You’ve heard that law school is rigorous, but do you know what to expect when you get there? Here are a few specifics about what it’s like to be in law school.
Traditional law programs are three years. Students attend full-time, during the weekday. Some schools offer part-time evening programs that take four years to complete.
The first year of law school can be a major adjustment for students. Though they are accustomed to studying hard and focusing on academics, law school is much more competitive. The reading load is immense and the study intense. Professors demand more from students in law school; class participation and ready knowledge when called upon are expected.
During the first year of law school, students study the basics of law. There are no elective classes; the first year curriculum is mandatory. They’ll focus on the Constitution of the United States and its history, the criminal justice systems and criminal law, basic properties of contracts, torts and property law. Students will also learn how to do law research and writing.
The first year of law school is difficult; some students decide that law school isn’t right for them.
Second and third year law students are more settled in; but the work is just beginning. Students may start to specialize in one or more fields of law by taking elective classes in those areas.
Throughout law school, students are taught how to think like lawyers; most school use the Socratic method of responding to professor’s questions regarding a specific case or law. Students study past cases to learn more about how the law works, precedents and history.
Some students have a great amount of difficulty transitioning between their undergraduate education and law school. They’ve often been the best and brightest in their various undergraduate courses, and are accustomed to receiving consistent feedback of their stellar performances via quizzes, papers and tests.
Law school is different—everyone is bright and hardworking. Students feel much more competitive, since the entire class studies the same material and there is a lot of pressure to perform.
Law professors don’t often give quizzes on material. Instead, students are required to read casebooks and write briefs, then be prepared to be called upon in class to expound on any one of the briefs assigned. Assignments aren’t handed in or graded and there are few, if any tests (many professors do hold a mid-term test). Law students usually don’t know what their grade will be until after the course is completed; a large portion of the grade will hinge on the final.
Unlike many undergraduate classes, attendance in law classes is mandatory, and students who miss class are not likely to succeed.