LSAT Kung Fu Blog / Semester 2, Week 17: The Law School Time Commitment

Semester 2, Week 17: The Law School Time Commitment

The End is Near

I'm not certain we've conveyed the proper tone with this image.

Well, I wish I had used a more automated system for tracking my time this semester. I mean, like a spreadsheet. Instead I just kept notes like a dummy, which means I just spent several minutes adding up numbers in my head (faster than retyping them into a spreadsheet).

But enough about how big a dummy I am. Cut me some slack, man, is what I’m saying.

We spent 15 weeks in classes this semester at Mavis Staples (plus two weeks of finals, which I’ll deal with separately at the end, and one week of spring break, which I’ve totally ignored for reporting purposes here).

Over those 15 weeks, I spent 169 hours in class. I missed a few classes this term; mostly while doing Mock Trial, but also one snow day and a random other class or two. Here, I am not recording all the hours that I was scheduled to be in class, but only the hours that my butt was actually in a seat. 

And over those 15 weeks, I spent 62 hours reading in preparation for class. Here, I counted only time that I spent reading casebooks or doing other preparation for normal classes. In other words, this represents my total time commitment to class preparation. It’s my study time allotment.

Lastly, everything else I did for law school accounted for 132.5 hours over those 15 weeks. This “other” category included many, many hours preparing for Mock Trial (I didn’t break it down specifically, but looking at the dates, probably 1/3 to 1/2 of that time was Mock Trial prep). It also included time I spent writing briefs and memos for my Legal Writing class (I debated where to put those hours, and decided it was more interesting to me to know how many hours I had spent reading, instead of how many hours I spent doing any other kind of class work), and hours I spent preparing for a debate I did on gun control, and writing a scholarship application (lots of law firms sponsor scholarships, usually between $1,000 and $2,500. I don’t apply for those. But there was one for $10,000 that I felt was worth the roughly 8 hours I spent putting together the application and concomitant brief (they’ll announce a winner in June, I think)), doing some research on trans rights in Mavis Staples County for one of my professors (that was (nominally) paid work), and whatever other odd things I got up to. 

So, I did this project because one of the biggest questions I had before I started law school was how much time I would have to commit to it, and it was a question nobody seemed able to answer. Now I have a good answer (for me. I am not claiming that these numbers will be a good representation of how much time you will spend law schooling. But it would have been helpful to me if people had been able to tell me how much time they spent doing it. So that’s what I’m doing for you. If you think that you are a faster and more efficient reader than I am, you can make a downward adjustment to your anticipated reading time commitment. If you think you’ll spend less time on extracurricular stuff, you can adjust likewise).

During my second semester, on average, I spent 11.26 hours sitting in class every week.

On average, I spent 4 hours reading for those classes every week.

On average, I spent 8.83 hours every week dong other law-school-related work.

Over those 15 weeks, there were 30 Saturdays and Sundays. I did some kind of law school work on 5 of those days (I tried to reserve weekends completely for my family. I got close).

For most of those 15 weeks, I spent 39 hours each week on campus (thanks to a TERRIBLE schedule that had me in my first class at 9 AM and my second class beginning at 2:30. Good grief. Although, in fairness, part of the problem is that we bought our house long before we thought about law school, and I have a 35-40-minute commute. If I lived much closer, I wouldn’t have spent so much dead time on campus. You know, would’ve gone home for lunch, like). During those 39 hours each week, I spent an average of 24 doing all the stuff I’ve described, and another 15 hours each week (three hours a day) doing other stuff. A lot of that was just dead time: leaving a class, getting a cup of coffee, sitting in quiet for 2 minutes, then getting organized to start studying/writing/whatever can easily swallow 20 minutes during which you haven’t really done anything. But there were also a lot of days (particularly toward the end of the semester) when I’d have hours of dead time. I hated our schedule, is what I’m saying.

Oh, one other thing: I did not record the hours I spent in meetings. I wish I had, but I can say I likely averaged two lunchtime meetings per week, for about an hour each. I have been moderately to extensively involved in campus activities. So I really probably spent closer to 26 hours a week out of the 39 I was at school.

Finally, Finals: as I wrote last week, I love our finals schedule. Two full days between each final means that since the end of classes, I’ve essentially been on a near-vacation. I’ve spent 27 hours studying over the two weeks of finals (5 hours for Contracts; 6 hours for Civ Pro; 12 hours for Property (Property was INTENSE. There was enough material there for two full classes!); and 4 hours for Torts). Except for one 8-hour day prepping Property, I’ve worked for 2-3 hours every day since classes ended, either studying or else taking a final. It’s great! I’d much rather have it spread out like this (two weeks for 4 tests!) than compacted.

To sum up, for me, law school has been like a full-time job, but with a light work load. The intellectual work has been rewardingly challenging. But I spent 8 to 10 hours a day on campus most days, while only working 5 or 6 of those hours. I obviously can’t promise you that your experience will be just like mine. But maybe this will help you envision what the experience might be like, if you make appropriate adjustments for your personal family commitments, study habits, affinity for classwork, extracurricular activities, etc.

And that, as they say, is that. Tomorrow I take the last final of my 1L year. It was a blur, and it was intense, and I’m honestly enjoying it. I’ll probably take next week off from the blog, and maybe the week after that, too, and when I return, I’ll start telling you what my summer job is like.