Yesterday the new class of "1Ls" started. They aren't called 1Ls, and in fact, because law school is an undergraduate course of study it might be better to call them "freshmen." In Germany they tend to label the class year based on when they started. For instance, while I call myself "Class of 2006" because that's when I graduate, they would call me "Class of 2003" because that's when I started.
The general course of study seems to be three years, each year consisting of three trimesters. They are also expected to do internships. One occurs between the first and second year, and I think they do another one as well. Then there's a fourth year, which seems to be designed for review and preparation for the first state exam. They take it during the beginning of the 5th year, which seems to involve a few take-home research papers and then an exam they sit for. After that they do two years of apprenticeship, where they rotate through positions with firms, judges, government, etc., and then they take another exam, which this time gauges their clinical skills. Once they pass the second exam, they can then practice law however they want, including by becoming judges. (Although apparently the more prestigious judicial positions may be more grade-dependant than others.) There seems to be some criticism that it takes so long to become lawyers, and there may be some momentum to perhaps reduce the length of the apprenticeship, but I have not heard anyone raise the objection that by devoting the entire undergraduate experience to the study of law that educational breadth may be compromised.
On the other hand, at a public university it may not be so much, as there are other courses that students may be available to take. However at Bucerius the other courses seem to be limited to language study (as opposed to math, science, history, etc.). Still, the Bucerius curriculum requires that students study abroad for the fall term of their third year at one of Bucerius's 72 partner law schools around the world. That's why there's such a developed program for the incoming students that come to Germany in exchange. We are welcome to take courses with the rest of the school, but because of the language barrier they offer us our own curriculum program of 12 courses to choose from. These courses are all ABA-approved for 2 units of credit each. Some home universities, like mine, only give 12 units of pass credit for courses taken. Others transfer the courses entirely, with the letter grades, and compute them into students' GPAs. There are also various non-credit lectures and extracurricular programs and activities that all Bucerius students are able to attend.
One thing that stands out about Bucerius in contrast with American law schools is exams. For one, exam grades can be appealed. Also, if an exam is not passed it can be taken again. This seems to be the case for a relatively large number of students, about 20%. Apparently they also used to be able to take it a third time, but this policy led to some students not bothering to sit for some exams the first time, and so the school changed it. But if they still don't pass, they don't get credit. And if they ultimately don't pass I think three courses then they can get kicked out. (I don't think the foreign students can retake their exams, however.)
The school building is well-landscaped and appointed. It sits next to a big botanical park and incorporates the ambient green in its large grassy inner yard. On nice days students can sit on Adirondack chairs on the lawn to study, and eat their meals on the outside patio. The school has a cafeteria, which offers cheap and sometimes tolerable food for lunch and dinner. (It does German food and potatoes really well, Asian food not so well.) There are commercial areas not too far away (towards Gaensemarkt in one direction, Dammtor Station in another, and the university in yet another) but not really conveniently close enough to run out for lunch so most people stay at school. Then inside the building, which was redone maybe 7 years ago or so, the classrooms are modernly furnished, with computers and sophisticated AV equipment. (However, I would prefer they trade the most advanced overhead projector for working white board markers...) The school, however, seems a little tight for holding the entire student body, which became particularly apparent yesterday when throngs of lost 1Ls clogged the halls. But it's also open 24/7 to accommodate students' study and Internet needs (there's wireless everywhere) and in the end feels like a comfortable place to live for the time one needs to spend here.