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What is it like being a beginner law school students ? How many classes do you have to take ?


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Desiree’s Answer

Luckily for you this is super easy to research on-line. There are great sites out there that can help you figure this out, such as: https://www.princetonreview.com/law-school-advice/first-year-curriculum AND https://www.jdadvising.com/what-classes-do-you-take-your-first-year-of-law-school/

Most accredited U.S. law schools will have very similar requirements for first year students (many use the same text books even!). These are the fundamental classes you'll need to master for the rest of law school, and if it's not its own separate course, at least one will focus on legal writing. Expect 5-6 courses/ semester and about 15-16 credits/ semester. (But for planning purposes, do not discount the time you will need to keep up with all the required reading - it takes a LOT of time, even for people who love to read.) After the first year, you can customize your classes to better suit your interests/future career, and you'll have opportunities for things like legal clinics and law review.

Most law school professors will use the so-called "Socratic method" - where all students are expected to do the required reading before class and the professor will pick various students to answer questions about the materials. You never know if it will be your day to be questioned or not, so there is pressure to be prepared at all times (certainly, this is by design to keep students on their toes!). Questions are designed to prompt debate and get students to take sides, and sometimes an artful professor will lead students down a logical path to strange conclusions (as part of the lesson). Law school movies sometimes get this right (very old movie from 1970s, "The Paper Chase" which is very realistic on the Socratic method and highlights cases still used in classes today, if not the current use of computers and on-line legal research!) or sort of right (more recently, "Legally Blonde" - I'm thinking of the scene where Elle is kicked out of class for being unprepared, and also the scene where she's asked, "Ms. Woods, would you rather have a client who committed a crime malum in se or malum prohibitum?" -- but certainly not the law school application process, the first year internship or court scenes which are not realistic even if they make for a fun movie).

Desiree recommends the following next steps:

Do some general research on first year of law school cirriculum (start with the links above but find your own, too!)
Look at the specific cirriculum of the law school you might want to attend - it should be on the school's website
Consider watching some movies about the law school experience - especially to see examples of the Socratic method in action -- but recognizing that there is a lot of farfetched drama for the sake of an engaging movie plot :)

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Leonard A.’s Answer

Nyasia -

Thanks for the question. It's been a while but as an old lawyer, I can give you a few insights into what law school is like in year one. The coursework is pretty standard - Contract Law, Real Property, Civil Procedure, Torts. You can use many online resources to learn more and research the facts and figures of year one. However, what many do not realize is that great friendships are forged in year one. Students in the same section often study together and work on projects together. They join journals, publications and initiatives together. It is a challenging year that is made all the better by going through it with friends and peers. Will you work hard? ABSOLUTELY, but the year will be incredibly rewarding and you will learn to think critically as a prospective attorney. Finally, you will find much support in law school, many resources to ensure you succeed along the path.

Good luck as you consider your career.

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Andrew’s Answer

Hi Nyasia!

As a lawyer who graduated law school ten years ago, I can give you an insider's perspective on what it is like to be a beginner law student. First year law students are called 1Ls, and they generally take a core curriculum of contracts, torts, constitutional law, criminal law, civil procedure, evidence, property, and a legal writing course. Those classes are split into fall and spring semesters, and you usually take four courses at a time with the additional courses being electives. Most law schools organizing an incoming class into three sections, and you stick with your section for the entire first year so your classes are all with the same students. You develop great friendships during this time, and some people even meet the person they eventually marry as a 1L.

Scott Turow wrote a popular book called "One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School," which explains in detail what it is like to be a first year law student. There is a famous quote from that book where he describes reading cases as, "feeling like you are trying to stir concrete with an eye lash." It is intimidating, and most 1Ls aren't very good at reading or understanding cases at first, but with practice, lectures, and more practice, law students develop the skills necessary to think like a lawyer and succeed in the legal profession. You really improve your 2L year, and by the time you are a 3L reading cases comes naturally.

Read Turow's book if you want to take a hard look at people in this life stage.

Sincerely,
Andrew

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