If you have ever had a conversation with a law student, or have ever had to choose an attorney, you might have noticed that potential lawyers have a variety of extracurricular activities in which they can participate while in law school. Clinics, Law Review, Moot Court, clubs, they each provide different experiences for the aspiring attorney but are often a foreign language to many people outside of the legal community.
My goal here is to give brief and fair descriptions of a few of the more common law school activities. I hope you will find this helpful the next time a law student is droning on about how difficult law school is, or if you find yourself in need of an attorney and come across some of these activities on an attorney’s website.
(Moot Court and Law Review are discussed first. As these are often regarded as two of the most prestigious activities, their descriptions are a bit longer than the others. Any estimations as to what commitments each activity might require are solely based upon my recollection of said activities when I was involved and might no longer be fully accurate).
Moot Court refers to a series of teams compiled of law students that essentially go through the performance of a fake trial for competition’s sake. One way you could think of it is that if going to trial as an actual attorney is war, then moot court would be aspiring soldiers in boot camp going through a war exercise with paintball guns. Also, there would be a competition to see which team is best. Same strategies and actions, just safer in that real lives are not at stake.
Each Law School might have a number of different Moot Court teams, some competing at the “trial level” (think about movies in which a case is tried before a jury) and some competing at the “appellate level” (which would be more like arguing before the Supreme Court – two or more attorneys arguing in front of and answering questions posed by a number of judges). Additionally, different Moot Court teams might focus on different areas of law (while one might handle a case about the environment, another might handle a case about homicide).
The time commitments can vary depending upon which team a law student is accepted onto, but it would be very common for moot court teams to practice 3-5 times a week, for perhaps around 3-4 hours per practice. This does not include time spent preparing outside of practice, nor days spent at competition.
LAW REVIEW & OTHER LAW JOURNALS
Law Review and other law journals are scholarly legal publications that law students edit, compile, and often to which they contribute. A College of Law’s Law Review is probably that Law School’s oldest and most prestigious scholarly publication while other law journals might have sprung up to write about different areas of law (for example, one Law School might have the Law Review, another Journal on Business Law, and yet another Journal on Death Penalty Litigation).
Depending upon which Law School you attend, a law student will have to “write on,” “grade on,” or a combination of both. If it is Law Review where the student has to write on, the student can look forward to spending countless hours the summer after their first year of law school passing tests, doing research, and writing to prove that they have what it takes to make it on Law Review. On the other hand, if it is a Law Review where students have to grade on, only the students with the top grades will be extended invitations (a much more efficient way of choosing new Law Review editors, but a common criticism is that having a high grade does not ensure that such students would be the best lawyers or Law Review editors).
A student attempting to write onto a Law Review can expect it to be the equivalent of a full-time job the summer they are writing on with perhaps around 20 hours a week on average afterwards (this is only a very rough estimate) – other law journals are often less demanding, with different journals requiring different commitments.
Many Law Schools these days have one or more clinics to allow law students to gain practical experience. While Moot Court and Law Review are regarded by many as the most prestigious Law School activities, many would argue that a law student participating in a Clinic is the best practical experience a law student can get for being an actual attorney.
Again, time commitments and what type of cases are handled often vary from Clinic to Clinic. For example, an Advocacy Clinic might allow students to take on actual cases in court under the supervision of experienced attorneys while a Mediation Clinic might allow students to sit down and try to mediate between two parties (mediation being an alternative to court where a mediator works with opposing parties to attempt to solve their disagreements outside of Court). A law student in Clinic might expect to spend 15-25 hours a week on this activity (though some Clinics require more work and some require less).
Another activity that many argue is a great way for a law student to prepare for being an attorney is to just get a job with an attorney or a judge, often referred to as “clerking” or getting a “clerkship.” Each clerkship varies depending upon who a law student works for – one student might only work 5 hours a week helping with divorce cases, while another might spend 20 hours a week in court with a judge and helping in any way he can. It could be said that some clerkships are probably more beneficial to the aspiring attorney than others, but students often talk about learning many things from their clerkship that they would not have otherwise learned solely from classes.
A Legal Fraternity is often a law student’s introduction to membership in a professional organization. In many ways very different from the type of fraternity many think about when they think of undergraduate fraternities, a Legal Fraternity can be an amazing way to network and build connections with others in the legal field. Members can be fortunate enough to make connections with attorneys throughout the United States while being involved and helping out in their local area. A law student will usually spend as little or as much time as they want participating in a legal fraternity, but often it is the case that a student will get out of it what he or she puts into it. There should be something for everybody to enjoy – events ranging from social events to trial teams, charity work to conventions.
A club in law school is a group of students who share a common interest in an area of law coming together to further that interest. While clubs might focus on different things (Family Law vs. Criminal Defense), each will often have leadership roles available and events to attend.
Hopefully you have found this helpful and will come back to this as a reference guide the next time you need a quick reminder what a certain law school activity is.
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