In America, law school is three years if you are a full-time student, four years if you are a part-time student, and two years if you are a part of an accelerated program, such as this advanced standing program.
No matter where you attend law school in America, you can expect to take the following courses during your first and second year:
- Constitutional Law
- Civil Procedure
- Legal Writing & Analysis
- Criminal Law
Other courses commonly taken during the second and third year are:
- Wills & Trusts
- Criminal Procedure
- Trial Advocacy
Common electives taken during the second and third year are:
- Employment Law
- Medical Malpractice Law
- Trademarks & Intellectual Property Law
- Fashion Law
- Real Estate Law
- Environmental Law
- International Law
Lawyers (or law school survivors) know very well that each year presents its own set of challenges.
These challenges are shared by so many that almost any law graduate you ask would readily agree with the Harvard Law Graduate who told Life Magazine in 1932 that law school can be summed up like this:
“[Law schools] scare you to death in the first year, work you to death in the second year, and ‘bore you to death in the third year.”
Let’s take a deep dive into each one:
The first year scares you to death
It’s true – the first year is scary. Why? Barbri explains it perfectly:
“Law school is one of the most unique learning experiences out there and its law schools’ uniqueness that also makes it one of the most difficult. The pedagogy and testing methods. The pedagogy & testing methods are entirely foreign from what students experience in college. Consequently, students’ undergraduate study and test-taking skills don’t adequately prepare them for 1L.”
Yep. Yep. Yep. As a lawyer, I can personally say that law school was quite intimidating and part terrifying the first semester.
- Classes were taught differently – the Socratic (cold-calling) method.
- I had to learn to take notes differently – outlines & case briefs.
- I took tests differently – all essays following the CREAC structure.
- I had to learn to research differently – Lexis Nexis and West Law were our new Google.
- I even had to learn to spell and write differently – CREAC, new vocabulary, bluebook citations.
And you’d think that because law students are practically learning a WHOLE new language, the professors would go light on homework.
The workload is on a level of heavy that only a law student can truly understand and appreciate.
To add to the pressure, if you don’t attend a law school that is on the pass/fail grading system, you are graded on a curve. Being graded on a curve means only a certain amount of students will be awarded As, Bs, Cs, and so on.
Finally, if you score too poorly on exams in your first or second semester of law school, you may be asked to not come back the following semester.
So yeah – the first year is scary.
The Second Year Works You to Death
Law school gets better second year but depending on whether you plan to pursue a transactional law career path or a litigation law career path, it may not get any easier.
Unlike students who choose the transactional law path, students who take the litigation path must gain additional skills that are used specifically for the courtroom.
As such, in addition to their regular class lectures, reading assignments, and legal writing assignments, second-year students aspiring to become litigants are also taking trial advocacy which has its own steep learning curve.
In addition to academics, by the second year, students are getting more involved and sometimes leading student organizations such as Law Review (a scholarly publication edited by law students and faculty members) or the Federalist Society.
Law students are most busy this year to make their first mark in the legal community, to learn or build upon skills they’ve learned, and to build their resumes for future summer internships, summer associate positions, and clerkships.
Quite the challenge.
Third Year Bores You To Death
I really don’t understand why there is a third year when everything you need to learn for the bar exam can be learned in the first two years of law school.
Thus, the next challenge emerges…
Learning how to pretend you are awake and listening when you really don’t give a (fill in the blank) to be there.
Yep, major boredom sets in.
To pass the time, law students must take electives and pray that they don’t end up with a grade that could lower their GPA they fought so hard to get the first two years.
They’re “over it” and ready to finally start making some real money.
That’s law school in a nutshell. If you’re a pre-law student and want to know exactly what you should do to prepare for law school, I invite you to review my pre-law bucket list.
If you can check off everything on this list, you will know with 100% certainty whether or not law school is right for you and be 10 steps ahead of other students who apply to law school.