What To Expect From Your Law School Experience

a gavel on top of a book

Law school is a continuing of education for any person with a bachelor’s degree looking to pursue a career in law. Law schools offer a wide range of programs to fit your career goals and schedule. Those interested in pursuing this path can consider practicing law in family, business, tax, immigration, contract, labor, criminal, technology, military, child advocacy or sustainable international development, among other areas.

Law school can be an intense and competitive environment, especially in the first year. However, having a better understanding of what you can expect from your law school experience will help set you up for success in your first year and beyond.

Admission Requirements for Law School

To help prepare yourself for law school, there are a few things you should know:

  1. Earn a relevant bachelor’s degree: Any bachelor’s degree is acceptable; however, you may want to focus in areas that will benefit your future in law school. These can include government studies, history, psychology, political science, business and philosophy.
  2. Be mindful of your GPA: Your undergraduate GPA is important. Keep up the good grades throughout your studies.
  3. Stay organized: Building good study habits is key to succeeding in law school.

In addition to a bachelor’s degree and solid college GPA, the standard application requirements for law school are:

  • Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores  
  • Reference letters  
  • An internship 
  • A well-written personal essay

These materials are submitted to the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) that acts similarly to a clearinghouse of information between you and your law schools of interest.

Law School Curriculum

Law school is typically a three-year commitment (full-time) or a four-year commitment for those looking for a part-time evening program. In the first year, most law schools across the U.S. follow a similar curriculum. As a first-year law student, you can expect your course of study to cover many of the following topics:

  • Civil procedure: This course covers the process of adjudication in the United States, such as jurisdiction and standing to sue, motions and pleadings, pretrial procedure, the structure of a lawsuit and appellate review of trial results.
  • Constitutional law: In this course, students study the legislative powers of the federal and state governments, as well as questions of civil liberties and constitutional history, including detailed study of the Bill of Rights and constitutional freedoms.
  • Contracts: Here, you’ll learn the nature of enforceable promises and rules for determining appropriate remedies in case of nonperformance.
  • Criminal law and criminal procedure: This course focuses on the bases of criminal responsibility, the rules and policies for enforcing sanctions against individuals accused of committing offenses against the public order and well-being, as well as the rights guaranteed to those charged with criminal violations.
  • Legal method: This course introduces students to the organization of the American legal system and its processes.
  • Legal writing: Learning legal research and writing are critical elements of most first-year law school experiences.
  • Property law: This course introduces concepts, uses and historical developments in the treatment of land, buildings, natural resources and personal objects.
  • Torts: In this course, students will learn private wrongs, such as acts of negligence, assault and defamation, that violate obligations of the law.

In the second and third years, students delve into internships, law clinics and course electives that are based on their interests. Courses will vary depending on the law school, but most students choose to take foundational courses in civil litigation, commercial law, evidence, family law, taxation, mergers and acquisitions, real estate, wills and trusts, international law and environmental law.

It is recommended to take a variety of classes to help you decide which area of practice you want to pursue after law school.

Case Method and Socratic Method

Law school is challenging academically, in part, because it is taught using methods completely different than the usual college lecture method. Many first-year law students find these methods unfamiliar and, sometimes, unnerving.

Law school is often taught using a combination of the case method and the Socratic method. The case method involves significant reading and preparation for each class. You will read from textbooks that include cases and excerpts of cases from around the country. There is no explanation, summary or outlines of the cases so it’s up to you to analyze and brief each case. Study groups are essential to this learning process, as well as a plentiful amount of law library research.

The Socratic method is not for the timid and shy. Instead of lecturing, law professors typically call on students and ask specific questions about the case assignments (known as “cold-calling”). These questions vary and are geared to deep-dive into each case, helping students learn how to analyze case law. So, it is important to be prepared for each and every class.

Both the case method and Socratic method require strong critical-thinking skills. Prior to applying to law school, you may want to sit in on a couple courses at a law school in your area. This experience will help you learn how classes are conducted to see if they fit your skills and interests.

Are Extracurriculars Required for Law School?

As with most school environments, getting involved outside of school is a great way to connect with peers and develop professional skills. While extracurriculars are not necessarily requirements for law school, many schools seek candidates with passions outside the classroom. This means participating in activities during your undergraduate schooling that could increase your chances of being accepted. Some examples that could help boost your law school application are:

  • Debate team
  • Pre-law society
  • Student government

Furthermore, participating in extracurriculars doesn’t stop once you have been accepted to law school. It is important to continue networking and building your professional skills so you are better prepared for your career after graduation. In law school, two of the most popular extracurricular activities are law review and moot court.

Law Review is a student-led scholarly journal that publishes articles by legal professionals, including judges and professors. The experience you will gain in fact-checking, case citations and editing will help you hone your skills in research and writing.

Moot court is where law students learn about litigation and trial advocacy through mock trials. Students will write legal motions, present oral arguments, answer questions from a judge and learn about other key steps in a trial proceeding. If you are looking to break out of your shell and strengthen your communication and critical-thinking skills, you may consider participating in moot court.

If you are interested in attending law school, it’s important to gain valuable skills during your undergraduate years. GCU offers a legal studies degree that can help you develop the sound reasoning, legal analysis and communication skills needed to be successful in law school. Start your journey by clicking on the Request Info button at the top of your screen.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.