Life in Law School
While many college graduates find that their workload increased as they approached graduation, most lawyers will tell you that their most difficult year of law school was their first. There are two principal reasons for this: First, law students don’t ease into law school; every law school course requires extensive study of cases, and the formats of exams and writing assignments different from college assignments. Second, most first-year courses are graded on a curve, which usually means that only 20-30% of the class can get an A no matter how well students do on their exams. This makes grades “relative,” and competition between students inevitable.
During the first year of law school, most students take courses in civil procedure, contracts, torts, property, criminal law, and legal writing, plus one or two additional courses that vary between schools. Students take most of their courses as part of a cohort of 60-120 students, who comprise what is called a “section.” However, for the legal research and writing class, individual sections are subdivided into smaller groups. This is usually the only first-year course in which students have extensive contact with faculty. Touro students accustomed to small classes and regular attention from teachers will need to adjust to a very different educational environment.
Not only is the first year of law school challenging, it is also important to future success in the legal profession. Students who do well their first year have the greatest opportunity to win positions on law reviews and in moot court, as well as to be hired for paid internships after their second year. Faculty members prefer to hire top-ranked law students for research jobs, and judges usually prefer them for post-graduate clerkships.
Law students normally begin practical training the summer after their first year in law school. The majority of students find internships with firms, government agencies, not-for-profit organizations, and with judges, although most of these are unpaid. Beginning in the second year, students can obtain course credit for work done at law school-sponsored legal clinics or selected public service agencies. These provide important practical legal experience that may make the difference in hiring decisions for post-law school employment.
The second summer of law school is particularly important for students who want to work in law firms. Many private firms, and some other employers, use summer internships as tryouts for full-time employment. In a best-case scenario, a third-year student will return to law school with an offer of full-time employment after graduation. However, most students need to continue job search efforts during their third year.
Graduating from law school is only the first step towards admission to the bar in your state as a lawyer. Two months after graduation, law students must pass a two-day bar exam, which is usually given in the last week of July. Until recently, students planning to practice in more than one state had to separately qualify in each state. However, many states (including New York) now participate in a multistate bar exam administration that may allow graduates to practice in numerous states. Students who pass the bar exam must then complete additional forms and undergo a character review before being officially sworn in, which usually takes place during the year after they graduate from law school.