How The Government Shutdown Is Affecting Law Schools

A classroom in Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s Lansing, Michigan campus.

What You Need To Know About Law School

You’ve always dreamed of becoming a lawyer. At some point, you’ll have to apply for law school. Question is, what do those three years of legal education actually entail?
Ilana Kowarski, a reporter at US News, recently spoke to experts on what prospective law school students can expect in their three years of law school.
“Law school is very different from college in some important ways,” Glenn Kurtzrock, a criminal defense attorney based in Long Island, New York, who earned his J.D. degree from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, tells US News. “Many students who go to law school are among the brightest in their class. Most will soon realize once they start law school classes that the classrooms are made up of students just like them, and many of the smartest students in college will realize they are average students in law school.”
The Learning Experience
Much of what differentiates the legal education is how students learn the law while in the classroom.
For most law students, the case method is the most common way students will learn about the law.
“In practical terms, the case method works like this: For every class meeting, you will be assigned a number of cases to read,” according to staff at The Princeton Review. “The cases are the written judicial opinions rendered in court cases that were decided at the appellate level.”
This style of teaching will be most apparent in the first year of law school, Kurtzrock says.
“Most first-year law school professors exclusively use casebooks to teach their classes,” Kurtzrock tells US News. “A casebook is anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 pages, and it contains mostly case law … For those who haven’t read a judicial decision before, it can be confusing and arcane. The language is not something most incoming law students will be familiar with, and the way decisions are written are very different from anything else a student may have read before.”
Additionally, most law students will also take part in Socratic seminars.
“Law school professors use the Socratic method, which means that at any minute in class, any student can be called on and asked to stand up and have a discussion with the professor about the reading for the day,” Bailey Strohmeyer, who received her J.D. from the Texas-based Baylor Law School in 2018, tells US News. “You are expected to be able to have an intelligent, poised (discussion) in front of your class.”
But law students also have the opportunity to apply their learnings in real-world scenarios.
Almost every law school offers some form of experiential learning in the form of clinics, internships, and externships.
“The extracurricular activities are outstanding,” Philip Kabler, a partner with the Bogin, Munns & Munns law firm in Central Florida who also teaches law school courses as an adjunct professor, tells US News. “Generally speaking, you can get involved in the community, you can get involved in human rights stuff, you can get involved in various causes.”
What You Can Gain
Law school is tough, but experts say students will learn valuable lessons during their three years.
“You’re being taught a different way of thinking and analyzing complex problems,” Salvador Melendez, a current law student at the University of La Verne’s College of Law in California and a city council member in Montebello, California, tells US News. “Your legal mind is developing and you begin to think like a lawyer.”
Another important benefit of law school is the networking component.
“Looking back, I don’t remember every class I took, but man, I remember those friends really well, and those friends are the most personally and professionally rewarding thing I got out of law school,” Ben Levi, an alumnus of Harvard Law School in Massachusetts, tells US News. “If you are not able to make time for that, if you’re spending all your time … trying to do well in a class and not in doing well with the people that are there and taking advantage of how cool and how smart and how curious they are, you’re missing out on a huge part of the opportunity.”
Sources: US News, The Princeton Review