What you wish you had known before law school...

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
Life2good893
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What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby Life2good893 » Sat Jan 24, 2015 5:11 am

So as a future law student, I've spent so much time focusing on admissions that I'm only beginning to get nervous about the actual law school experience.

I was wondering what people wish they had known before they started law school- what tips people have, the sage advice, etc, etc. Did reality meet your expectations or is/was law school totally different?

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

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Clearly
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby Clearly » Sat Jan 24, 2015 8:37 am

The distinction between grades is absurdly close, abstract/unpredictable, and frustrating.
It's in some ways not as bad as people make it out to be, and in others its worse.
Many people can handle 19 pro bono groups and still whoop your ass at law school because they're better organized or just overall better individuals.
Admitting only the brightest most qualified kids, then curving them so half have to be below median results in expected and accentuated dramatic outbursts.
Don't save practice exams till the end, spread them out so you know how to structure your learning throughout the course.
Don't expect to outwork your peers... you won't.
Cop the good outlines early and use them.
Pay attention to class. What you learn from a book is great, but As come from who can tell the professor what he wants to hear, and that is him/herself.
Every class has someone that puts their hand up too much. If it doesn't seem that way, bad news, that person is you.
Stay open to everyone. My best friends are the LAST people I would have expected at the start.
Office hours, if you have questions take them there.
Don't over-extend yourself, pro bono groups will still be there once you settle in.
Pick electives wisely, esp before 2L. Don't follow the gunners into the trap classes to prove anything, take the grades.
Last edited by Clearly on Sat Jan 24, 2015 9:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

Fed_Atty
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby Fed_Atty » Sat Jan 24, 2015 9:31 am

It's not nearly as big of a deal as people make it out to be. Go to class, listen and you will do fine.

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xylocarp
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby xylocarp » Sat Jan 24, 2015 10:41 am

you might find some parts of this thread helpful viewtopic.php?f=3&t=19378

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banjo
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby banjo » Sat Jan 24, 2015 11:48 am

I'm surprised how much I like law school, even as an almost-jaded 2L. I'm still learning a ton. It's too bad actual practice is probably going to make me depressed/suicidal.

03282016
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[s][/s]

Postby 03282016 » Sat Jan 24, 2015 11:49 am

Last edited by 03282016 on Mon Mar 28, 2016 7:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PeanutsNJam
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby PeanutsNJam » Sat Jan 24, 2015 4:21 pm

Clearly wrote:Many people can handle 19 pro bono groups and still whoop your ass at law school because they're better organized or just overall better individuals.
Admitting only the brightest most qualified kids, then curving them so half have to be below median results in expected and accentuated dramatic outbursts.
Don't expect to outwork your peers... you won't.


Are these things true outside T14? I'm surprised there hasn't been a "I wish I knew not to go to law school" yet.

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pancakes3
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby pancakes3 » Sat Jan 24, 2015 4:32 pm

PeanutsNJam wrote:
Clearly wrote:Many people can handle 19 pro bono groups and still whoop your ass at law school because they're better organized or just overall better individuals.
Admitting only the brightest most qualified kids, then curving them so half have to be below median results in expected and accentuated dramatic outbursts.
Don't expect to outwork your peers... you won't.


Are these things true outside T14? I'm surprised there hasn't been a "I wish I knew not to go to law school" yet.


Why wouldn't it be true? With respect to working hard, it's the same 24 hrs for everyone. With respect to other people just being plain smarter... bell curve is bell curve.

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romothesavior
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby romothesavior » Sat Jan 24, 2015 6:13 pm

Take time off.

If I could go back in time and do one thing it would be to take time off, work, and travel before law school.

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BmoreOrLess
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby BmoreOrLess » Sun Jan 25, 2015 3:57 am

No matter what your professor tells you, take a look at their exams fairly early to get an idea of what it's going to be like. E.g., if it's short answer, probably (but not necessarily) will look for stuff taken directly from class, where as giant issue spotters (again probably, but not necessarily) may have less to do with specifics from class, and more about overall trends. At least that's my take-away based on what I did well with and what I fucked up this semester.

Oh, and a small thing that's a pain in my ass right now: Get your references (or at least some) in order long before you start your job hunt.

AReasonableMan
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby AReasonableMan » Sun Jan 25, 2015 11:35 am

wish i knew the intracacies of how job interviewing worked at the callback stage, and that grades are important but not omnipotent. i also wish i knew how little value readingg for class had so i could've not bought the books. wikipedia and an e&e are perfectly sufficient.

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2807
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby 2807 » Sun Jan 25, 2015 11:46 am

Do not underestimate the value of practice tests and talking with your professor about your practice results.

Law grades are based on your exam writing, so practice it.

