In law school, the classes you take and the general educational requirements are directly related to your future career goals of passing the state bar examination and getting a law license. This will require you to study many hours each day in order to learn the material deeply. While you might have relied on “cramming” and using your short-term memory to study for examinations in college, in law school, you will need to retain a great deal of material from your classes because this material will be tested on the bar examination later.
In law school, you will not just be able to memorize legal material and use it only for immediate recall on your final examinations. The realities of law school in terms of academics are that you will have to understand the law, and not just memorize the law. Students in your classes will learn the “black letter law,” or basic legal principles just as you will. However, to do well in your classes, you will need to learn to apply the law you have learned in your classes to new fact situations and be able to analyze the law in an in-depth way on your final examinations. You will generally have to study by doing legal practice questions outside of classes to perform well in law school.
In your law school classes, you must stay focused and must be an excellent note-taker. You will be required to make outlines for each of your classes which cover the material your professor has gone over each semester. In law school, you will have to devote time each week (approximately 50 hours) to studying the law that is being taught in your classes. You will generally have to review your class notes each night, do memory drills to learn basic legal concepts, and discuss new legal material with classmates outside of classes to succeed in law school.
Overall, the realities of law school necessitate that you will have to study consistently all semester and not try to just “cram” at the end of the semester. You will definitely not be able to learn the vast amount of legal material your professor has covered by studying for only two weeks before final examinations. In law school, you will have to monitor you own knowledge of each subject taught in your classes and memorize the material in small amounts to make sure that you have really learned it.
In law school, many of the students you will meet are there because they have a basic commitment to principles that people who want to be lawyers subscribe to: a desire to serve people who need legal services and an interest in the administration of justice. Many people you will meet in law school want a career that is more socially-oriented than if they just had a job that was respectable to other people. Many students that you will meet in law school want a career that is based on service in life through the law.
Others don’t know what they want to do with their lives so they decided to give law school a try. Many law students that you will meet in law school want to be lawyers because they have excellent public speaking skills and excellent writing skills. Also, may students you will meet in law school want to be lawyers because they are very detail-oriented and have an instinctive drive to protect people’s basic rights and feel that they would be great advocates.
Finally, some attend law school because of prestige or money.
If you feel that law school is right for you, you will first want to find a school that offers an excellent legal education. Also, if you know where you want to practice law, you might consider a law school in that state because many law firms recruit heavily from school in the area where they are located. The best way to get a good idea about the realities of law school at a particular law school you may be interested in is to visit the school’s web site. When you go to the school’s web site, you will probably find an admission bulletin online and a recent course catalog. You might want to browse the school’s web site to see if the school offers a legal clinic where you can gain practical experience working with clients under the supervision of a law professor. Contacting the admissions representative and asking them questions is also a good avenue to pursue. Also, if you have some idea of the field of law that you want to eventually practice, you might want to look at the school’s web site to see if they offer classes that would allow you to learn about that field. You should also consider making a visit to the law schools that you are interested in applying to and looking at listings of law school rankings.
At the most elite law schools, students have the opportunity to take classes with the nation’s most prominent legal scholars. Also, students at the most elite law schools have the opportunity to interview for jobs at the most prominent law firms in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Recently, many of the nation’s most elite law schools have changed their curriculum in order to teach students more skills that they will need to be able to practice law later. In all law schools, you are required to take a series of “core courses” which teach you basic legal principles in subjects such as civil procedure, criminal law, and property law during your first year. Recently, some elite law schools have changed the first-year curriculum to include classes that teach students to solve legal problems and gain clinical legal skills.
Harvard Law School recently added three new classes to its first-year curriculum. The first new class is on legislation and regulation and introduces students to the legislative process. The second new class is on international law. The third new class is on problems and theories and teaches students to solve legal problems through teamwork and simulations.
Stanford Law School recently changed its curriculum to include several classes that are based on a team-approach to problem solving in the law. These classes are taught by law professors and also by professors from Stanford’s business school. Law students at Stanford can take classes on how to market inventions, how to structure complex business deals and how to introduce scientific evidence to a jury.
Overall, the realities of law school can be summarized as follows:
-Dealing with academics of law school will be very challenging and you have to consistently study to achieve high grades in law school.
-Dealing with other students can be difficult depending on the culture of competitiveness of that specific law school, and depending on the reasons why those students were attracted to law school.
-Learn as much as you can about law school and the realities of practicing law before committing to law school.
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