I bet you are all curious how higher learning institutions measure the ability and understanding of America’s future attorneys. It’s pretty interesting actually. I would like to explain for the benefit of people who, like me, said “I want to be a lawyer” without knowing the first thing about law school. I knew as much about law school as could be gleaned from legally blonde.
The school spends a semester drilling into students the rules of the law and how to apply them. Every night the student has about 2-3 cases to read per class, each case emphasising a particular point of the law. In class, the professor picks the brain of a few students every day using the socratic method to unfold the cases. Some professors are more strict with the method than others. A few days ago I spent nearly the entire 75 minute class answering questions about a contracts case. Outside of class, students then spend any extra time compiling the rules and method of the law into a logical understandable format called a course outline. This helps the student see the big picture of the law, but also some professors let students bring the outline into the final. Some allow outlines and textbooks, and others allow nothing at all in the final.
The classes go for 14 weeks and then there are two weeks of finals. Students get 2-3 days between each one so they can prepare for them. I found this part to be relaxing. I could take things one day at a time in manageable chuncks. The last two weeks of class are the most stressful in my opinion because I was trying to get my outlines finished while classes and reading are still going on. It feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day even though my day is 3 hours longer than most people (I sleep 6-7 hours a night).
Students are supposed to be tested 3-3 1/2 hours for each class. Some professors have midterms that take time away from the final’s time. For example, a 1 1/2 hour midterm will leave a 1 1/2 – 2 hour final. The final gives you 1-3 scenarios to answer as if you were telling a client their options. In doing so, students identify legal issues, describe the right laws and the wrong laws for the issues, argue why one law is applicable and the other is not using the facts of the case, and apply the law and different views of it to the scenario. Most importantly, students will do this for both sides of the argument and arrive at a conclusion about which side should win at the end.
If it sounds complicated, it is. But it helps to work out the kinks by writing practice exams, an immensely valuable tool. Then the actual exam will seem second nature.
All in all, I think the hardest part of law school is the daily grind. You figure on close-reading 30-50 pages a night, all while compiling your notes, writing outlines, and having study groups. Oh by the way, you want to have some social interaction to avoid going crazy. Also if you have a wife or kids, you’d better spend time with them so they won’t hate you.
I did all that and managed to do pretty well in school. I think the village will be proud to know I’m ranked 9 of the 74 in my class. Who knew that the guy who wrote a review of a Taco Bell menu item was some kind of keen legal mind.