What really happens in law school? The average first year student is told to spend between two and three hours of studying for every hour spent in the classroom. Since an average first year class can last an hour and a half, and an average first year day might involve three or four classes, this means a lot of studying each night. You will be divided into “sections” during your first year (or 1L, as you will come to call it), and you will sit in classes with the members of your section for an entire year. After 1L, you will get to choose your classes, so there will be a mix of people in the courses you choose to take; but for that first year, you will be in the same room or rooms with these same classmates for the full year. Law school is very competitive, because you are graded on the curve. This means that the professors will only give out a certain number of As, Bs, etc. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be friends with your classmates – they’re in the same boat you’re in, and it’s helpful to lean on each other for support, encouragement, and class notes! But it does mean you’re competing with your classmates for class rank – more on that later.
It’s up to the student to manage his time and his efforts – you won’t (necessarily) get in trouble for not doing your reading, but if you get called on in class (and you will!), you are expected be prepared to talk about the issues raised. For the most part, you will only have one grade per semester, although for at least the first year you will have a midterm grade in the winter and a final grade in the spring. I remember feeling during college that it would not matter if I got an A or a B in my calculus class, because I knew I was not going to be a mathematician. However, the truth about law school is that it does matter how well you know Contracts, understand principals of negligence, or whether you can figure out who owns Blackacre (trust me, you’ll understand if you go to law school), because these things apply in the real world of law practice, and in a lot of other fields as well.
There is undoubtedly a correlation between doing well in law school and doing well professionally. The harder you work, and higher rank in your class you can secure, and the more likely you are to land interviews for summer associate positions with big, high paying firms. But the reality is that the majority of students do not fit in the top five percent of their class, and they can be every bit as successful as their higher-ranked classmates. My law school experience was very rich, even though I was not the number one student in my first year section. I worked hard, I learned a lot, and I found internships and jobs during law school that allowed me to put my education into real world practice. I encourage anyone who is interested in going to law school to consider an internship or a job in the legal field to make sure it’s a good fit, and to build up networking skills. It can only help, and it does make a difference!
For more information about pre-law advising, please contact the Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education at 617-573-8480. One of the counselors would be happy to speak to you about career options for students interested in the field. , or help put you in touch with a member of the faculty experienced in pre-law advising.
-M Isaacs, Suffolk Law Student