It is similar to a study of cars...
--You can take classes on engines, brakes, steering, inertia, historical development, accident avoidance, and blahblahblah
--And... you can know all of that material inside and out ! You are a car genius.

But the exam..?
Is a driving test.

You better practice driving.

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ballcaps
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby ballcaps » Sun Jan 25, 2015 12:02 pm

tag.

thanks for the input, everyone.

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BizBro
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby BizBro » Sun Jan 25, 2015 12:48 pm

AReasonableMan wrote:wish i knew the intracacies of how job interviewing worked at the callback stage, and that grades are important but not omnipotent. i also wish i knew how little value readingg for class had so i could've not bought the books. wikipedia and an e&e are perfectly sufficient.


For 1L too?

TheNextAmendment
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby TheNextAmendment » Sun Jan 25, 2015 1:35 pm

What I wish I knew:
-Good grades, enough sleep, or a social life. Pick 1.
-1L grades are the only grades that matter. Your legal career depends on 8 (or 10) exams.
-The legal profession is obsessed with prestige; employers will only be impressed if you attend a T10 or are top 5% of your class.
-$200k+ in debt is a lot of money. At 21 it is hard to actually fathom how much money this is, so I wish I spent more time actually dwelling on it.
-Law school journals (LR aside) require very little work from staff editors. They are the epitome of a "resume item."
-It is okay to drink alone. In fact, most law students do on a regular basis.
-You will gain a lot of weight or lose a lot of weight.
-Professors are brilliant, but the administration as a whole is inept.
-Exam proctors are homeless people.
-Law school is a really enjoyable experience. Despite the opportunity costs, stress, and debt, you will spend your days learning fascinating things alongside fascinating people.

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twenty
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby twenty » Sun Jan 25, 2015 3:56 pm

I wish I'd known that TLS was ridiculously helpful in some regards, and ridiculously unhelpful in others.

I got eight hours of sleep every night, even during finals season. I had a social life, got to spend time with the girlfriend, did a lot of pro-bono shit, and even held onto my old job in a part time capacity. I ended up with very good grades my first semester, but I could have just as easily gotten really terrible grades or top 1% grades contingent upon some minor tweaks during exams. People on this site need to take "retake" more seriously - not just the people being told to retake the LSAT, but the people telling others to retake the LSAT as well. Your success or failure in law school almost entirely depends on decisions you make long before you set foot in a classroom.

I made a few "risky" bets early on in law school that paid off well. My "reading" looked like getting to class 15 minutes early and quickly skimming through the casebook so I wouldn't look like a complete ass if I got cold-called. Any class where the prof didn't cold call, I would do absolutely no reading. For those classes, I should have returned the books to the bookstore. I did no outlining. I regularly skipped class. I heavily relied on my professors' past exams for finals studying, and I wish I'd looked at them earlier in the year. I went to office hours to talk about college football and classical music. I am a sub-par student by every measure. I'm sure most of the people at my school are more intellectually capable than I am. The big difference in my attitude towards law school and my peers' attitude towards law school was that I knew from day one that 1) I wasn't going to get biglaw from a regional school, and 2) I made the choice to take a full ride for a reason.

The supplements I paged through were mostly a waste of time with the notable exceptions of Dressler on Crim, Glannon's Torts, and the CALI lessons which I browsed through occasionally when I felt like I wasn't getting something.

As far as exams go, the biggest mistake I made was not taking "what is your professor looking for?" more seriously. One professor couldn't care less about analysis/both sides of the issue, gave points for citing cases, and gave the class a 6 hour exam to be completed in two and a half. Another professor was the exact opposite. I came into law school believing there was a one-size-fits-all approach that I could take by reading a guide on TLS/Getting to Maybe. Big mistake.

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baal hadad
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby baal hadad » Sun Jan 25, 2015 4:01 pm

I would have known not to go to law skool

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BizBro
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby BizBro » Sun Jan 25, 2015 5:39 pm

twenty wrote:I wish I'd known that TLS was ridiculously helpful in some regards, and ridiculously unhelpful in others.

I got eight hours of sleep every night, even during finals season. I had a social life, got to spend time with the girlfriend, did a lot of pro-bono shit, and even held onto my old job in a part time capacity. I ended up with very good grades my first semester, but I could have just as easily gotten really terrible grades or top 1% grades contingent upon some minor tweaks during exams. People on this site need to take "retake" more seriously - not just the people being told to retake the LSAT, but the people telling others to retake the LSAT as well. Your success or failure in law school almost entirely depends on decisions you make long before you set foot in a classroom.

