Schröder attended school from 1950 to 1958. Afterward he completed an apprenticeship in retail sales at a convenience store in the small town of Lemgo. On account of his family’s poverty, his mother could not afford to pay school fees, and he was unable to complete high school. Undeterred, Schröder took advantage of the adult education courses offered by the state. In 1962 he moved to the college town of Göttingen, where he earned his diploma at night school while working days at a hardware store. In 1966 he passed the Abitur exam after attending an institute of continuing education in Bielefeld, formally qualifying himself for university education. At the age of 22 Schröder entered law school at the University of Göttingen. He paid for his studies with the money he received as a scholarship student of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and by working at construction sites. He completed the first state examination in 1971. His thesis examined the subject of Berufsverbote, the controversial practice of disqualifying individuals from certain professions due to their political convictions. Afterward he clerked for a private law firm and the Hanover district court. In 1976, he passed the second state examination, thus earning his license to practice law. He joined a law firm in Hanover, and then in 1978 started his own practice.