How to Become a Lawyer: College to the Job Market (Part II)
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Going to Law School
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Without a doubt, law school is an experience like no other. The traditional style of teaching in law school, especially in the first year, typically utilizes the Socratic Method by examining real legal cases. The Socratic Method is named after the classical Greek philosopher Socrates, who used to teach his students by answering their questions with further questions. Socrates believed this style of teaching was better suited to stimulate rational legal thought and debate than any other method.

In law school, most law professors expect their students to have read all the cases and reading assignments prior to class and come prepared to answer questions the moment class begins. The professor will pose a question, then randomly select a student to answer the question. The professor will often take the opposite position of whatever stance the student proposes. Because the law tends to be very fact specific, the professor may also just switch a few facts and then pose the same question or slightly alter the question. This form of dialogue tends to create anxiety in even the most well-prepared student, especially if the student doesn’t want to look like a fool in front of the rest of his or her peers. It can also be quite humorous if you are not the one being called on.

NOTE: You should watch the 1973 movie "The Paper Chase" (which is an adaptation of the 1970 novel) in which a brilliant Harvard law professor uses the Socratic Method on his students. The movie shows how one particular law student deals with his teaching style. You should also consider reading Scott Turow’s autobiographical narrative entitled "One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School."

During the first year of law school, students will also slowly begin to learn how to "brief" cases in order to prepare for being called on in class and for self-study. Briefing a case means that the law student will have outlined the procedure, facts, issues, rationale, and outcome for the case. Law students grow in their competence and knowledge of the law by examining real cases and determining how the law applies to the given facts. This is where law students begin to think like lawyers.

Most schools also require students to take the same classes during the first year of law school. These classes form the building blocks of the law. Such first year classes generally include: torts, civil procedure, criminal law, contracts, property, constitutional law, criminal procedure, business associations, legal research and writing, evidence, ethics, and/or trusts and estates. Then, at the end of the grading term (i.e. semester or quarter), one final is given for each class. In other words, the student’s entire grade for one 16-week class comes down to one 3-4 hour exam. You can see why finals in law school can be a stressful time in the life of a law student!

Law schools often offer many extra-curricular activities, including Law Review, Moot Court, Trial Advocacy, and many different clubs and associations. Law schools usually offer some type of lecture series where they will bring in distinguished legal scholars, lawyers, judges, politicians, and others to stimulate thought and debate in the law school environment. Law school is the training ground to help you begin to think, question, and debate like a lawyer. All of these extra-curricular activities are designed to facilitate the development of your legal mind.

Once you’ve successfully completed all your law school classes and graduated, it becomes time to take the "Bar Exam." Next, we’ll look at what the "Bar Exam" is all about.