How Law School Changes You (From A Lawyer)

  • Time to read: 5 min.

Law school changes you in ways you can’t even imagine.

While each student will experience this differently, from what I know of law school (and practicing lawyers), there’s a few changes we all seem to have in common.

How Law School Changes You (EXPLAINED)

You Learn To Listen To What People Say

You may not realize this, but most people just don’t pay attention to what people are saying around them.

They listen and pick up only the details that are necessary, and filter out the rest.

Maybe it’s because of distractions or multi-tasking, or maybe the brain just doesn’t need all that information.

As a law student, you are forced to pay close attention to every bit of what people say.

The difference of one word could mean a better or worse grade, a successful or failed oral performance in front of classmates and professors, or even a high paying job.

As a lawyer, choosing the wrong word in a brief or at argument can mean a won or lost case.

Lawyers and judges–we get this, we understand, and we expect it.

But for laypersons outside of law school, your newfound listening skills become a source of annoyance.

You will now focus on what people say, very specifically.

And when people forget what they said, or fail to choose their words carefully, it is annoying to have someone remind them of what they said, very specifically.

People are used to filtering out most conversations, and having the same done in turn to them.

As a result, your friends and family will say that you’ve become “nitpicky” or obsessed with details because you are constantly reminding them, “no, you said __________ last week when we spoke about meeting to go running.”

People say that they wish people listened to them.

But they don’t really want you to.

They want you to nod and affirm what they’ve said, without necessarily focusing on it all that much.

You Argue With People More

In law school, you are forced to stand up and advocate for yourself or your case.

You have no choice.

You sit in the class with your colleagues and wait for the teacher to call on whatever sitting duck is up for the day.

You spend your free time with classmates “arguing” about this or that.

To us legal professionals, an “argument” is more of a discussion.

We freely disagree, then change sides and try to argue the other side.

While it can be stressful, the exercise is not intended to be harmful or hurtful.

But outside of the legal world, laypersons are not used to “arguing.”

No longer will you sit by and accept the statements people make at face value.

And when you hear something that isn’t logical or right, you’ll say something about it.

When you respond to someone’s statement or position with a flat “I disagree, I think _________,” they may feel like you are not supportive, that you don’t listen, or that you want to fight them.

I kid you not.

You become “argumentative.”

It is fun for the law student when you start seeing all the holes in the statements people say, and it becomes easy to point them out.

But it is not comfortable or enjoyable for your friends or family to be at the other end of that particular firearm 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

As a soon-to-be lawyer, your new argument superpower becomes part of you, and it is not easy to realize when you are using it, or to turn it off in social settings.

Not surprisingly, many law students end romantic relationships or even friendships in their first year of law school because of the changes in the way they interact socially.

You Assert Yourself More

Law school tends to force you to grow your confidence.

It is either become more confident, or perish.

You have to learn to assert yourself in class, in argument, for the benefit of your clients.

Otherwise you cannot succeed.

For people who are already confident, this can make them appear arrogant.

For a person lacking in confidence, it can help them bloom into the adult they were meant to be.

Friends and family might notice that you start to take the reins in social situations, by asking the waiter to stop to get others drinks or being the first one to agree to bring a dish to Thanksgiving.

You might feel more comfortable approaching someone you find attractive.

Or you might annoy your loved ones by constantly telling them how things are or how they should be (like a lecture).

You Think Differently

People talk about this a lot, but law school does teach you to think differently.

Regardless of what you studied before you enter law school, your legal education really forces you to think in a logical and linear manner.

Your thinking becomes more disciplined.

You easily see pros and cons, cause and effect.

Problem solving evolves into a strength.

You’ll find yourself listening to people talk and think that doesn’t make sense.

Then, you won’t be able to stop yourself from telling then why their argument/statement doesn’t make sense.

Even if it is about something as simple as how long the bread will last in the refrigerator.

Other Ways People Change In Law School

Other changes I noticed in law school include:

  • Wearing Glasses/Eyesight Changes
  • Major Weight Gains/Losses
  • Higher Stress Levels
  • Overall Competitiveness/Comparing Self To Other People
  • Loss of Interest in Outside Friends/Family/Activities/Hobbies
  • Increased Consumption of Alcohol (sometimes excessively)
  • Depression

Succeed In Law School

The best way to overcome the inevitable changes law school will cause is to prepare yourself and your family.

Give them a sign or a flag to wave when you get too deep into your “law stuff” so they can let you know that it is time to give them a break, because you won’t even know you are doing it.

Talk a lot about the changes everyone is seeing, and try not to let hurt feelings get in the way of the honest assessment of how things are going.

Wrap Up

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