned arguments based on the volumes of information you’re digesting in rapid fashion. While History is certainly not the only subject for which this argument holds, you get the idea.

Step one for how to prepare for law school: read and write. A lot.

2. Write a thesis

Not only do law school admissions officers love to see that you’ve produced substantial work based on your own research, but the experience of doing so will also make you much better suited for the work that lies ahead in law school. Your exams will often be three to eight hour timed affairs where you’ll have full access to your notes and other course materials and need to construct arguments like you would have done in writing a senior thesis.

So, step two for how to prepare for law school: practice formulating your own arguments through a substantial research project.

3. Do debate

In law school, you are going to be put on the spot in every single course to articulate a position or challenge that of one of your classmates. You need to be comfortable arguing and developing a position that evolves as you consider all angles. This discussion process is a key part of a law school education, even for someone who has no intention of being a litigator or taking on any kind of career that involves public speaking. If you want to know how to prepare for law school, get ready to think on your feet.

4. Talk to law school graduates

Interview or informally speak to law graduates in at least a dozen roles – don’t just speak to prosecutors, public defenders, and corporate lawyers. Talk to in-house counsel, talk to JDs who work in investment banks, consulting companies, and startups. Talk to JDs who are now teachers, researchers at think tanks, or journalists. Cast your net wide and understand not only what these people do generally, but also what their day-to-day looks like and what their career trajectory has been or will be.

Having this understanding can help you focus on what matters to you in law school when you have to choose electives and pursue internships that may ultimately turn in to full-time offers of employment. To prepare for the road to law school, take the time to explore.

5. Don’t reinvent the wheel

For all the talk of how different law school is from college, you don’t need to drastically reinvent yourself. It is a professional school, so you need to approach your studies more like a job than you did in college. However, if you have particular study methods or habits that worked extremely well for you in college (other than cramming), don’t let people convince you that they won’t work for you in law school. Don’t overthink how to prepare for law school.


Law school gets a bad rap for being difficult and hard-edged. While this remains the case in some places, it’s largely false. Law school is not so dissimilar from other graduate schools, with the exception of a very front-loaded burden in your first year. As law schools continue to adapt to the changing nature of the job market and the evolution of the legal profession, they will continue to grow in diversity as their graduates pursue new, non-traditional experiences beyond the standard corporate firm path.

David Mainiero

David Mainiero, Co-Founder and Director of Operations of InGenius Prep, is an experienced educator and academic and admissions counselor with over almost a decade of experience helping students unlock their potential and achieve their dreams. Having founded and run multiple and small businesses, David has a strong entrepreneurial track record.

He graduated from Dartmouth College Summa Cum Laude with Highest Honors in History with a focus on Nationalism in the Near East and was inducted as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Several years later, he earned a JD from Harvard Law School. To this day, he believes that the most important moments in his own education were learning with his peers during his time as a Policy Debater in high school and college.

David knows firsthand what success looks like and how to achieve it; his passion to help students discover their own passions and realize their fullest potential motivates him to travel all around the world to share his visions for educational access.

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