T Nation

Law School


I want to go to law school when I finish undergrad. I was curious what law school is like - how much time spent in class, how much work outside class, typical assignments (busy work vs. independent reading), etc...



Don't go to law school, it makes you want to kill yourself.


Seriously, I want to hear from people who have gone and have something real to say about the experience


Maybe PM the dude (in all seriousness)? He IS in law school, he should be able to tell you exactly what its like.


true, but he doesn't seem to like it much


maybe that should tell you something, and that its over-subcribed - like anything there is a tv show about, like vampires and guidos


I can only speak with second hand news. About 10 people that I went to college with are now lawyers. Not one of them has ever said they love what they do. Not during school and not after. Most just put up with it because they figure they'll make bank when they finally get a job, and for the most part, they sort of do.

It's a tough road from what I hear and not one with many qualifiers of job satisfaction (I feel like that linked thread talked about alcholism, this could contribute, who knows). So I would say be sure that you really have a passion for it and try to work at a firm before you commit to get a better idea of what you're getting yourself into.


I went to an Ivy law school. Briefly:

  1. Statistically, the LSAT is a very good measure of how good you will do in law school, and, interestingly, how likely you are to like being a lawyer. If you don't do well on it, chose something else.

  2. Law schools are generally taught using the Socratic method, then a test at the end. Typically one test.

  3. Go watch the "Paper Chase" --- pretty fair movie about law school. It's from the 1970s, I think.

  4. The Socratic Method, for those that don't know, is when you sit in long tables with the professor down in the well of the class. Think old English movies with the doctor at the bottom doing surgery.) The professor basically asks questions and everyone mocks people who fuck up. If you can't take the occassional public humiliation, chose another profession.

  5. I actually didn't give a shit about public humiliation, and prepared for the test and got openly mocked and didn't care. Remember, it's about the test.

  6. There is tons of reading. Tons. It's old cases. The goal is for you to figure out how to think like a lawyer. It works.

  7. If you don't graduate at the top of your class and get in Law Review, jobs will be scarce. That's the top 10%. The exceptions to this are certain Ivy schools, but even then, you need to be in the top 25%. Yes, I was in the top 10%. I graduated No. 6 of several hundred, to be exact.

  8. I work a lot. Six days typically. 8 to 8. I travel to exoctic locals, like Saudi Arabia, Moroco, and UAE, which is just such a joy for an Orthodox Jewish guy.

  9. I make high six figures, sometimes 7 figures.

  10. I like what I do. I meet important people. I do important things. I change lives and get people working and making money.

  11. I drink too much as part of my job, which sucks when cutting. This is pretty much unavoidable, however. Clients pay you big money and expect cocktails, steak, and good wine.

  12. There are lots and lots of ex-lawyers who work in business because the skills you pick up as a lawyer. I do this to a degree, myself.


I'm a lawyer and I love what I do. But I'm damn lucky to have fallen in with good people and fun work. I don't make bank, and I took a huge paycut as a result of the recession, but I can pay most of my bills. :wink:

Don't go to law school if you think it's a way to get rich, or have a good job, or be happy, or have a nice life. Go to law school because you want to be a lawyer. And being a lawyer is nothing like they show on TV. You will spend a lot of your time staring at books or a computer screen, writing writing writing, and sometimes having to deal with real human beings.

I go to court a few times a month, but have only had one or two "real" courtroom type experiences.

Also, don't go to law school if you're going to have to take on a large debt load to do it. Scholarships, or a good state school in the state where you want to practice, or just forget about it. I know a lawyer in DC who was making under 50K at a private firm. The supply/demand curve is too fucked.

As for law school itself?

I'm a freak, I know, but I fucking loved it. I would go back in a second. I don't really have any close friends from high school or college because law school changes you so much. My closest friends are the folks I sat with 8-6 every day for three years, because they know what we all went through.

It is hard, no doubt. First year is brutal. All three years, at least on the days I had classes, I would generally get there around 8 and leave at 6, and do all my studying at school and between classes to avoid having to bring it home with me. Studying for finals, I would be in on weekends for at least half days. I didn't work 1L or 2L, and worked about 20 hours a week for the general counsel at a state agency during 3L.

Don't skip class.

There isn't really "busy" work, except maybe some stuff in 1L regarding research/drafting (but it is useful for when you get out). Most of the homework is "bust my ass so the prof doesn't bust my ass in class" work. Depending on the class, you will have an assignment of X pages in the case book to read. You'll want to take notes and be able to speak on the cases and what they mean. You might not get called on, but if you do and you're unprepared, you'll look like an idiot and some professors will ride you for that.

