Sunday, January 27, 2008

Go ahead, call me a tool / gunner / d-bag. . .

Law school groupie asks: How difficult is the reading at first? One persons advice was to start reading Hemingway to prepare your brain. I also kind of wonder how much the stress can get to a person. Basically, I'm afraid of crying myself to sleep a lot of nights.


I don't know about Hemingway -- I didn't much care for Old Man and the Sea.

But the summer before law school, I was one of those people who did some "prep."

(Let the name-calling begin).

Ok, if you're all done, hear me out.

I had no idea as to what to expect from law school. I had no friends who had been to law school. I knew no lawyers. I knew no paralegals. I had never been involved in a lawsuit in any way. I was older. I had a child and my husband was overseas and I was terrified.

So I took control in the only way I knew how -- I started reading. I read law student blogs, I read Law School Confidential (mostly useless -- I still don't highlight for book briefing and color coding makes me nauseous) and Planet Law School (negative but pointed me to other books) and Getting to Maybe (very useless).

I didn't do the whole prep regimen recommended by Planet Law School, but I did like the premise -- read up on some substantive law before school starts so it doesn't sound totally new and alien; get a head start on learning the black letter law so when you're given a quagmire of a reading assignment, you sort of have an idea how you'll come out.

Also, he recommended that once school starts, do practice exams early and often, which is great advice.

So the summer before law school, I read most of Aspen's Examples& Explanations on Torts by Glannon. I read some of the Contracts and Civ Pro E&E. I am glad I didn't read the Crim E&E because my prof kind of had his own black letter law, so I cannot attest to its usefulness.

Did it help? I honestly don't know. I had less time than my classmates to puzzle it all out, I had less time to devote to the study of law and to briefing cases (which I more or less abandoned early) and to spinning my wheels. I needed what I was doing to never be a waste of my precious time.

This blog is about what I wish I would have known. Having it to do over, I would have done the same thing regarding the prep. To this day I don't know how truly "helpful" it was to my grades or to my understanding, but I think it helped me manage the stress to feel I was somewhat in control.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Burning questions

Excerpts from recent reader email thinking about going to law school:

Female reader asks: I am newly married, and I am concerned about what kind of stress being a student again would put on my marriage . . . I guess what I am asking is, how do you juggle it all? What should a 1L expect as far as work load? Is it the equivalent of an 8hr day? 10hr day? or longer?

Yes, its stressful on a marriage. I did the first half of 1L with a kid here and a husband overseas. Things didn't get truly hard until he came back! Its an adjustment. The thing about law school, especially first year, is that its kind of all-consuming -- in both a good and bad way. Its all you want to do, think about, talk about. And you'll want him to understand it too, and he'll think its like any other grad program. And its not. I've got a Masters. Law school is different.

At no law school I know do you have control over your first year schedule. Expect it to be 5 days a week and run from 8 til 4 or 9-5. You'll get crazy little breaks in between. Like college, Torts three days a week, 90 minutes a class, followed by an hour break, followed by Crim twice a week, etc. If you maximize those breaks -- like you disappear into the law library and work, you can avoid bringing a lot home. Most people don't maximize those breaks; they socialize over a long lunch, etc.

Then have to go home and read 60 pages by the next day. And 60 pages of law reading is just NOT the same as 60 pages of Harry Potter, or even a college text. At least at first. (Well, it'll never be Harry Potter, but it gets easier).

Short answer, expect 8-10 hour day plus a full weekend day (or two half days), more at exam time. Some would say I am underplaying it -- I know some who did 12 hour weekdays plus a weekend day. I know others who do it in a lot less.

And grades don't necessarily correlate directly to the hours spent.

I try to be home in time to spend a few hours with my son and husband. I either go to bed early and wake up early to read, or I read after the "boys" are in bed.

With a long commute, there are study aids on CD you can listen to in your car. I don't know how good they are, but read other posts in this blog, other law student blogs and ask around online. Law students are very helpful ... when they're not in your class at a competitive school.

Any others from the wishiwouldhaveknown crew care to chime in? edit the post and add to it, or do so in the comments.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Bookstore Ripoff

If you haven't already figured out that most university bookstores charge outrageous prices for law books then hopefully this blog post will save you a few bucks in the future.

The internet is your best friend when it comes to buying books for law school. I have found Barnes and Noble to be the best deal, invest in a $25.00 yearly membership and you will save hundreds over the course of the year just buying your law books alone (plus you also get discounts on fun books for reading on that well deserved summer vacation). Example: 2 casebooks for the upcoming Spring semester were going to cost me $260.00 at the university bookstore, the same 2 casebooks (brand new) cost me $175 on Barnes and Noble (after my membership discount). That left me with enough cash to buy commerical outlines to go with those 2 classes and still come out at only $211 total. Pretty good deal in my opinion!

Amazon and Half.com are other good places to check for law school books. Sometimes you do get unlucky and end up having to go to the bookstore, but for the most part I have been pretty lucky in ordering all of mine online and saving about $80-100 each semester.

Good luck to everyone starting their 2nd semesters and enjoy what's left of the WAY too short break!!!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Hanging in there?

Hey 1Ls,

Hope you had a great break and New Year. Some of you may be back to class this week. More will be back to class next week.

But who gives a sh*t, right? You don't yet have the one thing you want more than anything else right now: your damn grades.

Sure, maybe your professor actually graded everything already (hahahhahahha *wipes tear*), but the administration has been snowboarding since three days before Christmas, so nothing has been posted. Today, they might be back at work. Maybe.

But you probably haven't gotten any grades yet... and that won't change soon, no matter how many times you hit refresh on the browser.

Its ok to be a little anxious about these grades.

But try not to freak out too much.