Carnegie Mellon University

Exploring Law School

If after your exploration of careers in law your interest in law remains strong, or grows even stronger, the next step is to learn more about law schools and the law school experience.

The law school experience is very different from college in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons.

Unlike many undergraduate programs, law school is a professional training experience with one primary objective: training lawyers. 

The professional orientation of law school is reflected in the similarity of curricula at different law schools, as well as in the attitudes of most law students. At least during the first year of law school, most law students will take the same set of courses and work to master the same set of fundamental legal skills and then pursue more specialized course work and training in the second and third years.

Since students are studying the same materials and seeking to master the same skills, they often find in law school a heightened sense of competition. 

Law schools seek to teach their students to "think like lawyers," so the first year is usually devoted to a process of re-education. The "Socratic method" remains the traditional method for this re-education process, involving rapidly paced question-and-answer classroom experiences that are designed to teach students how to analyze and synthesize into a coherent framework the court cases that comprise the raw materials of common law.

Students are challenged to think critically and precisely and to articulate their ideas with clarity and conviction. There are also strong emphases on the essential skills of legal research, preparation of legal memoranda, briefs and opinions and oral advocacy. 

Most law schools also offer seminars and "clinical" courses that enable students to pursue specialized interests or to perform legal tasks under supervision.

Ways to Explore

You have several options available to you to explore the law school experience including:

  • Arranging an informational interview with one or more law students
  • Shadowing a law student for a day
  • Visiting law schools and sitting in on law school classes
  • Attend law school fairs
  • Consider pre-law programs (many in the summer) that illustrate law school pedagogy