Saturday, January 1, 2011

How Hard Was First Semester Law School Compared to Grad School?

How hard were the classes in grad school compared to law school? Well, as I’ve mentioned earlier, no one concept in the first semester of law was terribly difficult to understand. However, since there was no homework in law school, it is easy to lull oneself into a false sense of security thinking one understands the material. A couple of concepts that I had to look over long and hard in civpro were the Erie Doctrine and if a case arose under a federal statute in a civil case (well-pleaded complaint), for example in Mottley or Smith v. Kansas City Title and Trust Co.

Property seemed to jump all over the place from one subject to another from gifts, adverse possession, estates & future interests, landlord/tenants, ownership in common to easements and covenants. The only common denominator was obviously these topics concerned property. Property lacked continuity. Civpro had continuity and a thread throughout the subject.

Civpro also had a structure and form that lends itself to better understanding for those who like to compartmentalize information. In some ways, it was like a math or science course, except in math or science we didn’t have essays on our exams. Estates and future interests in property had a mathematical precision and logic to it. Like a math course, that is not a topic one should cram for in exam preparation.

The sum total of all the info in law school first semester made things a little tougher compared to grad school. In law school, all of the classes were hard. In grad school, only one or two classes per semester were hard. In grad school, we had weed-out courses. It separated the men from the boys. It also cut short a few students’ time in grad school. Physical Organic Chemistry was one of those courses. Even for organic chemists, that class was hard, but for analytical or inorganic people that course was a ball-breaker. There were several topics that stopped me dead in my tracks, mainly electrocyclic reactions. Kinetics and thermodynamics came in a close second. I had to spend many long and lonely afternoons staring at the book trying to ‘get it.’ What was ironic about my first semester was how hard Physical Organic Chemistry was compared to plain ol’ Physical Chemistry!

Synthetic organic chemistry was probably the second hardest course I took. Our text was almost as thick as a casebook and we had to learn the whole damned thing. Yes, there is a lot of memorization. People who don’t like organic chemistry tend to poopoo organic by saying “Oh, it’s just a bunch of memorization.” However there is quite of bit of understanding. We have to understand mechanisms, biochemistry, physical chemistry and analytical chemistry to have a grasp at organic.

So, when someone asks me what is harder, law or grad school, a pat answer is not appropriate. There were topics in organic that are hard so hard to understand that one has to stare at the book for hours on end at just a few pages to get a grasp on it. But the volume of work in law school adds up and weighs you down.

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