A Typical Law School Outline

A career as a lawyer has been a hallmark of prestige for generations. Lawyers are among the highest paid professionals in the legal field, with some lawyers earning million dollar incomes. While this is not the norm for a lawyer, the potential is there. There is also an immense intellectual satisfaction with being a lawyer. This career choice is not for everyone and it isn't always an easy road to travel. One should understand what to expect from a law school program. We will cover one law school program in this article, covering requirements prior to admittance and what to expect from the curriculum.

We are going to cover the University of Chicago's law program. According to Dean Michael Schill, the University of Chicago's law program is internationally recognized as uniquely committed to the world of ideas. It is your ideas that matter at UC's law school, regardless of whether you are liberal or a conservative, a humanist or an economist.

Prior to applying for their J.D. Program you will need to have an undergraduate degree and have taken the LSAT. Most law schools are looking for a high LSAT score, rather than your previous GPA and activities. Juris doctor, or doctor of Jurisprudence is a three year law program that prepares students to pass the bar exam and become lawyers. The only state that does not require a J.D. degree to practice law is California. Students must be in residence for nine full quarters, maintain satisfactory grades, and complete 105 course hours, to receive a J.D. degree at the University of Chicago. Students must complete a course in professional responsibility and they must also receive credit for two principle pieces of writing beyond the required writing in their first-year course in Legal Research and Writing.

With the exception of the professional responsibility course, all courses are electives after the first year. All students must take one or more of the skills courses or clinics provided in the list approved by the Law School's Committee on Professional Skills Development. The skills courses and the professional responsibility course must be taken prior to graduation in order to meet requirements set by the Accreditation Committee of the American Bar Association. So to summarize, students must have the following requirements to graduate:

  • Full-Time for 9 Quarters
  • 9 Credits Minimum Per Quarter
  • 105 Credits Total
  • 1 Writing Project (WP)
  • 1 Principle Research Paper (SRP)
  • 1 Professional Skills Course
  • 1 Professional Responsibility/Ethics Course

Students at the University of Chicago may continue to pursue higher degrees such as LL.M., M. Comp.L., J.S.D. or D.Comp.L. degrees.

At Stanford University's law program, the first year of law school introduces students to legal reasoning, legal institutions, and case analysis, with an emphasis on the close analysis of judicial decisions. Second and third year students are encouraged to follow an academic curriculum customized to their individual interests. The following link is for Stanford's second and third year course offerings, http://www.law.stanford.edu/courses/2nd-3rd-year-programs. So as you can see they are similar to the University of Chicago with mostly electives in the 2nd and 3rd years.

Most ABA-approved law schools have a similar approach when it comes to training students to become lawyers. Many emphasize particular teaching methods, placement in legal internships for academic credit or using legal or government resources of surrounding communities. Other schools have developed specialized programs of instruction, combining law with other disciplines such as international relations, business, public administration, science or technology. So, knowing your own interests within the law is important when choosing a law school.