33 days : A day in the life of a law student
By: Brittany S. Hale
33 Days. There are thirty-three days left until I graduate from Boston University School of Law. Thirty-three days left until the late nights, mountains of books, and papers are finished. Thirty-three days until I bid goodbye to all of the hard work I’ve done for the past three years and look forward to new opportunities in the future.
I moved to Boston two weeks after my twenty-first birthday. Although it may seem old to you, a twenty-one year old law student is actually pretty young. In fact, I was the youngest person in my class. The oldest? Forty-four! I know it’s hard to imagine being in class at either of those ages, but if you want a graduate education it is likely. Law school, however, is unlike any education you will have had previously. Why? Because law school doesn’t teach you how to DO. Sure in elementary school you learn how to write an essay, how to spell, how to do math. Even in college, you continue to learn how to DO. I myself learned how to dissect a pig! (Gross, I know!) But law school is different. Law school teaches you how to THINK.
That can seem pretty confusing, but it makes sense. Law school equips you with the analytical skills necessary to practice as a lawyer. So what is a typical day in law school like? I walk to class and listen to music on the way there. It gets me in a good mood and ready for the day. I usually pack a lunch and a few snacks to last me until I can come home for dinner. Why is that? Well, I only have class Tuesdays and Thursdays. I know that sounds like a dream, but I still spend Monday, Wednesday, and Friday reading for class. Plus, Tuesday and Thursday I have class from eight in the morning until eight at night! Long day, right?
Once I am in class the professor begins to ask questions. Although your teachers usually tell you what they want you to know, in law school we tell the professors what we’ve learned from the cases we’ve read. The professor randomly calls on a student and asks them questions about the cases for at least a half an hour. It can seem like a game almost, since the professor asks question after question until you stumble upon the issue she or he is trying to uncover. This is called the “Socratic Method” of teaching, because Socrates is thought to have taught his students in this way. It may seem a bit strange to tell the professor about cases she or he already knows, but the point is to be sure that you really understand the material. What better way to do that than to talk about it? It can be a little intimidating at first, especially when you get a question wrong, but soon you become quite comfortable speaking in front of fifty (or more) of your fellow students. Everyone has to do it some time, and most are really supportive. There is no attendance taken, but if you choose to miss class you tend to miss a LOT so I definitely go! To those wondering, no, there is no homework. In the beginning of the semester the professor provides you with a syllabus highlighting the reading to do for each class- it is up to you to keep up with it. Whenever I tell people about my law school classes, they are always amazed by the grades. Why? Your only grade is your final! No midterms, no pop quizzes, it is your responsibility to be sure you understand the material enough to write about it on a three hour exam. Three hours sounds like a long time, but once you begin writing time flies! In some classes you are allowed to write a paper rather than take an exam, but that usually involves lots of legal research about the topic.
So what do you do if you think you are interested in going to law school? Here are a few tips:
- Talk to someone!: Law school admission offices are great about pairing interested people with law students so that they can learn about the students’ experience.
- Figure out why: If you want to become a lawyer, think about why. Do you know what a lawyer does? Television offers a glimpse into the legal field, but very few lawyers actually enter the court room. In fact, lawyers do lots of interesting things outside the courtroom that you may find could interest you!
- Think! Think! Think!: Law school is a three year full time commitment. Are you ready to sacrifice nights and weekends to cases and textbooks? Although there are some part-time programs, most schools require that you complete the degree in three years and do not work. Which leaves one to wonder how they will pay for school. Most people going to law school must take out vast amounts of student loans to finance their way through school. Consider whether you are ready to make that sort of financial commitment to your education.
- RELAX!: I know I’ve given you a lot to consider, but do remember that many have done this before and so can you! Yes, law school is hard work, but anything worth having is worth working for, right? Stay positive and keep your eye on the prize!
I hope this glimpse into the life of a law student is helpful, if you have any questions please feel free to contact me.