Tuesday, September 18, 2007
(this started as a comment to Useless Dicta's last post, but it started to get so long that i decided to make it a new entry to the blog.)
i didn't quite realise what a drama factory law school was until i was a 2L. i was a little dense. to be fair, i came to law school as part of a couple, a pretty long-term one...and the drama is always a lot less when you're paired up than when you're single. i was just oblivious. it really didn't matter a whole lot what was going on. i wasn't really a part of the drama. i had my friends that i met through activities or through class, but there was always the whole significant other thing. i didn't do anything scandalous with my classmates, and i didn't care what kinds of scandalous things my classmates were doing with each other.
(although, i'm not quite sure how much of the second one was the fact that i was taken, and how much of it was the fact that people in college were so nice about staying out of everyone else's business--and the naivete that bred.)
then, pretty early in my 2L year...i was a single gal again. i had a new, clearer eye through which to see all of the drama going on around the law school, and it is like high school. the law school world became a little more interesting to me, since it had inadvertently become my entire universe...i'm not from st. louis, and so all the people i saw on a regular basis were truly tied to the law school. that was fine, i had close friends, and as supportive of a law school world as a girl could hope for.
but...i can't believe i had been so oblivious for so long. everyone knew everyone else's business. 1L, 2L, 3L...it really doesn't matter. be prepared for everyone to know a little more about you than you want to. i don't even know if high school is the right comparison...law school is more like the size of a middle school. (to be fair, i went to a fairly large high school.) law school is small. it's insular. people can be really, really catty under the stress of law school, and it's only exacerbated by the fact that most people spend almost all of their time around law students.
the best advice i have? what i wish i knew coming in? just...brace yourself for the most vicious rumour mill you've seen since you were thirteen. don't take it too personally when rumours start to fly about you or your friends. if anyone asks about them, feel free to clarify, but don't be surprised when your attempts to clarify what [salacious circumstances/rivalries/insert subject of rumour here] actually went on fall on deaf ears. keep living your life, and stay close to your friends because they can keep you sane as well as be a valuable aegis against your cattier classmates.
and, if you want to go to that house party and make out with that cutie in your torts class, don't be surprised if people ask you about it the next week.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Ten Useless Things I Wish I Would Have Known before starting law school:
1. Law school can be a lot like high school, you should try your best not to get caught up in useless drama.
2. Non-Law school friends are the best lifesavers in the world, it's nice to be able to get away from the law school crowd even if it is only for an hour a week.
3. Going to some classes can be seriously overrated. If you always leave class having not learned anything new or having not taken any notes it's probably a sign that it's okay to skip once in a while to help lighten the load.
4. You will not learn anything from your legal writing professor or the legal writing class, what you will learn to do is going to happen on your own time outside of class on your own time.
5. 90% of the people in your class will not be in the top 10%, this may seem like simple stupid elementary school math, but the sooner you realize the reality of these odds the sooner you will learn to chill out and just do your best and not obsess over not being "good enough."
6. Law school is not as glamorous as Elle Woods made it seem in Legally Blonde .
7. Law school (and in particular Contracts) is not as bad as the movie The Paper Chase would have you believe.
8. Find a good place to study off campus, this could be at home or it could be somewhere else, but being in the law building when exams approach is the fastest way to stress yourself out. Law students, and 1Ls in particular feed on each others stress, don't be a part of it if you don't have to be.
9. Resist the urge to check your 1st semester grades until after Christmas and New Years. The holidays can be stressful enough, don't add first semester grades to that mix, it's a recipe for disaster.
10. No matter what happens first semester try your best to put it behind you once grades come out and start the second semester with a fresh slate. If you do great first semester you don't want to put a ton of pressure on yourself to do the same second semester because all of that stress can and does lead some people to disaster. And if you did not so great your first semester you don't have to settle for mediocrity, people can and do turn around second semester but dwelling on bad grades is not going to help with any endeavor of trying to improve.
Until next time, happy studying!
Saturday, September 15, 2007
You're a month into law school and maybe just starting to get the hang of it. So of course, the prof's are ratcheting up the reading assignments and you may start to feel a little overwhelmed. You're looking for an out. You think, f--k it, I'll buy a bunch of supplements.
