27 Aug How long does law school take?
If you want to sit for the bar exam by year three or four, you need to start studying for the bar right away! Most bar study materials recommend taking a class in Legal Research and Writing so you can get some experience with legal documents. If you want to sit for the exam right after your first year, then you could take it.
#1 Year 1 (fall)
Contracts – Torts – Property
#2 Year 2 (fall)
Civil Procedure – Criminal Law – Legal Research & Writing
#3 Year 3 (spring)
None / Bar Study! As mentioned above, at most law schools that would mean graduating in three years, but it could be four or more years if you go part-time. That plan requires getting through three full courses each semester plus writing a research paper. You will need to figure out extra time for taking bar review classes, working part-time, etc.
#4 Year 4
Take the Bar! If you want to get some experience with legal research and writing, then you could take Legal Research & Writing your second semester. It is also a good idea to take Property during your first year as it will give you a good foundation for other property courses that aren’t in your schedule. What about study abroad? Depending on how much of a distraction studying abroad is, it can either help or hurt the timeline quite a bit (as well as cost money). If you are swapping between visiting different countries while trying to pass the bar that may not be feasible unless you have Lawyer superpowers. But if you layover it in a different country or only going for a couple of weeks, that should not be a problem.
#5 Year 5
If you could get through three courses each semester, then congratulations, you’ve graduated! If not, well, law school doesn’t take less time just because you’re slow (or busy studying abroad). The best way to know if you are going to be able to take the classes needed is by looking at your school’s Catalog and seeing what they offer.
What year does law school start?
If your class doesn’t start until September 2014, it will be very difficult to get through three courses taught in only 10 weeks. On the other hand, if they start in two weeks, there is a good chance that you can get through all six courses before summer vacation even starts.
What is the distribution of your graduate classes?
Some schools offer one course per semester and others expect you to take three or four classes each semester. Also, note that some schools have their fall semester and spring semester while others have two fall semesters. If schools offer classes in the summer, does the law school offer any courses, or is it just an optional study abroad opportunity?
What is required for graduation?
Some schools don’t care if you complete all six of your first-year classes before graduating, whereas other law schools expect students to complete all six courses before getting their diplomas. If a law school doesn’t let you graduate until you have taken a certain number of credit hours, it will likely be hard to get through three full courses in one semester and four classes in the other.
What are the course descriptions?
Some schools expect students to know how to properly research and write law school papers, while others just give you a packet of notes and tell you to do whatever. Knowing what kind of work is expected can help figure out if studying abroad will be a hindrance or benefit your learning (i.e., if there aren’t enough research skills taught in the first year, then studying abroad could teach that).
What is the content of your courses?
It can be difficult to make it through three courses if your classes cover topics like:
- a) Environmental Law – a subject that needs to be taken with other students who have similar interests and focuses (or so I have been told by professors).
- b) Health Law – another one you need to take with other students interested in the same health issues as you (because you will be sharing a lot of notes and having interesting discussions).
- c) Contracts – an interesting subject, but if it is taught by a professor who doesn’t like to lecture or doesn’t teach Contracts from scratch, then you may run into problems. In addition, some professors may have personality issues.
- d) Real Property – not a bad class to take, but if the professor is going over the same material from last year, or even worse, he won’t let you use your newly acquired study abroad knowledge, then it might be difficult.
- e) Torts – another interesting subject but only if you can understand what’s being said.
What is the workload for each class?
If you have to write a paper every week, it could be very difficult to keep up with your classes. On the other hand, if you only have to do a couple of work paragraphs over 3 weeks, even studying abroad might not be an issue.
If you have an idea as to which classes you want to take, but then find out that the school does not offer those courses until next year (or ever), there is not much that can be done. The easiest way around this dilemma is to get into a standard track program: 1L-2L-3L.
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