What is Law School Really Like?

You may be a junior in college, looking into law school applications for next year, or preparing to take the LSAT. Maybe you’re still in high school, and thinking about whether you want to become a lawyer one day. Or maybe you’re a paralegal, and you know exactly the area of law that interests you, and how a J.D. can help you gain the skills you need.

Regardless of where you are in your academic or professional career, you may be wondering what the law school experience is actually like. What kinds of classes do you take in your first year? How many people are there in a typical class? What form does discussion take? Is the material really as overwhelming as it is made out to be? The answers will vary from school to school, and even from person to person – but some reactions are common to most law school classrooms and students.

Imagine this: It’s a Monday afternoon, and you’ve spent the morning in the library, reviewing the reading for your Criminal Law class at 3 PM. You’ve briefed the cases – highlighting major points, such as facts, rules of law, and reasoning, in the judicial opinions – and have carefully considered the questions posed by the author of the textbook, in preparation for class. You’re somewhat behind on outlining, which involves putting all of your notes and any supplemental material on each topic into context to set the groundwork for the final exam, but you think you’ll be fine if you spend a few more hours catching up this weekend.

The Criminal Law class – or Crim, as it’s often called for short – is full, with about 90 students from both your section of the 2019 class and one other. All are seated in their assigned seats, so the professor knows what name to say when he sees a hand raised, or who to call when he decides to use the Socratic method. This is where the professor suddenly asks an arbitrary person to answer, to the best of her ability, a number of questions on the topic at hand. You used to think this method was somewhat alarming, but you know now that it isn’t too bad, and that the professors are generally on your side, in their quest to make a specific point clear to everyone else in the class.

You aren’t just taking Crim, though; you also have Property, and Torts, a subject in which you focus on civil wrongs that cause injury. You know of colleagues in other sections who are instead taking Constitutional Law, or Contracts, or Civil Procedure. Everyone is taking Legal Research and Writing classes, or some variant thereof. You’re not a big fan of every class you’re taking, but many of them, for you, are absolutely fascinating – and you’re glad you still have enough time to make it to your best friend’s birthday, or to the Student Bar Association’s happy hour.

Choosing whether or not to go to law school is not a simple decision, given the time commitment, the financial ramifications, and the sacrifices involved; but knowledge of what the experience is like on a day-to-day basis can contribute to making your decision easier, and better informed.

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