March 20, 2017

Law School vs. College

How law school classes differ from college classes. What law school classes are like. What to expect in a law school class |

This is for all you 0L readers out there who probably are in the middle of hearing back from the law schools that you applied to. I know that this is a stressful time, so hopefully if you already know what to expect and prepare for, this will be one less thing to worry about. I'm writing this post as a little reality check for all y'all wanting to come to law school because I always see future law students not really knowing what they're getting in to, and it upsets me. I see people who are super concerned and think that law school would make them too busy to even have a pet; so if you're one of those people, I hope this helps you see that you won't be that busy constantly. On the other side, I see people who have the "What, like it's hard?" attitude and as much as I love Legally Blonde, if you watch it closely it actually kinda is hard for Elle; so if you're one of those people, I hope this helps you see that you're not signing up for College 2.0.

Also, check out my What Class is Like post, 1L Day in the Life of a Law Student post, and 2L Day in the Life of a Law Student post for a more step-by-step review of what goes on every day.

Before your morning class 

College - You wake up like 15 minutes before class starts, throw on some Nike shorts and a comfy t shirt, throw your hair in a messy bun, and head to class. This is the extent of preparing for class. Your backpack has only your laptop in it and that's it. Honestly probably you show up a little late and sneak in to the back row.

Law School - You wake up several hours before your first class to get to school. You try to at least do your hair and makeup and look nice because you never know who important will be dropping by the school or if you'll have all of the class looking at you. You head to class with a backpack full with your laptop, folders, and books. Your books are probably too big to all fit in your backpack so you have to carry a few. 

During your morning class

College - Your laptop is set up to a split screen between Pinterest or Facebook, iMessage, and your note taking app. You just copy down the slides into your notes because you know that your professor only tests you over the slides. When scrolling on your computer gets boring and your friends aren't texting you back fast enough, you'll half-heartedly listen to your professor. It wouldn't be unsurprising if your professor just directly reads the slides to you and you're not hearing anything new since that's exactly what you just copied.

Law School - You've already read your casebook, highlighting as you go. You also probably have taken some pre-class notes about what you read so that just in case your professor calls on you, you'll be prepared. You add to your pre-class notes the notes from the slides. You also have to listen to your professor because he's likely adding more substance to what the slide says. 

Your professor puts up a practice problem, say on Evidence. From the facts given you know that the evidence would get in, so you eliminate the two options that say it wouldn't get in. The other two options saying it would get in both are equally as plausible to happen, so you just pick one that you think sounds good, but honestly you don't know. The professor asks everyone to raise their hand to vote for what they picked and most of the class chose what you chose. The answer is one that no one voted for and the whole class groans. The correct answer says that the evidence wouldn't get in and it's the right answer because the reasoning it gave was the "most correct." You possibly throw your pen down in frustration.


College - You meet up with your friends and spend an hour (or more) eating and chatting. You talk about the guys you're talking to and are already making plans for your next night out. If it's a long lunch, you might even leave campus.

Law School - Both of my law schools were small enough to have everyone have lunch at once. This means you might have a student organization meeting during this time, or a guest speaker might be at your school, or you have a "lunch and learn" where you get information about a program your school has while you eat. 

If there's nothing on your schedule, you can meet up with a classmate to eat. You and your friends likely spend all lunch talking about your classes. Or you might take this chance to start reading for your next class. If you get done preparing for one class and still have time before it starts, you get preparing for another class.

Before your afternoon class

College - You went home and napped and now your alarm is waking you to get back to campus. If it's a really pretty day or you just don't feel like going all the way back to campus, you skip it for some Netflix time because most college classes either don't take attendance or give you a ton of absences to use.

Law School - Again it's likely that you're spending this time reading, whether that's at home or at the school still. You wouldn't dream of skipping class for no reason like in college because class participation is super important. Also, your professors give you like 4 absences so it's not like you get a lot of opportunities to do so anyways.

During your afternoon class

College - If you ended up going to class, you again just sit there on your computer most of the time. If your professor asks a question about something you were assigned to read, everyone is quiet because no one read. There's a good chance that you don't even have the book. Sure your syllabus said to "read" before every class but that's more of a loose suggestion than something that anyone takes seriously.

