Education & Reference / How Many Years is Law School

How Many Years is Law School

In 1998 in the U.S. there were about 220 higher (public or private) law schools – colleges within the universities or independently functioning law schools or colleges. The total of 181 law schools is officially recognized now. American Bar Association (ABA) Organization (on the authority of the U.S. Department of Education does the official recognition of the legal institution. It maintains a list of requirements that a law school must follow. Among these requirements there is the presence of a certain contingent of qualified teachers, suitable and comfortable facilities for studying, a minimum budget, the minimum quantitative and thematic educational, reference and regulatory publications in the library, the availability of certain curricula, etc.

Law schools are not listed as an officially recognized are usually small private law schools, aimed at students from the local community or evening education. These colleges are distinguished from the officially recognized by lower quality of their education, and their certificates entitle the graduate to apply for admission to practice law only in certain states.

In the U.S. there has been developed a unique system of education so that higher education is in two stages. Secondary education begins at the age of six and continues for 12 years. Then a young man can get a general higher education in college. At the end of college studying (3-4 years) a student receives a graduate degree "Bachelor of Arts." Higher professional (vocational) education is get in special schools or colleges, universities, only after the general education college. Thus, for admission to law school a diploma of general college education is usually a prerequisite.

There are no exams to a law school; they are replaceв by the LSAT1 and GPA2. The assessment of a student during his studying at the college is also taken into consideration. Competition for admission to law schools is quite high - about 130,000 people for 40 000 place (in the officially recognized law schools); the competition for elite universities is up to 40 people per place.

How Many Years is Law School?

In 1997/98 academic year the officially recognized law schools had an enrollment of about 131 800 students. Duration of studying is generally three years. The mandatory educational disciplines are studied only in the freshman year, they usually refer to the contract, property, tort, criminal and administrative law, legal profession, legal philosophy, etc. In the second and third year of education there are no compulsory subjects, however, it is set a certain minimum number, which the student should examine. It is also established a mandatory minimum number of hours per week.

The method of teaching in law schools is based primarily on an analysis of precedents and decisions of the appellate courts, legislative, administrative and legal stuff is involved because it helps the analysis of precedent. The main aspect of legal education is developing of the analytical abilities of the student, rather than memorization of the regulatory texts. Hence there is the virtual absence of lectures; the teaching hour is converted into an active teacher interview with an audience of students (the so-called Socratic Method). The seminars are the most intensive in this sense. Quite often, teachers are satisfied with hearing - a hypothetical or actual practice, during which students are required to fully reproduce the trial: to present and examine evidence, to state procedural motions, present arguments, etc. Usually a demonstrational trial is arranged after the first year of education (law schools are usually equipped with a courtroom).

Often during the studying of future lawyers practical classes are introduced. Actually, is the practice for junior positions in law firms and the lower courts.

Much attention is paid teaching the studying skills of independent research. A characteristic feature of major American law schools is a publication by students their own legal journals - "legal reviews". The editorial boards of these journals include the most successful students. The selection of articles for publication by professors and eminent jurists is made the students themselves.

Assessment of the students is based solely on the written (and often extracurricular) exam. Examination paper is submitted anonymously, and estimated by the alphabetic system (A – is the highest score, B - is somewhat lower C – is even lower, D - is equivalent to "unsatisfactory") or by the system "passed - not passed." The assessment is made only by a teacher.

At the end of studying, the graduate work must be written, and after that a student receives a diploma and a degree of "doctor of jurisprudence," which is necessary and sufficient for engaging in legal practice.

Those who wish to devote themselves to scientific and teaching activities can continue their education at the degree of "Master of Laws" (the year of studying with a special program with a presentation of the graduate work) or a higher degree of "Doctor of Law" (2-year studying and presentation of the corresponding graduate work). In 1994, in the U.S. the degree of "Master of Law" was got by 1788 students, and the degree "Doctor of Law" – by 46 students.

In many universities it is being practiced a program of individual studying at the same time in two special professional schools: after graduation a graduate receives two diplomas - "JD", and bachelor's or master's degree in another discipline (e.g. economics, business, political science).
  1. LSAT - The Law School Admission Test which is administered each year at designated testing centers.
  2. GPA - the realm of education and standardized measurements within a subject area.
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