So, it appears that there are some people who have ignored my advice and are about to show up to law school anyway. Still more people never heard my advice from their pre-law advisor/philosophy major. Welcome to the suck.
Well, there’s nothing for it now. You’re in it now and if you have chosen poorly it’ll be years before you fully realize the gravity of your decision. In the meantime, what are you supposed to do now? Classes are starting and… hey, are you briefing a case? Are you briefing a freaking case before classes even start? Jesus. PUT THOSE HIGHLIGHTERS DOWN.
You’ve heard about “outlines,” right? Outlines allow you to copy other people’s work so you don’t have to do it yourself. This is the way of things. I say, cheating is the gift man gives himself.
It’s time for some tips…
1. Networking Starts Now.
One of your first stops on campus should be at your office of career services. Bring cupcakes. Those people are there to help you and asking for help is always easier when preceded by gifts. Tell them your hopes and dreams. If it’s a good OCS office, they will immediately tell you how stupid those dreams are and redirect you along more reasonable paths.
Every move you make in law school should be made with an eye towards the job market, and career services can help you navigate through those choices. You can’t rely on OCS to find you a job 3L year. You can expect for OCS to tell you what you need to do over the course of law school to put yourself in the best position to get a job you want. Make friends at OCS, you should be up in their faces quite a lot while you are in law school.
2. It’s A Marathon, Not A Sprint. Adopt Sustainable Study Habits.
The bottom of the curve at law school is littered with people who started off strong and then ran out of steam long before the end of the semester. Law school is not won by living in the library in September. The other problem with setting yourself on an unreasonable pace at the beginning of the semester is that you’ll lack confidence and feel unprepared when you aren’t able to keep it up through December.
Start off with what you can handle then add as the semester goes along. By finals, you’ll be studying as much as you can.
3. Choose Your Drugs Carefully.
The time for college experimentation is over. You are in professional school now, you should abuse your substances professionally. The choices you make now could influence the rest of your career, so make sure you choose something that you can “function” on.
I used to go so far as to pick one main drink for each semester. Kind of like establishing a control soluble that can dissolve other inputs in a known way. You don’t want to spend 3 months drinking gin and juice and then go on a tequila bender right before exams. Dance with the drug that brought you.
Also, for what it’s worth, 1L year is possibly the WORST POSSIBLE TIME to go on the wagon. Seriously man. Get your rehab in over the summer; 1L year is not the time to change your entire self-medication regime.
4. Here Is The Answer To Every Cold Call.
“I would say that the key holding is to [increase/decrease] the rights of [any name in the case heading] vis-à-vis the compelling interests of the [state/corporation].”
That might not be the “right” answer, but you’ve just put the ball back in the professor’s court. The professor will have to tell you that you are wrong or ask for more information. During that time, you can be furiously skimming the case synopsis in your book. From there, even if your initial 50/50 choices were dead wrong, you can recover with bulls**t. “Well, yes, I suppose you could say that the petitioners in Brown actually gained the rights to integrated schools. But is integration really a right? Couldn’t you argue that the petitioner lost the right to separate schools?” Just keep asking nonsensical questions until the professor leaves you alone.
5. Law School Is A Test Of Organization, Not Memorization.
Most law schools give open-book exams. For those playing along at home, that means everything you need to know is available to you during the exam.
Now, a good law school exam will test how you think, not what you know, and there’s nothing I can do to help you think better. But, to the extent that you need “facts” to support whatever lunatic ravings you want to spit onto an exam, understand that memorizing said facts is entirely unnecessary. Knowing where those facts are located and being able to find them under time pressure is where the game is played.
Do you need to know the difference between an easement and a covenant? Not hardly. Do you need to know where such rules are written down in your notes? Absolutely. The term “issue spotter” means just that. All you have to be able to do is spot the issues. You DON’T have to waste time studying how to answer those issues, that’s what your notes are for.
Remember, eight hour take-home exams are a GIFT. You can learn a lot in eight hours, as long as you’ve organized your material so that you know where to look.
6. Do Not Confuse Legal Writing With Normal Forms Of Human Communication.
The only “practical skill” you’ll learn in 1L year is your legal writing course. Learning how to write as a lawyer is one of the few things employers actually care about it.
It’s a ridiculous way to write. It’s a hedging, halting style — one where the rhetorical flow is broken up with useless asides and citations — that sacrifices clarity of prose for the pedantic inclusiveness of endless run-on sentences that, when taken holistically, convey nearly no information despite the general density of the language.
It’s also the way lawyers need to learn to write. Nobody is born writing that way. It has to be beaten into you. It will hurt. Leave your literature degrees at the door.
7. Do Not Kiss The Ass Of The Star Professor.
Sucking up to the star professor is like hitting on the prettiest girl at the bar. They have many suitors and you’ll get farther by showing the self-respect to not kiss their ass at all times.
Instead, you should be hitting on the slightly uglier friend. This always works. Giving attention to people who are living in somebody else’s shadow always works.
Find yourself a nice, tenured professor who doesn’t have an army sitting outside his or her office every weekday. Take an interest in their work. Then sit back and watch the recommendation letters roll in. And in the process, you’ve negged the hot chick/star professor. Life isn’t hard unless you make it that way.
8. You Only Have To Try For This One Year.
It’s okay if 1L year is a little overwhelming. Just remember that it’s the only year that matters. If you put in the effort 1L year, you’ll have a job lined up by Columbus Day of your 2L year. It’s Newtonian physics: put in the energy to establish a successful orbit, and once you get there you can let gravity do the rest.
Unless you want to get an Article III clerkship.
Good luck, 1Ls. Welcome to law school, and Above the Law.