Law School - If you're a 1L, you have all of the same people in your class as you had before. Even if you're a 2L or 3L it's super common to have the same people in your classes over and over again. If you get called on, you'll likely stand and tell your professor a summary of what you read the night before. Even though you can sit now, he'll continue to ask you questions about the reading. Then he might change the facts of the case that you just discussed and ask you what would be the holding in this hypothetical case. If your professor asks a question to the class, multiple hands shoot up and he'll go through a lot of them looking for the right answer. It takes several people because it's a tough question so the answer isn't that obvious.

After your last class

College - School is officially done for you now. You have nothing school related to worry about until tomorrow in your next class.

Law School - If you got all of your reading in today, then you are done for the day. More likely, you have a few hours in the evenings to do nothing but still will have to read anywhere from 50-100 pages before you go to sleep.

Before a test

College - You have a test about once a month. The test is almost always over the chapters that you covered from the last test until now. The test probably only counts for like 20% of your grade. You wait until the day or so before your test to even care about it. Then you and your friends all get a table together at the library for your all-nighter. Thanks to all of the energy drinks, you stay at the library for like 14 hours in a row studying the slides and your notes and you skim through the book to read the headings. It turns out okay that you waited until the last minute to study because the material was still fresh in your mind for the hour-long test so you get a good grade on it.

Law School - Most likely, you won't even have a test. If you do, it's only a midterm. You have been reading the book all along and paying attention in class so you're not learning any new information before this test. At this point you have no other grades in the class so you aren't even sure if you truly understand the material or just think you do. You ask around to your classmates and friends to see if anyone has taken this class with this professor, and if they have you ask for an outline and about what to expect on the test. You start studying at least a week in advance to work on memorizing case names and statutes. The test is multiple choice and essays and is 3 hours long. You miss several multiple choice questions because you chose a correct answer, but not the "most correct" answer. You end up with a C+ because several of your classmates just had a better essay answer.

Before a final

College - Your final is probably no more than 30% of your grade. It's also highly likely that it only covers the last chapters of your book. It's all multiple choice. You use the same last-minute study tactics as before and cram right before each final. When you're exhausted in the middle of the night, you calculate your grades so far and figure out that you only need an 82 on the final to get an A in the class, so you decide you know the material well enough for that grade to stop studying and sleep. The test was three hours long but only took you an hour and a half, and that's because you went back and double checked all of your answers. Two days after your test, you find out that you did indeed get an A on that test. You never see that professor again.

Law School - Your final is probably 99% of your grade. I say 99% even though the syllabus says 100% because that other 1% is made up from class participation and attendance. The test is cumulative and if anyone were to ask your professor what will be on the test, he'd just reply with "everything." You've been lightly reviewing your notes all semester, but you really start cranking it up the last month or so before the test. You have an outline covering everything you've learned so far that's long enough to be a short story. Now you spend more hours on the weekend studying so that you can do practice problems. You have mild panic attacks because your whole grade for your semester rides on this one test. And your grade for that test could be impacted by how well your classmates do, too, because of the curve. The test is 4 hours long and you furiously write about the issue, rule, analysis, and conclusions for every question. Your grammar and spelling are terrible, but it's okay as long as you're applying the law to the facts correctly. You finish with only ten minutes remaining. You get your grades back the day before Spring semester starts and luckily you got a B-. You go visit your professor's office hours and see where you could improve on, and if you like the professor, you sign up for another one of his classes hoping that now you can get a B or better since you know what he's looking for on a test. 

Final thoughts

Law students - if you read this I hope you went "yasss" that's what my life is like right now. If not, comment below and better explain it for all of my wide-eyed readers! College students - if you read this and thought OMG this is too hard, calm down. You know how now when you see high school kids talking about how hard their studying is and you think LOL just wait college is much harder? yeah that's what law students think about college. But if you can survive the adjustment from easy HS classes to college classes, then you can survive the adjustment again from easy-ish (in hindsight, I promise) college classes to harder law school classes. Just remember that the biggest difference with law school is now you're going to have to put in actual effort and really earn your grade.


  1. I will say this perfectly accurate minus the fact that most of my college classes gave us 1 or 2 absences or none at all (being a literature major can be rough)

    1. Thanks Victoria! I'm glad your experience is similar to mine! You're making me glad that I chose the major that I did because I definitely had my fair share of absences in college haha. Hope you have a great semester!