Going into law school can be a scary but exciting time of your life. There are so many amazing changes from previous schooling, but with that comes new challenges and expectations. A big transition of law school is just learning how to be a law student and make it through the difficult classes.
In order to assist you in some of these huge but exciting changes, I have come up with a list of questions that I had as an incoming 1L and answered them based off my own experience and research. Hopefully these answers will help create a more clear picture of what law school classes actually are so that you feel more prepared and comfortable when the time to start actually happens.
Is Attendance Mandatory?
The ABA has created standards for law schools to follow in regards to legal education. Thus, many universities have policies on regular attendance and require students to go to class. Some professors will deduct points for not attending class a certain amount of times. It is also important to attend class because you may miss important details that you might have glossed over when reading the case.
Do You Have To Participate In Class?
The short answer is yes. Long answer is that is technically up to you. Most professors require at least some participation in addition to regular attendance for grading/curve purposes. The converse is that professors typically make notes of who participates when and typically utilize this data for determining grade boosts.
What Is A Cold Call?
Ah, the dreaded cold call. Essentially, it is when a professor calls on you without your raising your hand (for the most part). They will ask you a range of things from what the case is about to your opinion on a hypothetical they posed. Each individual has their own method, but typically professors will either choose randomly from their class roster or randomly from their seating chart.
There’s Assigned Seating?
Most 1L professors do eventually ‘assign’ seats. However it is all based on your choice of seat. The professor will pass around a seating chart a few class periods into the semester so you get to choose your seats. The reason behind a seating chart is that the professor can get to know all the students, especially since 1L lectures are typically bigger than most law classes.
What Are The Lectures Like?
Like undergraduate or graduate school, each professor has their own way of teaching the material. Most classes are conducted through the socratic method. This means that professors will play ‘devil’s advocate’ and try to tease out the answer by a series of questions or fact patterns. This usually involves the whole class in order to get to the point about the rule of law. This method is utilized by a series of ‘hypos’.
What Is A Hypo?
A hypo is the abbreviation of a hypothetical question. It is a question in order to get you thinking about the principle of law you are discussing. Usually, it is a variance of the original case in order to test the rule that you transpose to see if the rule still applies in that situation.
How Should I Prepare For Class?
READ THE CASES. Even if you do not understand them fully (which you most likely will not your first year), you need to make sure you actually read the cases. Normally I take notes while reading before class and then supplement/annotate them as we discuss them in class. You can also utilize legal databases like LexisNexis or WestLaw to further understand the key points of the case.
What Is The Homework Like?
Most, if not all, of your homework will be reading assignments. Typically, professors assign anywhere between 20-50 pages of reading for each class period. You will also have a writing class, so you will have some writing assignments, but are usually only a couple per semester.
What Happens If I Get Behind?
Sometimes it is easy to get behind in classes. It is really important that you make a good faith effort on all your assignments. Professors understand that life happens, so you can always talk to them if you are struggling to keep up.
Any Other Advice About Classes?
Stay calm, you can do it! I am not going to lie, it is hard work and your first year is very consistent in the amount of work you have to do. However, you can do it as long as you stay focused and work hard. Surround yourself with a good support system to help you get through it and take each week one step at a time.
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