For those of you who haven’t picked this up elsewhere on the website, our law school runs on a quarter system that includes three academic quarters a year (during the summer “quarter” our students generally work to gain experience in various legal fields). Students typically take four courses per quarter, although the credit requirements allow most students to take fewer than four during one or two quarters. Students often pick the first quarter of their second year (when they are interviewing with law firms and/or jumping into work for the student run journals) or the last quarter of their third year (when they just want to graduate and be done!) as three-class quarters.
Pros So what will the quarter system mean to you if you come to law school here? Two huge pros: 1) You ease into exams during your first year; and 2) You get to take many more classes than at a semester-based program.
Easing Into Exams Your first year, your class schedule is set for you. Some of your first year classes will cover one quarter, others will cover two. In your first quarter, you will have two one-quarter classes and two two-quarter classes. So at the end of your first quarter, you only take two exams – in the one-quarter classes - which account for only 6 of the year’s 40 credits. Let’s face it, law school exams are stressful, they are probably different from any other exams you’ve ever taken, but what could ease the stress better than only requiring you to take two during your first exam period? After your second quarter, you will again only take two exams – although these will be exams for two two-quarter classes, and will count for 12 of the year’s 40 credits. So the pressure ramps up a bit – but by then you’ve been through one round of exams and learned a lot about how to study for and take them. Of course, nobody likes the end of the third quarter – when you take two one-quarter exams and two two-quarter exams – but trust me, nothing bonds a 1L class better than making it through Spring Quarter of your 1L year. And wouldn't you rather deal with the stress of four exams at the end of your third quarter, rather than at the end of your first semester?
More Courses The other major advantage of the quarter system is that you get to take more classes. Taking 12 classes a year rather than 8 gives you the opportunity to throw in some really interesting courses, along with a broad basic legal curriculum. For example, even though I had no intention of doing IP law, I took IP courses from Professor Lichtman just because I thought he was a great prof. I also took some cool seminars on Health Law and Higher Education Law, and courses on Women's Legal History, just because they interested me. This was in addition to a full complement of Evidence, Trial Advocacy, Class Actions, Conflicts of Laws, etc. etc. that I thought would prepare me for practice as a litigator. (In hindsight, because most of my clients ended up being corporations, I wished I had taken Corporations, Secured Transactions and Bankruptcy, but that's a subject for another day . . .)
Cons And the cons? Some prospective students worry that our quarter system will cause problems when they look for summer jobs, because our Spring quarter ends later than other schools. But the employers who recruit our students are used to our schedule and are happy to accommodate our students in their summer programs -- the later start is pretty much a non-issue. I only really see one con to the quarter system – because you are taking more classes, you take more exams. For me, this was not a problem. I’m a last minute person, a friend of the all-nighter, and an exam period for me was a very intense one-week experience. I generally did the reading and went to classes all along during the quarter – then during reading period and exams, I would sleep very little, devote a day or two to each class, review my notes, make an outline, and go take the exam. I was actually glad that the material was broken up into three ten week blocks – less material to review and outline during each reading period. If, however, you are the type of person who likes to spend a month, rather than a day or two, preparing for each exam, you may feel like you are perpetually preparing for exams. So that’s the downside. In my view – and I think in the view of most of the students here – the pros far outweigh the cons. If you’re worried about it, however, put it on your list of questions to ask the students here when you come visit.