ihp12 wrote:What's the competition like at WUSTL?
And I'm not asking if people are friendly or if there are pages torn out of books. I mean does everyone study 12 hours a day outside of class, or is it half slackers - 1/4 somewhat hard workers - 1/4 gunners, or some other combo?
How hard do people work relative to their undergrad experience?
I did more work just in the last semester than I probably did in all of undergrad combined. Although that's not saying much.
Most people put enough work to do well on the exams. There's definitely people who are more motivated than others, but I'd say close to 80% of the people that go here are working hard enough to know what they're talking about on exams. In general, you're not going to outdo other people by studying more than them (except for maybe the bottom 20% of the class or so). If you use your categories, I'd say maybe 15% slackers, 15% somewhat hard workers, and 70% people who are studying around 4+ hours a day outside of class (I think 4-5 hours a day is probably about the threshold of what you have to do to keep up, if you include Friday, Saturday and Sunday). Maybe only 3 hours a day the first month, but 6 hours a day the month before exams. If you study much more than that, it's going to give you greatly diminished returns...in that you should be finding more efficient ways to study).
The rest is pretty much how natural law school exam taking comes to you. Law school grades are far less about how well you know and understand the law than you could ever imagine. This is because of the curve: everyone you go to school with is smart, and most of the people will be working hard. Hard work and intelligence alone are enough to probably get you only median grades (and that's being generous). The rest is about figuring out how to rack up points...and no, you don't do that from having a deeper understanding of the course material than your classmates.
My previous career was developing talent assessment tests for hiring purposes at Fortune 100 companies...and I can tell you point blank that law school exams are a pretty poor way of assessing talent. I was kind of stunned when I found out how some of my exams were graded. They measure how good you are at taking law school exams. Also, nobody really tells you how to succeed. You can read Getting to Maybe and do LEEWS, but those only tell you the basics. Even the TLS threads about how to do well don't really tell you a lot, at least the way the professors here grade. You can take practice exams and look at model answers, but model answers don't tell you where the points are coming from. And even most model answers get things wrong or miss things, so that's not a great way of learning, either.
I have an LSAT at the school's 75th percentile, and I had my outlines done before almost anyone I knew. I didn't do poorly this fall, but I'm also not on easy street...I definitely have to improve this semester if I want to have a fruitful OCI. However, I got a ton of good feedback because I had conferences with ALL of my professors about my exams, and I know exactly why I missed the points I did. It's both maddening and a relief to know there were tons of points out there that I could have easily gotten had I known how they wanted me to respond. Very few were because I didn't understand something, or because I didn't study enough.
I'm not just saying this because I didn't do as well as I'd hoped. I'm just warning you not to bank on hard work, intelligence, and feeling like you get it to get good grades. Really hone in on your exam taking skills (and not just in the last two weeks of the semester).
I'm sure that's answering more than what you asked, but it's really the only way I could be truthful about the law school experience. The amount of hours people work is mostly irrelevant. If you know someone who guns 8 hours a day, you should be more worried about their mental health than competing with them for grades. There's relatively few people that spend less time working than they need to...and these people are maybe the bottom 10-15% of the class at a school of this caliber. And of the people that do put in the time, almost all of them at a school like this will be smart enough to understand the course material. The rest of the people that put in the work are either effective with their time, or they aren't, and their style of writing about legal issues is the type that racks up points on a law exam or it isn't. That's basically all that separates the top 10% from the top 60%.