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Law School Classes vs Undergraduate Classes

Law School Classes vs Undergraduate Classes

When I look back on my days as an undergrad student, I usually have a smile on my face. Those were the days, taking 4 or 5 classes where attendance was optional. I remember there were rarely any required interactions with the students and the teachers. It was a blast.

Until law school, I enjoyed going to school. I had pipe dreams about being an eternal student, and maybe even signing on with a school as a professor.

Then I went to law school, and everything I thought school was supposed to be was thrown out the window. I quickly found out that though law school was still school, it was different.

The Teaching Methods are Different

Both undergrad and law school classes have really thick textbooks. The professors at both like it when you read the material, and you’ll find that the exams include a bunch of stuff from the textbooks. However, this is where the similarities stop.

When you’re in undergrad, you’ll get exposed to a bunch of really long, really boring powerpoint presentations. Most of what you hear, at least when you get above your basic 100 level courses, is a bunch of information about what your particular professor happens to be researching. There are some questions here and there, and the same three nerds tend to answer them. Participation may be required, but that almost always means answering with one word, or a short sentence, response.

Law school is a completely different animal. In almost all of the classes teachers use what’s called the Socratic method. In short, the professors call on students at random and grill them about the reading material. In many cases, the students don’t know beforehand whether or not they will be called on. This helps to ensure that the students do their homework.

It can be quite stressful, especially with some of the crazy cases that law students have to read. Some of the cases were written in the 1700s. So, when I say law school is different, that’s what I mean.

The Grading Systems are Different

This is the real kicker between undergrad and law school. While you’ve probably heard of the bell curve, and even had it in some of your undergraduate classes, you’ve probably never experienced it quite like law school’s version. The basic premise of the bell curve is that most of the students get a similar grade. Only the students that stand out, positively or negatively, really need to get amazing or awful grades.

So, when you get your grades at the end of the semester, roughly 68% of the students will get Bs. That leaves the remaining 32% of the class to get the As, Cs, Ds, and Fs. I’ll put it another way: there aren’t very many As given out.

To make things even more difficult, your grades are determined by one or two tests, with no homework assignments counting towards the end score. In essence, test well or you won’t grade well.

Sounds fun, huh? To some people it was really fun. To just about everyone else, it was just different.

I’m not telling you all of this to scare you off. I just want you to know what you’re getting yourself into. Don’t worry too much about it. You’ll probably thank me later.