What’s It Like To Attend Law School Online?
I knew I wanted to go to law school for some time. I received my bachelors and masters degree online and I liked the experience, so I wanted to see what options were available for law school. I have a preference for online learning. So, I looked around and choose a school. I did not need to take the LSAT (at least not the full test) but still needed to be evaluated before I began. I was accepted and then I began to get nervous.
One thing that was drilled into everyone attending the school was that this was not going to be like regular school. The learning method was different. For some, this was going to be their first experience online, so they might need to work on their computer skills. I work on a computer every day and attended school online already, so I just worried about the actual learning. Then it was time to get the books. One good thing about online learning is that no one can see the faces that you make when you see the price of everything. After the initial sticker shock, I ordered books and went through some of the preliminary work that was available before school actually started. This was a way to get familiar with the classroom.
Attending law school online was very similar to attending my other schools. The type of learning was different because there was more reflection and personal learning than the bachelors or masters degree. This is due in part to the fact that although there are laws, everything is not cut and dried. There is the possibility for two people to look at the same facts in a different way. When they both give their analysis, they can both be right. This concept is difficult for some people to grasp. These concepts are not something that you memorize and repeat for a test. You need to understand the mechanics of how things work so that you can take that knowledge and apply it to different situations.
In law school you are given cases that you read, and you brief the case. This means that you develop a summary of facts, laws and the decisions that were described in each of the cases. Additionally, you can add analysis of why you feel the case concluded as it did. None of these are graded or handed in; they are for your own information. It is from this information that you develop your definitions. Yes, you are shown what elements are needed for each crime (for the most part), but you develop how you put the information together. Each case does not cover every element. Several cases are needed to give you a general overview of the crime.
My first year classes were Criminal Law, Contracts, and Torts. Additionally, there was a class dedicated to developing your writing skills. Each week I attended one lecture, but I needed to do work for every class. There was a syllabus to follow and the lecture did not necessarily coincide with what you were presently reading for the class. Different from other law schools, the one I attended had tests and written assignments to help you gauge how well you were learning the material as you were going along.
Basically, as with my other schools, attending law school online meant that you needed to budget your time to make sure you finished the reading and that you found additional learning to understand the concepts that were being presented. Additionally, you were encouraged to ask questions and there was the opportunity to join various societies and study groups if you desired.
When attending law school online, as with the school that I chose, students need to take an exam after the first year to prove that they understand the concepts that were presented. When you take this exam and pass it, then you are considered (by any school) to have completed one year of study.
Law school is not for the faint of heart, and online law school is not for the student who thinks they are going to be able to get it all done “at the last minute”. Seriously, there is no “at the last minute” with law school (online or otherwise). There is a lot of reading, a lot of writing and a lot of anxiety. Well, I guess for some people there might not be a lot of anxiety, but it is difficult to look at situations and realize that there could be several analyses that could fit the fact pattern. There is self doubt that creeps in after you take some tests or speak in class (through chat in the lecture) about concepts and realize that you have no idea what you are actually talking about. On the other hand, what a challenge and opportunity for growth!
I like this model of learning. Law school or otherwise, I am just a fan of online learning. I can attend class anywhere (because it is on the computer) and if any changes happen in my life (I moved during my masters degree), my life is not as disrupted nor is school. I don’t need to change schools; I just take it with me. I did move between classes though.
So, what is it like to attend law school online? It is one nerve-wracking, exhilarating, frustrating, exciting, anxiety-ridden heck of a ride!
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About Catherine M