Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Oh, sweetheart, you don't need law school. Law school is for people who are boring and ugly and serious.
I know there are millions of "Pre-L" bloggers running around out there gearing up to start the Law School Challenge next year. stag has asked the all-wise Fitz-Hume for advice, and he has provided in spades. In the spirit of co-operation, I add my $.02. These opinions are my own and may conflict with other advice you are given. It may not be right for you, but it was right for me. If it seems like crap to you, then it probably is. I make no warranty that following any or all of this advice will land you a seat on the SCOTUS, but if it does, I expect you to acknowledge me in your autobiography - unless you're a huge judicial activist, in which case you should acknowledge me by my other pen name, "Feddie."
- Fitz mentioned studying smart, but it's important enough to mention twice. Everyone does outlines the first semester and no one does them by the 6th - there's a reason for that. After your first year you've begun to learn what is important and what is not. What you need to do is to figure out how YOU best learn things - especially come exam time. Personally, I typed my notes out a couple of weeks out making my big outline (usually between 30-50 pages) and then a couple of days out I began condensing to 2 or 3 pages. Unlike Fitz and many others, I never used professional outlines, because I needed that link between the notes, the class, and the professor's lecture to keep it all straight. I did, however, use "nutshells" (usually reading them 24 hours before the exam) because I liked a separate narrative explanation of the law. I only used flash cards for contracts (I don't know why), but I completely relied on them in prepping for the bar. Note: This is how I learned. Everyone will tell you how they learn/study - what his or her plan is - ignore these people and do it your way, be it in groups, alone, in the library, or at home.
- Definitely get away from law students when you can. This took me a year or so to learn myself. I became . . . involved with another student and it nearly fried me in more ways than one. By 3rd year I was spending most of my time with non-students. At the same time, try to discover who the good law students are and get to know them. I was successful in getting to know some fantastic people and failed in the sense that I missed knowing others as well as I would like to have.
- Don't listen to gunners. Don't be a gunner.
- Don't be afraid to look stupid in class. Everyone will at some point.
- Realize that, unlike college, your classmates are likely as smart as you. You are competing with them in a way, but there is no need to be competitive. Many of them will goof off or whatever and leave the door open for a conscientious student to do well.
- Get in the habit of always reading for class (before socializing in the evening, if possible) and going to every class.
- Don't take gut classes. You're in law school to learn, so learn. Never be afraid to take a class because it looks interesting.
- Don't begin your exam outline until around Thanksgiving. You don't know enough your first month to effectively outline.
- I know Fitz says don't take classes for the bar, but I do wish I'd taken Secured Transactions.
- If you plan to do any litigating, take Evidence and realize that Civil Procedure may be the most important class in law school.
- Take naps.
- Your first semester is by far the most important. That's not to say that if you have a bad one you're sunk - I know people who recovered nicely - it's just to say that it's not the time to screw around. Save that for 3rd year.
- Try to do something - be it a journal, a clinic, or moot court.
- Utilize every advantage to find a job - friends, professors, family members, the computer, and, if absolutely necessary, career services.
- Don't freak out at test time. Stress is just as big a killer as lack of knowledge. Some of my best grades where in classes that I thought I failed.
- Get to know your professors. They are usually witty, intelligent individuals who have an amazing ability to write recommendation letters.
- It never hurts to think early and often about your job prospects and plan what you want to do.
- If you are fortunate enough to do well your first year, do not sign up for every job interview that comes on campus (if that's even possible). Limit your job search to places and positions you would consider taking. Many interviews you take will result in taking a chance away from someone else. If you are just interviewing for "practice," you could be damaging a classmate with lower grade's chance at shining and landing a gig.
- If you do get interviews, relax and be yourself. The best interviews I have had on the prospect side of the table were the ones I approached like the interviewer and I were old friends sitting at a bar (without the liquid benefits, of course). Lawyers, as a whole, are a sociable bunch, especially litigators. I've learned from being on the other side of the desk that a good personality goes a long way. Firms love good grades, etc., but interviewing lawyers want to work with people they like. One of my classmates had average grades, but he landed a job with a top national firm because he cornered an interviewer after a day of off-campus interviews (he didn't even get picked to interview) and dazzled the guy with his personality. So relax, be enthusiastic, and kill.
- When all else fails, alcohol is your friend.
- Remember: C = J.D. Few people fail out of law school. Even if you are dead last in your class, you will be able to take the bar. As a friend of mine told me before law school: A students = nerds who have to take teaching jobs; B students = successful lawyers; C students = those who have to take chances, win big, and retire early and rich.
- Finally, there will be times where you hate law school. There will be times where you wonder what you were thinking paying money to put up with this crap. Always remember that law school is life, not preparation for life. It is three years where you don't have to worry about crappy clients, obnoxious bosses, project deadlines (for the most part), and the usual stress and B.S. associated with the "real world." Enjoy this time, because you won't be this unburdened until they hand you a gold watch in another 40 years.
Centinel 8:27 AM #