I suppose it's all busy work, since you can get away with not doing the homework and praying you don't get called on...

Some of the classes are harder than others, and some are pretty much useless (until you get to practicing and you start going "wtf was that rule in conflicts???").

I think I took around 12-14 hours a semester? I don't remember. Slightly less than I took in undergrad, where I took 15 or so a semester.

Anyway, law school teaches you how to take the class you need to take to pass the bar exam. It doesn't teach you shit about practicing law. And the LSAT is worthless for everything except getting into the right law school, so it is HYUOOGE.


Thanks Jewbacca. BTW awesome username. My dad is a lawyer, and he is as far away from the "law firms" as you could be. I've noticed that people with law degrees are valued in pretty much any profession, except maybe science/medicine.

I've worked at an insurance defense law firm before as a file clerk, but that's bitch work, and insurance defense is pretty lame...Either way, I like arguing, I can take a public beating, and I'm studying philosophy and rhetoric undergrad. How much of a time commitment was law school for you? I know that some people are different, but what would you say is average? How much time in class? HOw much time out of class reading/studying? Did you have a life during law school, or were you ALWAYS hitting the books? I appreciate the feedback



No money. And you answer to an insurance company. Run away.

Not as much of this happens as you think.

Switch to accounting, for G-d's sake. I had engineering and accounting.

Most law schools do not permit you to have an outside job your first year, if that helps. It's full time, far more than undergrad. Figure 8 to 8 either in class or studying.

Your first and second years, no life. The old saying is they scare you to death the first year, work you to death the second year, and bore you to death the third year.

You can have a life your third year, as you should have a job sewn up from paid clerkships the summer between second and third year.

Once you start working at a large firm, you have no life for the first 5 years or so.


You are worried about partying and having fun during law school. You should probably switch your major to marketing.


To throw in my 2 cents;

I am currently a first year at a smaller, but well regarded school. I am not in the top 10%, nor 25% and am not on law journal. What this means is that my marketability when I get out of school is low. This is the reality for most people in law school right now. The top 10% of the class means that generally around 10-15 people out of the class will get the "good jobs" and the rest do what ever they can to pay back the massive school debts you will incur if you go to law school. Just throwing that reality out there from the start.

L1 -your first year sucks, there is no nice way to put it. You are going into the minutia of legal writing, research and how to think like an attorney. You will score lower than you expect on midterms, and will leave your finals fully convinced your failed. You will wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night a week before your mid term memo or brief is due, because you forgot to include something.

Saturdays are now for sitting in the library and studying and you will still feel completely unprepared. Your friends and family will not understand why you are always busy with school. If you are married, or have a long term significant other there will be times you will not see that person for days, even if you sleep in the same bed.

On the other hand; classes are generally genuinely interesting and you will learn a lot. There is almost always a free lunch going on, people and organizations are happy to feed you. Most law schools are a lot like high school, with most of the people knowing each other fairly well, due to smaller class size. You will have the same classes with the same people everyday. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, and I will leave that to you.

Overall I would not change going to law school. It is challenging and you do not have much free time; but at the same time (I) gain(ed) a real sense of accomplishment. The job market is worrisome, unless you can get on full scholarship (like I did) and only want the J.D. to have the degree (like I do). Don't let anyone else talk you out of it, if you choose that law school is worth it; then go.


Just a warning - I know several acquaintances who have graduated top law schools who are struggling to get jobs these days. Now, by the time you graduate things could be much better or much worse.


None of my friends who graduated from law school in the last three years have jobs in the legal field. Several of their classmates are still waiting tables while they try to start up a private practice.


Pushmepullme- I really don't party at all, I just have a lot of responsibilites at the moment. I like to live an active life (lifting, jogging, whatever) and wonder if people can keep up with hobbies. I don't drink or do drugs, so that's not an issue, but I kinda want to get a feel for what the school experience is like.

I worked at that insurance defense firm before starting college as an intern mostly, and really didn't like that side of the law. Very bland and boring.. But yeah, I hear you guys on the hard work. AND I'm not worrying about jobs yet. I understand that a JD isn't a magic bullet into getting a job, but I also know that it's better to have one than not. And I like law, so why not...


Dont be a pussy, it makes you want to kill yourself.

A good law school is tough, its not for mediocre people, its for people who want to be better.


I'm going to a HYS law school at the moment, and I would say that the information on this thread thus far is pretty decent. I don't have much to add other than to generally endorse it.

I will say that I would never go to a law school unless it was either a) free or b) in the top 7 or so in the country.