If you are feeling anxious about attending law school, you are not alone! You may have heard stories from practicing attorneys, or you’ve seen Hollywood movies that make law school seem terrifying. While law school is tough and classes are taught differently than undergrad courses, it is very manageable.
Law school can be very demanding and takes some time to get used to. Overall, law school classes are more interactive compared to undergrad. While undergrad courses tend to focus on short-term memorization, law school exercises a student’s ability to think critically.
Through Socratic dialogue, the professor challenges a student's arguments, assumptions, and understanding of the law. Unlike undergrad where students mostly just participate themselves, or a professor will call on a student to answer one question, law school is much different. A typical cold call consists of a variety of mind-boggling questions. The questions deal with the facts of the case, the dissent, and what you the student thought about the analysis of the court. This type of questioning is intimidating at first, but most students get the hang of it, especially when they get to the upper level courses.
The preparation for class is much different as well. Personally, in undergrad I was able to get away with just skimming over the assigned material. However, this would most definitely NOT fly in law school. Professors typically assign around thirty pages of reading for each class. It is expected that students spend at least two hours outside of class preparing for each hour in class. This doesn’t only include reading the assigned material, but it is expected that students understand what they are reading and be able to recall why the court decided in the way that they did. Law school is primarily designed to train your mind, and there are often no correct answers which can be hard to adjust to.
Grading is different as well, in law school many course grades are based upon a single exam. Some professors will have a midterm, but if anything, the midterm is only a small fraction of the student’s grades. Unlike undergraduate courses, where there may be multiple tests, quizzes, graded homework assignments, or individual projects, many final course grades in law school are based upon a single item.
The final exam in law school ranges in format and time based on the different classes and professor. Some exams consist of multiple choice, short answers, or most commonly 3-5 essay format questions. The time also varies, personally I have had exams that were a mere two and a half hours and I have had exams that were nine hours. But a typical exam is somewhere around four hours. For the longer exams, some professors may allow you to take exams at home, or somewhere in the law school building. All exams are on the computer, some professors have a complete open book exam while others are closed book.
That being said, law school for most people is more difficult than undergrad. This does depend on the specific person, where they went to undergrad, and even what they studied. Nevertheless, while law school is difficult, it teaches very valuable lessons. Law students are taught a different way of thinking and ways to analyze complex problems. Throughout law school students' legal minds begin to develop and they start to think like attorneys.
It is very easy to slip through the cracks since there is typically only one assignment or exam! But law school is very manageable especially for students who have good time management skills. This is very important to be able to balance a tough course load.