I made a few "risky" bets early on in law school that paid off well. My "reading" looked like getting to class 15 minutes early and quickly skimming through the casebook so I wouldn't look like a complete ass if I got cold-called. Any class where the prof didn't cold call, I would do absolutely no reading. For those classes, I should have returned the books to the bookstore. I did no outlining. I regularly skipped class. I heavily relied on my professors' past exams for finals studying, and I wish I'd looked at them earlier in the year. I went to office hours to talk about college football and classical music. I am a sub-par student by every measure. I'm sure most of the people at my school are more intellectually capable than I am. The big difference in my attitude towards law school and my peers' attitude towards law school was that I knew from day one that 1) I wasn't going to get biglaw from a regional school, and 2) I made the choice to take a full ride for a reason.

The supplements I paged through were mostly a waste of time with the notable exceptions of Dressler on Crim, Glannon's Torts, and the CALI lessons which I browsed through occasionally when I felt like I wasn't getting something.

As far as exams go, the biggest mistake I made was not taking "what is your professor looking for?" more seriously. One professor couldn't care less about analysis/both sides of the issue, gave points for citing cases, and gave the class a 6 hour exam to be completed in two and a half. Another professor was the exact opposite. I came into law school believing there was a one-size-fits-all approach that I could take by reading a guide on TLS/Getting to Maybe. Big mistake.



So how did you prep for finals? Use other's outline and just take practice exams? How do you supplement doing class readings? I feel like class readings are such a time suck.

AReasonableMan
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby AReasonableMan » Sun Jan 25, 2015 6:39 pm

BizBro wrote:
AReasonableMan wrote:wish i knew the intracacies of how job interviewing worked at the callback stage, and that grades are important but not omnipotent. i also wish i knew how little value readingg for class had so i could've not bought the books. wikipedia and an e&e are perfectly sufficient.


For 1L too?

Yeah. I think professors really only use textbooks because using a hornbook would look bad. While you obviously want to learn the way your professor teaches, this doesn't require reading cases. It is definitely important and useful to understand how cases are decided, and to understand the concept of briefing. But you really could get this out of doing it for one class for 2 weeks. Minute per minute reading cases is a bad investment. Also, books are expensive. Many people prioritize reading over taking practice tests, and this is really just crazy. It would be like if a quarterback prioritized watching game tape of vintage Brett Favre over playing a scrimmage the week of the superbowl. Obviously you get more information reading a case than reading a brief, but the questions should be (1) how much of this additional info will you be able to store and apply under pressure and (2) if you spent this time elsewhere - in an e&e, practice test, relaxing, socializing, exercising or sleeping would you final product be better?

rehbands
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby rehbands » Mon Jan 26, 2015 1:46 am

- Law school is great. I love it. I'm intellectually challenged and intellectually stimulated by the material. It's also nice that jobs are not a worry.
- Make sure jobs aren't a worry (or less of a worry). HYSCCN is the goal. Always retake and never take out more than 150k in loans under any circumstances.
- Cold calling is completely overrated. No one will remember if you mess up the dissent in Palsgraf or the procedural posture in Pennoyer.
- Great grades are definitely compatible with 7-8 hrs of sleep. As for social life, I was able to hang out with people, played sports pretty frequently, and occasionally got to the gym. This is possible even at SLS, which makes you take 4 doctrinal classes plus LRW first quarter. However, that was all before November. From November-exam time social life was non-existent.
- LISTEN TO YOUR PROFESSOR. I don't understand why people don't do this. Books/cases/supplements will get you 20% of the way there. 80% is what your professor says in class. Class is designed to highlight ambiguities/policy considerations in the doctrine. Class also MAKES YOU THINK about the material. I was blown away everyday in class by the questions that professors raised. You won't get this from a case book or a supplement. If you think about the material more often and more in depth on a regular basis, I guarantee that you'll do so on the exam as well.
- That being said, don't be a robot and swallow everything the prof says. You have to think about it. Reflect on the material and discussions, engage in intellectual debate with yourself and get to that next level shit that most people won't think about.
- Take notes by hand. Laptops will inevitably distract you. Don't kid yourself here.
- More review and less reading. I wish I had spent one day a week just reviewing/outlining the material from the past week. It would have made exam week much less stressful. However, this probably means spending less time reading the cases in detail. On an exam, no one gives a shit about each minute fact and the procedural posture or even all the courts reasonings. Pay attention to the holding, the rule, the KEY facts (to analogize and distinguish on the exam) and any policy considerations (this is super important). Ignore everything else.
- Briefing- hardcore briefing is useful for the first few weeks in that it helps you understand how to read cases; that being said, your briefs will inevitably get shorter and shorter as you focus on the important stuff (as noted above).
- More group discussions before exams. I thought having to articulate the material and my positions on the material to classmates during study week was super helpful.
- STUDY the model answers. I can't stress this enough. For example, for Civ Pro, by reading the model answers, you'll know EXACTLY what you need to do on a question for personal jurisdiction (and there will definitely be a question on PJ). All good answers will have similar structures and organization. You can absolutely borrow reasoning/arguments (especially for policy questions) from model answers to use on the exam. I guarantee you that most of your classmates will do a practice exam, skim the model answer, briefly compare their own, and call it a day. That's not a path for success. If your crunched for time, I'd suggest doing one exam and spending the rest of your time STUDYING IN DETAIL as many model answers as you can.

