Managing your workload and professional opportunities at CLS

Hi everyone, it’s Rishi (LLB and JD Double Degree Program) again! In this month’s post, I will be covering class material, TAs and professional opportunities.

The view from the overhead bridge connecting the law school to the main Columbia campus
The view from the overhead bridge connecting the law school to the main Columbia campus

Class Material and TAs

Law school in the US follows a semester system meaning that your classes change every semester. This means that as Christmas approaches, it also means that your exams are coming. November is a busy time as people buckle down to catch up on readings, writing their papers and outlining (making notes for their exams).

Exams here are mostly open-book – but don’t be deceived, from what I heard, that doesn’t make it any easier. Based on my experience thus far, I feel I have covered what would have normally been a year’s worth of material in the UK within the space of five months. The volume of material and the fact that there aren’t tutorials per se makes the process marginally more challenging.

However, what I have found very useful in this process are TA Sessions. A TA is a teaching assistant and each class usually has one or more. The TA will hold weekly or bi-weekly sessions where they will glean through the material covered in class and this allows you to raise any doubts you may have. The TAs are 2Ls or 3Ls and are always ready to give you advice about anything from the course itself to any doubts or questions you may have about law school.  I would say that based on my 15-credit semester, I roughly have 16-18 hours of class per week including TA sessions. To be completely honest, this took a while to adjust to but you eventually get used to the large amount of contact time with professors/TAs.

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What a typical CLS Lecture Theatre/Classroom looks like (this was 10 minutes before class so don’t be mistaken about class attendance) and yes, blackboards are being used!

 Professional Opportunities

As with London, I think one of the best parts about being in a city that is a financial and legal center is the professional opportunities available. There are always talks, conferences and networking opportunities available even for law students. For example, Columbia Law School has around five talks/presentations per day by lawyers, judges and academics, organized by the different societies at CLS. (It’s a bonus that free lunch is almost always provided at these talks). The talks range in topics from racial justice advocacy, to “how to start-up”, or even “corruption in soccer.” There is really something for everyone.

Aside from talks at CLS, I was lucky enough to attend an external conference that was held at Fordham Law School in October – the International Law Weekend 2017. Personally, I have a strong interest in public international law and the theme of the conference was enough of a draw for me to register. There were talks by practitioners and academics from across the US and internationally across two days. For example, one of the panels speaking on the role of customary international law in challenging times involved Sir Michael Wood, Special Rapporteur for the formation of customary international law at the UN International Law Commission. I was fortunate enough to be judged by Sir Michael in the UK Finals of the Jessup moot court competition earlier this year, and it was a privilege to hear him speak across the pond on a topic that he is an expert in.

Talk on Customary International law at International Law Weekend held in Fordham Law School
Talk on Customary International law at International Law Weekend held in Fordham Law School

As always, please feel free to email me at rishikeesh.wijaya@kcl.ac.uk if there is anything in particular that you would like me to cover or if you have any questions. I understand applications for the double degree program are also due soon so please feel free to ask me any questions about that too!


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