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How Long Does It Take to Complete Law School?

by Van Thompson, studioD

Unlike some other varieties of graduate school, law school follows a highly specific curriculum, with every student taking the same classes for the first year or so of their education. Thereafter, students can take electives, but because you can't choose a major in law school, you'll take the same number of electives as every other student. If you're a full-time law student, you'll graduate with your peers unless you fail a class or delay taking certain classes.

Full-Time Students

Most students enroll in law school on a full-time basis, taking around 15 hours -- or five classes -- per semester. If you follow this schedule, it will take you three years to graduate. You'll be able to select from several different times for large seminar classes, but electives and upper-level seminars and independent study courses may only be offered at a single time, so you'll need to ensure you check the availability of each course.

Part-Time Students

Some law schools offer a part-time program. You generally have to apply specifically to the part-time program. Part-time programs take four years on average, and some schools set minimum graduation requirements. At Stetson Law School, for example, students have to take 22 course hours within two years to be eligible to graduate, and must finish their program within six years.

Potential Complications

Although delayed graduation is less common in law school than it is while pursuing a bachelor's degree, you can still run into some complications. If you fail or drop a class, you'll have to make it up the following semester, which means you'll have to take more than 15 hours if you want to graduate on time. Many law school classes have prerequisites, so delaying one class could delay several others.


During your first year of law school, you'll take courses that give you a framework for legal reasoning and analysis, such as constitutional law, property, federal litigation, criminal law and torts. After you complete these courses, you'll be able to select a wide variety of electives based on your legal interests. Courses might includes classes in environmental law, advanced criminal litigation, advanced legal research and history of American law.

About the Author

Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.

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