Saturday, May 14, 2011

Law School 101: Dead Week & Finals

First, let me say that I'm so happy to be back!

In honor of my absence last week, I'd like to tell you a little bit about the law-school finals experience.  I knew nothing about finals before I began law school so I thought I'd share what every law student across the country is going through right now.

[Disclaimer:  This post is more for informative than entertaining in nature, although I still hope you enjoy it.]

Dead Week

During the semester, students sit through each course with essentially no feedback.  There are no homework assignments.  There are no quizzes or midterms.  There is, however, a lot of assigned reading (which I'll post about in the future).

One week before finals begin, classes end.  This leaves a one week gap known to law students as dead week.

Although I'm uncertain how dead week got its name I can only assume it has something to do with the fact that every law student you see looks like this.

Or, possibly even this.

Dead week is the week where each student is essentially dead to the world.  We cram.  We stress.  We complain.  We study.  We outline.  We read.  We pull out our hair.  We cry.  Basically, we realize we're screwed.

Finals Week

After dead week ends, finals week begins.  Now, our finals week actually lasts two weeks.  

Lucky for me, I had three finals in one week so I'm free a "week early."  [Note the slight sarcasm, as there's nothing lucky about having three exams on three subjects tested heavily on The Bar within a five-day period.]

To me, finals week is more exhausting than dead week.  It's the week I don't see my family or my bed.  I'm always mentally and emotionally overwhelmed, and no matter how many times I go through it, I feel like the worst mother ever.  (Gotta love those mommy guilt-trips.)

The one blog post I did manage to make last week was merely this photo to let all of you know I was still alive.  Yes, this photo accurately depicts finals week.

Studying even got in the way of eating last week.  [Fun Fact:  I realized Friday night (the evening I finished my last final) that I hadn't even eaten meat in one week.  Pathetic.]

The Exams

So what are the exams like?  I suppose I read about 300-500 pages of textbook material per course each semester consisting mainly of case law, statutory law, and secondary law.  Law-school exams are designed to extract this information from the student in a relevant manner.  

The most common type of law-school exam is the essay exam in which the professor will write out a hypothetical situation dealing with the type of law studied in the course.  Generally, the professor will give a few pages of "facts" and then ask you (without using this wording of course) to basically apply what you were supposed to learn all semester to the facts given to you just as you would if this situation described happened in real life and you were the attorney working on the case. 

And, although I've described the prototypical law-school exam to you above, each professor, of course, will have their own style: some give you two essays; others prefer mostly short answer.  I've even had two multiple-choice exams.

But no matter what the exam type, once time begins the goal is is the same--over the course of the next three to four hours (depending on the time limit) show the professor that you know the law.  

Once you do that, you're finished with the course.  You're happy to have survived and that's it.  

Although, after exams are finished the next stage of fun begins: waiting to find out grades, top paper distribution, and class rank (which I'll post on soon.)

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