In this short article, I'll briefly describe what studying law in the United States actually entails, and how this may be different from legal education in other countries.
First of all, studying law means completing a graduate program—typically lasting three years—at a law school, at the end of which one earns a “Juris Doctor” degree (J.D.). This differs significantly from some other countries, which allow individuals to begin studying law immediately after high school. In the United States, a bachelor's degree is necessary to attend law school.
Studying law in the United States means learning what’s referred to as the “Common Law” system. In this system, which has historical roots in the British legal tradition, judges play a significant role in making law. This is why studying law in the United States does not prepare many people for practicing law in their home country, since much of what they learn would not apply.
Many law schools use a technique called the "Socratic method." In the Socratic method, the professor selects a student and asks a question, allows the student to respond, and then challenges the student's response with additional probing questions. The purpose of this method is to train students in formulating strong arguments and defending them — an important skill in the practice of law.
The primary requirements for applying to law school in the United States include a bachelor’s degree and a score on the standardized LSAT (Law School Admission Test) exam. If English is not the applicant's first language, he or she must also take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language).
Selecting a law school and preparing an application can be a challenging process, especially for international students. Each law school has its own policy regarding international students, and many impose limits on the number they will accept each year. However, the challenge can be more than worth the effort, as a legal degree from an American law school can be a springboard to a fantastic career.
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