Law school is a three-year postgraduate program that results in the student earning a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Students are typically referred to as 1Ls, 2Ls, or 3Ls based on how far along they are in the process of earning their law degree. Many law schools are organized as separate colleges or units within a larger university setting.
- In order to apply to law school, a student must have a bachelor's degree with an acceptable GPA and qualifying scores from the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). Essays and letters of recommendation are generally required as well, since these application materials give the admissions committee a chance to better assess the applicant's personality. Law school is challenging from an intellectual standpoint, but it takes a certain type of person to do well in this environment. The ideal law school student is hardworking, dedicated, and has a well-thought out reason for wanting to study law. It is not necessary to have a professional practice area in mind, although many entering law students do express interest in specific areas such as international law, intellectual property law, or environmental law.
The law school environment is highly competitive and structured very differently from the typical undergraduate curriculum. Classes are graded on a curve at most law schools, so an individual’s success often depends upon factors outside his control. Instead of using the lecture format typical of undergraduate coursework, law school classes are taught using the Socratic Method. This teaching style involves calling on a random student to assess a specific argument and asking a series of questions designed to uncover flaws in his thinking. Exams often involve being asked to interpret the facts of a hypothetical case and writing an essay.
- To prepare for employment after graduation, law students are encouraged to build their resumes by participating in student organizations such as moot court and the school's law review or law journal. For part-time law school students who are juggling the demands of a full-time day job and a family, joining campus clubs or participating as a student member in the local chapter of the American Bar Association (ABA) is considered a good way to build knowledge of the legal field and add to one's resume.
- After earning a law degree, a student must sit for the bar exam before being allowed to practice law in a particular state. If a student graduated from a school accredited by the American Bar Association, he can sit for the bar exam in any state. If the school is unaccredited, however, the student is only eligible to sit for the bar in the state where the school is located. The bar exam is either two or three days long, depending upon the state in which it is taken. The test consists of both multiple choice and essay questions.
- Earning a law degree is challenging, but this experience offers numerous practical benefits. Even if you eventually decide not to practice law, your experience will give you writing and public speaking skills that can enhance almost any career path. Since your coursework will involve intense study of how government policies and procedures impact American society at large, you'll also become a more informed citizen who is better able to participate in the community.