My thoughts, in no particular order:
"Supplemental material" like commercial outlines and case briefs, aren't as useful toward the end of the semester as you would think. Get what you're going to use early, refer to it often during the semester... even when it feels like you don't have time. Its worth losing an hour of sleep now to know what's going on at finals time. Ideally, you should only have to review at finals... not learn it.
Casebooks can leave you feeling bogged down in minutiae. Supplements are great for big picture before you do your casebook reading... if you do casebook reading. (See discussion of Con Law in prior post).
Don't be the girl who brings commercial case briefs to class, and reads from it aloud in front of the professor when called on. Unless you're in a REALLY big class and can get away with it. There are no true short cuts, but there are ways to be more efficient.
There is no "right" supplemental material -- and what you need varies by class. There is no secret -- Emanuels versus Gilberts? High Court versus Legalines? Doesn't matter, really. I only used case briefs in two classes, for example, and a commercial outline in one.
However, the Examples and Explanations series is terrific in Torts and Contracts, and to a lesser extent effective for Property and Civ Pro. Get these.
Buy supplements used on Amazon if possible.
You don't have to buy the hornbook if its recommended but not required. Its in the lawbrary. You can read it there, when need be.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
as far as con law goes, i have one word: chemerinsky. it bears repeating...chemerinsky. he has a soft-cover treatise on constitutional law, and it's the con law bible. i read that treatise in lieu of the casebook, at the end of the semester, and con law was my highest grade that semester. i didn't outline, or even look very much at my (almost nonexistent) notes...i just depended on old erwin to pull me through, and that he did.
i'm usually not so cavalier about not doing the reading. my con law class was just plain weird...i had a professor who talked to us as if we were philosophy grad students instead of law students. (he was a philosophy professor by trade, who taught law on the side.) his lectures were...opaque to put it nicely, or unintelligible to put it bluntly. he called on people in seating chart order, so you knew exactly what day you were going to be called on.
for any of my other classes, my regimen goes a little like this:
- stay on top of the reading for class. take notes in the book on things that jump out to help with class participation, and take good notes in class about what was discussed.
- at the end of the semester, right before the final, condense the material from the notes into an outline. outlining is a forced comprehensive review of the class, and involves running through the material from beginning to end, to refresh my memory.
- some classes are harder to outline or condense than others. that is where study aids come in. i don't buy study aids for every class, or even the majority of them, but i find myself quite partial to the "CaseNote" canned briefs, if i'm using a book that has a CaseNote volume keyed to it. CrunchTime is also a good series, because it is very clear, and has good practice problems to run through and discuss.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Normally, I blog at A little fish in law school.
Over the summer, I posted some commentary on the end of 1L and the ambivalence I felt over it and exams.
Thought I'd share. Maybe you can learn from this.
I am trying to be "over it," you know? I can't do anymore than I did... I can't change what happened exam week... I can't change what happened this semester. I can't change that I didn't work as hard as maybe I could have. I know I didn't do what I know I am capable of, and it makes me angry at myself, and alternatively, at "the system."
A little piece of me is Hermione Granger, who got top marks in all but one subject, and was disappointed. She defined herself in part by her ability to succeed academically. I thought I had gotten all of that adolescent bullshit out of my system -- I'm over 30 years old. I've got a child who is thriving and a husband who loves me. I've survived more in the last ten years than the scared, geeky, desperate for approval adolescent I was could ever have contemplated.
And yet when I got my Property and Civ Pro grades, I felt a stab of disappointment, and my first thought, unbidden and shameful, was "my parents are not going to be proud of me." So, post-adolescent angst is part of the reason I am not quite over it. But only part.
So... to avoid post-exam angst:
1. Start writing practice exams sooner rather than later.
2. Use supplements sooner rather than later. The E&Es in most subjects are good.
3. Understand that despite your best efforts, you may not get the grades you think you deserve. Or you may get exactly the grades you deserved, but you may be disappointed anyway.
Alright, 1Ls and Pre-Ls, I'll check in with you soon. Feel free to leave a comment about a burning question or desire and I or one of the blogging cohorts will do our level best to answer it.