ari20dal7 wrote:I haven't posted here in forever, but I just finished my last 1L final yesterday and thought I owed the community a little bit of advice for the help I got. I think I'll just say a little bit and follow it up with a few bullet points.
Law school is not difficult in substance. I went to UCLA, which is an OK school and is pretty well regarded. If you're going to upper T14, maybe it will be harder for you. It was not hard for me. The reason it was not hard is that law school is a process. It rewards a very narrow skill set and provides no incentive to learn much at all. To do well in 1L classes (legal writing aside), you need to know how to do three things: briefly summarize a rule, type fast, and make arguments on the fly. That's it. You also need to figure out what your prof's G-spot is so that you can work it into your argument somehow. Knowing detailed fact patterns is useless. Memorizing details for fear of Socratic embarrassment is useless. Trying to put together a comprehensive two hundred page outline is useless. If you cannot fit all the law you need to know in a particular area (for example, acceptance in contracts) into two pages, this is probably because you do not understand the law in that area.
I did not learn all of this the hard way. I am lazy and do not like law school. I think the people are fine, but it's not my set at all. Therefore, I spent as little time at the law school as possible, probably studying about an hour a day five days a week on average. I went to about half of my classes. I got great grades (so far) and have no reason to expect that will not continue. Why do I tell you this? I tell you this because for most of us, whatever's going on at law school has very little to do with what we want to get out of it. How many of you are seriously interested in the philosophical implications of easements? How many of you really care about the difference between strict liability tort regimes and negligence-based regimes? Almost none of you, and if you don't know what those words mean, thanks for proving the point. Most of us care about getting good grades and good (read: well paying) jobs. Some of us have an interest that we hope to explore in law school, an interest that will consume fifteen percent of our time in class at best. A few of us actually want to help people. But Socratic methods and pointless briefing serves none of those objectives. Read the essay on "How to Succeed in Law School" on this site and, if you're not going to a really, really good school, cut out the bit about the hornbooks. Do not fall into the trap. If you're at something other than T6 and you're working ten hours a day, you're working four times too much.
Now, I should of course qualify this: your mileage may vary. You may read a little more slowly and need some more time. You may really care about the law, in which case feel free to knock yourself out. But I've seen nothing in a full year at what purports to be a good school that would indicate that the standard experience should vary all that much. If you do what's in that essay or even a scaled back version of it, you will win the dumbest game in graduate school. I should caution you: if you absolutely must finish #1 in the class, then do what's in that essay AND go crazy with the briefing. Just realize that the first 5% of your work will (presuming you know how to work) get you the first 90% of your results.
A few other random tips:
1) Watch out for the time suck. Law school will provide you with a deluge of stupidity designed to get you to spend every waking moment there. I found one thing I liked doing and did only that thing. Do not trick yourself into thinking "well, maybe I'll be interested in the drafting of contracts in widget law". If you want to do extracurricular thinking (as I do), whatever law school you consider will have a first rate university library. Use it. Read good books.
2) Avoid the temptation to talk about your own results. I guess there are a few people around TLS who know who I am, but most of them probably don't read this anymore. I've discussed my performance openly with only a couple of people here at the law school and only after I knew for sure that they were pretty straight up people who see the world in much the same way as I do. I think nothing is more pathetic than people who barely know you fishing for grades. Whether you got great grades or bad grades, act like you've been there before. You'll be less stressed.
3) Realize that, like it or not, the stupidity of your classmates serves your goals and the intelligence of your classmates is at best neutral. Don't go out of your way to work with everyone and form study groups. If you want to, then do it, I guess. But think about it this way: if you basically do the same thing as everyone else, you'll get basically the same results. In an awful economy, are you interested in putting your grades on the roulette wheel? Are you interested in hoping that the prof likes your IRAC better than the one that's exactly identical from the girl across the aisle? I wouldn't be. Learn how to summarize and type fast.
4) There are really a lot of things to like about law school. If you do it right, you'll have lots of time to pursue your own interests and people will assume you're busy. Great combination, if you ask me. I've met some really nice people and I haven't met a single person I dislike (very much). Don't waste what will probably be your last chance to read good books and watch more basketball than any reasonable person could stomach.
5) If you spend a lot of time, spend it on your memos. These are the thing where more time really does improve results. If your legal writing class is pass/fail, then who cares?
One last thing: I just read this and it sounds pretty arrogant and mean. That's not the intent. The intent is just to try and help many of you to see what I saw: the law school experience does nothing for you other than give you the ability to take a BarBri class and a set of credentials.
Also, if you have any questions, I'll be happy to answer.
He gives useful info for those not in the T6. Can anyone verify that this information is still reasonable for the T6? It would make me feel better.