The Differences Between Law School and Undergrad

If you're considering law school, you may be wondering how different law school is really going to be compared to your undergraduate experience. The truth is, law school will be a completely different educational experience in at least three ways:

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Work Load

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Be prepared for a much, much heavier workload than you had in undergrad. In order to complete and understand all the readings and assignments for law school as well as attend classes, you're looking at the equivalent a full-time job of 40 hours a week, if not more.

Not only will you be responsible for more material than you were in undergrad, you'll also be dealing with concepts and ideas you probably haven't encountered before—and ones that are often difficult to wrap your head around the first time through. They're not necessarily difficult once you understand them, but you will have to put considerable time into learning and applying them

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First of all, the term "lectures" is a misnomer for most law school classes. Gone are the days when you could walk into a lecture hall, sit there for an hour, and just listen to a professor go over important information essentially as it's presented in the textbook. Professors will not spoon feed you the answers to your final exams in law school because law school exams require you to actively apply skills and material that you’ve learned during the semester, not passively summarize what the textbook and professor have said.

Similarly, you will need to develop a new style of note-taking in law school. While copying down everything the professor said may have worked in college, getting the most out of a law school lecture demands you to pay close attention and only write down key points from the lecture that you can’t glean so readily from the casebook, such as take-away law from the case and the professor’s views on particular subjects.

Overall, law school is usually much more interactive than undergrad. The professor often has students present the assigned cases and then will randomly call on other students to fill in the blanks or answer questions based on factual variations or nuances in the law. This is commonly known as the Socratic Method and can be quite scary for the first few weeks of school. There are some variations to this method. Some professors will assign you to a panel and let you know that members of your panel will be “on call” during a particular week. Others simply ask for volunteers and only “cold call” students when nobody speaks up.

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Your grade in a law school course will most likely depend on one final exam at the end that tests your ability to locate and analyze legal issues in given fact patterns. Your job on a law school exam is to find an issue, know the rule of law pertaining to that issue, apply the rule, and reach a conclusion. This style of writing is commonly known as IRAC (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion) and is the style used by practicing litigators.

Preparing for a law school exam is very different than for most undergrad exams, so be sure you look at previous exams throughout the semester to get an idea of what you should be studying. When practicing for the exam, write out your answer to a previous exam and compare it to a model answer, if one exists, or discuss it with a study group. Once you get an idea of what you wrote incorrectly, go back and rewrite your original answer. This process helps develop your IRAC skills and aids in the retention of course material.

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Your Citation
Fabio, Michelle. "The Differences Between Law School and Undergrad." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Fabio, Michelle. (2020, August 26). The Differences Between Law School and Undergrad. Retrieved from Fabio, Michelle. "The Differences Between Law School and Undergrad." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 28, 2023).