ilikebaseball
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby ilikebaseball » Mon Jan 26, 2015 1:50 am

AReasonableMan wrote:
BizBro wrote:
AReasonableMan wrote:wish i knew the intracacies of how job interviewing worked at the callback stage, and that grades are important but not omnipotent. i also wish i knew how little value readingg for class had so i could've not bought the books. wikipedia and an e&e are perfectly sufficient.


For 1L too?

Yeah. I think professors really only use textbooks because using a hornbook would look bad. While you obviously want to learn the way your professor teaches, this doesn't require reading cases. It is definitely important and useful to understand how cases are decided, and to understand the concept of briefing. But you really could get this out of doing it for one class for 2 weeks. Minute per minute reading cases is a bad investment. Also, books are expensive. Many people prioritize reading over taking practice tests, and this is really just crazy. It would be like if a quarterback prioritized watching game tape of vintage Brett Favre over playing a scrimmage the week of the superbowl. Obviously you get more information reading a case than reading a brief, but the questions should be (1) how much of this additional info will you be able to store and apply under pressure and (2) if you spent this time elsewhere - in an e&e, practice test, relaxing, socializing, exercising or sleeping would you final product be better?


May be a misunderstanding, but aren't cold calls ENTIRELY based on the reading you do between classes?

jphiggo
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby jphiggo » Mon Jan 26, 2015 2:09 am

ilikebaseball wrote:
AReasonableMan wrote:
BizBro wrote:
AReasonableMan wrote:wish i knew the intracacies of how job interviewing worked at the callback stage, and that grades are important but not omnipotent. i also wish i knew how little value readingg for class had so i could've not bought the books. wikipedia and an e&e are perfectly sufficient.


For 1L too?

Yeah. I think professors really only use textbooks because using a hornbook would look bad. While you obviously want to learn the way your professor teaches, this doesn't require reading cases. It is definitely important and useful to understand how cases are decided, and to understand the concept of briefing. But you really could get this out of doing it for one class for 2 weeks. Minute per minute reading cases is a bad investment. Also, books are expensive. Many people prioritize reading over taking practice tests, and this is really just crazy. It would be like if a quarterback prioritized watching game tape of vintage Brett Favre over playing a scrimmage the week of the superbowl. Obviously you get more information reading a case than reading a brief, but the questions should be (1) how much of this additional info will you be able to store and apply under pressure and (2) if you spent this time elsewhere - in an e&e, practice test, relaxing, socializing, exercising or sleeping would you final product be better?


May be a misunderstanding, but aren't cold calls ENTIRELY based on the reading you do between classes?


As with everything, "it depends." In general, it'll be based on whatever the assigned reading is for that class and hypotheticals based off of that material. You might be questioned on or asked to discuss policy (depending on the professor). With that said, it is quite possible to bullshit your way through class if you don't do the reading (I do the reading, but I know many that don't). In the end, no one cares--at all--about how you do in class discussion.

jphiggo
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby jphiggo » Mon Jan 26, 2015 2:13 am

TheNextAmendment wrote:What I wish I knew:
-Good grades, enough sleep, or a social life. Pick 1.


From my own personal experience, it certainly is possible to balance sleeping, exercising, and a social life with doing well in law school. It's all about time management, IMO. I treat law school as a full time job and that pretty much frees up nights and weekends to do with as I please (with a few exceptions--LRW project being due or the week leading up to finals + the actual weeks of finals).

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Lincoln
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby Lincoln » Mon Jan 26, 2015 2:30 am

Practicing law is almost nothing like law school. I've enjoyed both in some respects, but the overlap is minimal, except for the fact that I worked hard and long hours (more than I had/have to) doing both.

Example: The last 8-9 months I've been doing much better work than I did when I started. Partners and senior associates have told me they feel like I've become an asset to the team, I've gotten more responsibility, including things like solo travel representing the firm in various capacities, and I'm definitely looked at by other attorneys--junior and senior to me--more as someone who knows what I'm doing. But in all that time I haven't done a single Westlaw search, read a single legal opinion, or written a single memo or brief.

Life2good893
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Re: What you wish you had known before law school...

Postby Life2good893 » Mon Jan 26, 2015 2:37 am

Wow, these are all super helpful!!

To the OP who mentioned to never borrow more than 150K- that means you need to got to a school that offers you a 100K+ scholarship (assuming total law-related debt is 250K and your parents can't help you)? That's a substantial amount...




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