Wow! Hello. Hi. Legally Complicated here. I have been gone for a WHILE. I apologize for my extended absence. Between finals, going home for the holidays, and breaking my right arm(my dominant)/getting sick, life has been kind of crazy. I finally have the strength and energy to blog. Well, Happy New Year! Welcome to 2019. My first blog of 2019 will focuses on the differences I see between undergrad and law school from my experience.
First, you cannot skip class a lot. Not that I skipped a lot in undergrad, but I knew some people who did not go to a single class and still was able to sit for the final and passed. That does not and will not fly in law school. At my school, they have an attendance policy that states you cannot miss more than a certain percentage of classes or you absolutely CANNOT sit for the final (no exceptions!). There is an attendance sheet that gets sent around at the beginning of each class. The general rule is you cannot miss more than 4 classes per class in a semester. If you happen to miss 5 times in a class for that semester, then you will NOT be able to sit for the final and you will have to re-take the class. In undergrad, classes were about 50 minutes. My classes in law school are at least 1 hour and 20 minutes.
If you follow me on Twitter, then for the month of December and part of January, I was asking for my grades. In undergrad, I would have my grades before Christmas, and I would know if it was a great end or a bad end to my year. Law school? Yeah… that was not the case. My first year I got my grades the week before class started. This year as a second-year law student, I still did not know what a couple of my grades were while I was sitting in my classes for the next semester. There were some twitter followers that said they were in class for WEEKS before they got their grade. So, imagine sitting in the next semester not knowing if you passed the previous semester. It can be terrifying since people actually fail out of law school.
Some people (maybe science majors) know about this “curve.” I was not familiar with this concept when I entered law school. Let’s be honest, I still do not fully understand this concept. All I know is, I try to be at the curve or above the curve. In undergrad, I was only graded on MY raw score. From my understanding, the curve is basically having your grade depend on how the rest of the class does. If you are scoring above what the average student got, then your grade goes up. If you are scoring below what the average student got, then your grade may suffer. Also, not everyone can get an A. Only about 2-4 people can receive As.
Because of this curve and being ranked, I do believe this is a contributing reason why law school can be so competitive. Everyone wants the A, but not everyone can obtain the A with the curve in full effect. Ranking and GPA could play a role in what jobs (internships/externships/clerkships) that you get. This is definitely not always the case, but I am referring to the job postings that state, “must have 3.3 to apply.”
Level of Difficulty
Yes, law school is hard. I hate my life about 90% of the time because of what I have to do to prepare. Nothing in undergrad can truly prepare you for the challenges of law school. My first-year, if I wasn’t in class, then I was studying. I studied at least 40 hours a week. I was reading, synthesizing my notes, case briefing, writing memorandums, watching Barbri videos, outlining, writing out flashcards, making flowcharts, and so much more. That does not seem like a lot, but I never felt I had enough time in the day. I would never leave my room.
Working During Law School
The first-year is so intense, that some schools (like mine) have it in their policy that if you are a full-time first-year, then you cannot work. You can work if you are part-time. Even now as a second-year law student, they cap us at 20 hours, which is still a lot. I worked 40-60 hours between two jobs in undergrad. I was still alive. I worked 10 hours on top of law school and basically died haha working and going to law school is a struggle I never knew I would encounter.
In undergrad, I had so many projects, assignments, weekly homework, homework I had to turn in, quizzes, and the final was maybe worth 20% of my grade. Yeah… that is NOT the same. The only homework I get assigned is reading cases in our casebooks. Most schools and the more traditional way of law school is that you get one exam that is worth 100% of your grade. You get no projects, no quizzes, or anything prior to the exam. My school just changed how they do things. They used to do the one exam worth 100%. My finals are usually worth 80% of my grade because they now implement midterms. Those midterms are 20% of my grade. So, sitting for the final is EVERYTHING. In undergrad, I also had 3 hours to finish my exam and would be out in an hour. We get 3 hours for the exam and I ALWAYS stay the whole time. There is so much to be covered. 3 hours is never enough time to complete these exams and so it is crunch time when you enter.
In undergrad, I did not have to do much to prepare for class. I did not have the anxiety that my professor would call on me to ask me a question I may or may not know the answer to based on my reading. The professor taught and I wrote down what was said. Yeah, law school, you can get called on at any moment. They can call on you for any case at any time.
There is no Syllabus week. You are expected to do the readings before classes even start at the beginning of the semester. Most times, professors will not even go over the syllabus unless they have someone they want to clarify. Absent that, they will continue class and expect you to be prepared for class.
Lastly, do not expect to get a class schedule until July. You also do not choose your classes or times you will be in class. the school will put you into a section and you will be that section for the entire year. In undergrad, I had the orientation the summer before and it was only for a day or two. In law school, orientation was for a week and it was a week right before classes.