The First Year (1L)
Students in their first year of law school all study the same core subjects: Civil Procedure, Contracts, Criminal Law, Property, Torts and Constitutional Law. Some of those classes will last just one semester, while others will span the entire academic year. Most law schools also offer a course for first-year students to aid incresearch, writing and analysis skills utilized in legal practice.
The 1L year is known for being difficult, therefore involvement in activities is not recommended. A 1L student’s focus should be entirely on their academics. Many 1L students will find the adjustment to law school difficult, as it differs greatly from what they were used to as an undergrad. In college, most learning is done in the classroom and supplemented with learning done through readings and assignments. In law school, the vast majority of learning is done outside the classroom, completing readings and assignments. The classroom is where that learning is reinforced and often put to the test.
The Second Year (2L)
During the 2L year, students often start taking elective courses in addition to the handful of required courses. Many students opt to take electives that will help them prepare for the bar exam, while others take courses based on appeal or possible legal specialty interests.
Early on in the 2L year, many students will start looking for summer internships. Law schools often coordinate on-campus interviews in the fall of the 2L year for students interested in interning at large law firms. For students interested in smaller law firms, public interest law or government, the job search will be more focused in the later part of the fall semester or early on in the spring semester. Either way, during the 2L year, a law student will spend a significant amount of time focused on the summer job search.
The 2L year is also when most law students engage in activities, such as moot court, law review and clinics. The types of activities are meant to provide hands-on learning outside the classroom environment. There are often various “interest” activities students can participate in as well.
The Third Year (3L)
The 3L year is often the least stressful. Students typically take all elective courses and continue their participation in activities.
Most students become immersed in bar exam prep immediately following graduation and focus on nothing but until the exam in July. The bar exam is two full days and consists of a multistate exam and a state exam. All law school graduates across the country take the multistate bar exam (MBE). The state exam is designed by the state in which you’re taking the bar, with questions specific to that state. The MBE is multiple-choice, while the state exam is typically essay based. Bar results are released in mid-October.
In college, professors often lecture the course material or facilitate discussions to reinforce what was learned in reading assignments. In law school, the teaching method can be much different. Law professors often use the Socratic method and/or the black-letter law approach, both designed to teach students to think like lawyers. Professors employing the Socratic method will continually question their students to stimulate critical thinking. The black-letter law approach is much less confrontational. Professors will select a particular topic, to which students will need to apply all relevant rules of law. Both approaches necessitate preparedness and active student participation.
Assignments for law school consist of reading, reading and more reading! There are sometimes written and oral assignments as well. There is usually just one exam (the final), and it is almost always essay-based. The grading system is typically competitive and based on a curve. Many law schools employ a HP/P/NP (high pass/pass/no pass) grading system rather than A, B, C, D, F.