840e wrote:For those who have already done 1L at Wash U, what was the most unanticipated hard thing about 1L? Obviously it is going to be a lot of work, lot of reading, exams are going to be hell, figuring out 1L summer work is going to be tough...
And on the flip side, any unexpected good surprises?
many thanks for all the help and insight that is provided on this board!
The hardest part about law school is realizing that law exams/grades aren't designed to mean much of anything. They're an incredibly crude, unsophisticated, and poorly-designed instrument and your grades are, for most people, pretty random. There are a few people who have the ability to beat the odds on the exams...if you're a left-brained incredibly smart person that has insane typing speed, you have the chance to do well.
The problem with law school exams is that the legal issues and "problems" are solvable by about 80% of the class...yet the professors are forced to curve them and only hand out a few top grades, etc. So your grade reflects very little about your ability to analyze legal issues or the work you put into the class. If you give a bunch of super-smart people an easy problem, they're all going to get it basically correct. But since there is a forced curve, the teachers have to differentiate the A's from the rest of the pack based on something.
Figuring out what that "something" is is the big mystery about law school. Many of the professors won't tell you, and many of them don't even know. But because of this, your grade turns not on your skill in analysis, but on petty little things that make the teachers excited (and the fact that you get points for writing things the teachers like, but most professors don't take off points if you say something totally irrelevant).
I got my highest grade in 1L from the class I hated the most and studied the least for. All I did was bring in a bunch of handouts distributed in class and pretty much copied straight from them onto my exam...I didn't even try to answer the question honestly. But I got a great grade.
In my favorite class...the one I studied for more than all my other classes combined, I got a median grade. My answer looked basically like the model answer, except the model answer used twice as many words as I did in arriving at the answer.
Moral of the story: don't take grades personally. If you can ace law exams, that's great...and you should definitely use that to your advantage. If you can't, just remember that law exams don't really mean much. They don't measure any skills that might make you a good lawyer.
It's ironic and seemingly irrational that top firms care so much about grades that you get on a 3-hour typing race at the end of the semester that looks nothing like the practice of law. But it makes sense when you realize that billing out an Associate Attorney's hours when they graduated from the top of the class is simply a marketing opportunity, and nothing more. They don't even care whether you're a good lawyer or not...all they care about is their ability to bill you out at a higher rate, and "cum laude" after your name allows them to do that.
It's also frustrating when you realize that law school is not designed to teach you anything at all. People learn from feedback, trial, and error. You simply don't get that in law school. You can meet with your professor after your exams to ask them how to do better, but most professors don't even know what to tell you or why you got the grade that they did. So you never really learn any skills. With all the money you fork over, you'd think you'd get more one-on-one tutelage, but then you realize the truth: law school is simply a horrendous hazing ritual preventing lilly-livered people from entering the profession.
If I were to do it over again, I'd ignore all my black letter law classes and focus completely on legal writing and legal research, because even though those courses only make up 5 credits combined for your entire 1L year, they're the only classes in law school that actually teach you how to be a lawyer.