Law school has never had a reputation for being easy or for being very fun for that matter. When I began performing my research for law school there were a lot of rumors floating around about what it would be like and how much I would dislike it. Let’s tackle one of those rumors here, do law students really not have any free time?
Law students do have free time, but that amount of free time varies law student to law student, and depends on how many obligations the law student has taken on and how well he or she manages time. Law students who are effective time managers can attend class and read during the semester in well under sixty hours a week, this leaves plenty of opportunity for free time.
As a law student, putting in sixty hours a week or less is something to be sought after if you want to have free time, but let’s take a deeper dive into how many hours does the average law student actually study. Let’s also look at what kind of social life you can expect to have as a law student.
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How many hours does the average law student study?
The amount of time the average law student studies varies by the year in law school. The average 1L law student should study approximately 30-40 hours weekly. Average study time decreases after 1L year, by the Spring semester of 3L year most students put no more than 20 hours a week into study.
How many hours do 1Ls study for?
1L year will require the most significant investment toward performing your readings and studying for exams. Most students at my school averaged around thirty hours a week studying, but there was significant variation on the tails. Some students study for significantly more than this and never leave the library. 1Ls read the most because they are learning how to read and dissect the law, not necessarily because they are being assigned more readings than 2Ls and 3Ls.
Law school advisers typically recommend that 1Ls study at least two hours for every hour they are in class. The typical 1L will have 15 credit hours both semesters, so going by the 2:1 rule the typical 1L should study for at least 30 hours a week.
How many hours do 2Ls study for?
The average 2L will spend significantly less time studying than they did 1L year. Most 2Ls spend no more than 30 hours a week studying, but this additional free time is typically consumed by additional commitments that most 2Ls take on.
By the beginning of 2L year most law students have developed significant reading analysis skills which makes them more adept at reading casebooks and sifting lengthy and complex cases quickly for important information. The typical 2L is also swamped their Fall Semester with internships, journal, job applications, and other activities that consume a lot of time.
2L year is often the the law school year that is termed “worked to death”. Maintaining regular study hours while also keeping up with a variety of extracurricular activities makes 2L year a more time-consuming year than 1L, and consequentially 2Ls often have less free time.
How many hours do 3Ls study for?
The average 3L will spend the least amount of time studying in law school. Most 3Ls will spend no more than 25 hours a week studying, but many spend less than 20. Study hours vary 3L year depending on the individual’s class schedule and how much he or she frontloaded the more difficult classes 2L year.
The commitment to studying has all but disappeared for most law students by their 3L year. 3L law students either know where they will be working post-law school or they are furiously sending applications to post-grad employers. Internships become far more important than keeping up with readings for 3L law students.
For most law students, 3L year is where you will have the most free time. 3Ls are mainly concerned with completing graduation requirements, completing the MPRE, and finding a job. Studying is pretty far down the list.
3L year is by far the lightest for most law students in terms of study hours, and many soon-to-be graduates take advantage of this by utilizing their free time to explore things outside of law school.
Do law students have a social life?
We have learned that law students do have some free time during their law school career. Whether you are a 1L or a 3L you will have some free time to pursue other things if you manage your time wisely. This raises a related question, do law students have enough free time to have some semblance of a social life?
Most law students are able to maintain a diminished social life throughout law school. Many law schools offer a number of extracurricular activities, weekly “bar reviews”, and happy hours so that law students can unwind and get to know each other.
The social life in law school certainly does not compete with the experience many students had in college, however, you should have enough free time to enjoy a limited social life. The most important thing to keep in mind is that law students must be efficient in their time management if they are to maximize their free time.
That being said, most law students cut back their relationships significantly during 1L year. There simply is not enough time available to keep up with everyone.
In this article we learned that law school is not as scary as many people make it out to be. Law students do have some free time regardless of what year in law school they are. Your free time will largely depend on how effectively you can manage your study time. Effective time managers tend to have a lot more free time during the week and they are less likely to burn out.
We also learned that most law students are able to maintain some semblance of a social life. In fact, socializing is encouraged and many law schools offer fun activities like weekly bar review so law students can unwind.