Law Students Working Harder Than They Thought Possible

Faculty hold law students to high standards. In 2022, 60% of law students frequently worked harder than they thought possible to meet faculty members’ standards or expectations. This number has generally trended upward over the last twenty years, although the lowest recorded percentage of students frequently working harder than they thought possible was still a respectable slight majority (51%) in 2006. In 2022, only 8% of students never worked harder than they thought possible.



Somewhat unsurprisingly, students who are new to law school are more likely to push themselves to their limits than students who are accustomed to law school life. Two-thirds (66%) of 1L students frequently work harder than they thought possible compared to 54% of 3Ls and 49% of 4Ls. Perhaps new law students are particularly eager to prove themselves to their professors and peers or perhaps more senior students are accustomed to the way that the law school curriculum draws out their best performance and thus already know exactly how hard they can work.


Interestingly, students who generally achieve C grades in law school are more likely to frequently work harder than they thought possible compared to students who achieve mostly A’s and B’s. This may indicate that degree of effort is not always accurately reflected by scores on papers and exams for some students.


Finally, there are gender differences in the percentage of students who surprise themselves with the intensity of their efforts. Sixty-three percent of women frequently work harder than they thought possible to meet faculty standards or expectations compared to 56% of men. People with another gender identity fall in between at 60%. Ten percent of men and people with another gender identity never work harder than they thought possible compared to only 7% of women.

The data are clear that attending law school is a challenging and demanding endeavor. Most students rise to the occasion by pushing themselves to do their best work in order to meet faculty members’ standards or expectations. Hopefully these efforts are counterbalanced by supportive law schools who also foster good self-care and community care practices for budding legal professionals.

Providing the support law students need to succeed academically

A strong academic program is the foundation of any law school. Equally important is that law schools provide the support services students need to meet the rigors of the curriculum. About two-thirds of law students feel that their law school places “quite a bit” or “very much” emphasis on providing the support they need to succeed academically.

1L students are more likely to feel supported than their more advanced colleagues. Although the general optimism and positivity that 1L students feel toward their experience tends to steadily decline with advancing years for any measure of engagement, for the perception of academic support, satisfaction drops markedly among 2L students and then remains at that level during 3L and 4L years. This suggests that there is an initial sense of being supported that fades fairly quickly after students adjust to their new environment.


Two-thirds of men feel that their law schools places a strong emphasis on supporting academic success, which is slightly higher than the proportion of women who feel similarly (60%), but fewer than half of the people who have another gender identity feel that level of academic support.

Importantly, the degree to which students feel academically supported is very strongly correlated with whether they are satisfied with their overall law school experience. A full 91% of students who rate their experience as “excellent” feel supported in their academic success compared to only 7% of students who have are having a “poor” experience.

Perceived degree of academic support is also closely tied to whether a student would choose their law school again if they could start over, although the relationship is slightly less stark than for overall law school satisfaction. Among students who would either probably not or definitely not attend the same school, about 32% feel supported to succeed academically. But among students who would probably or definitely attend the same school, 70% feel academically supported.

Law students are driven to succeed in the face of the challenges presented by their academic program. Students who feel supported in their academic endeavors by their schools are more likely to be satisfied with their overall experience and to say that they would choose the same school if they could start over. Academic support is integral to a successful law school experience and likely impacts students’ long-term satisfaction and likelihood to become alumni who speak highly of their alma maters.