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.


Jeff Bowen said...

Nice post. But you're the first person I've seen that said "Getting to Maybe" was useless. Care to elaborate?

The Namby Pamby said...

I did the BarBri one week lawschool prep before 1L. Not useless, but definitely eyeopening.

law school groupie said...

Thanks butterflyfish :) I guess the key is to really do what's right for yourself to prepare, and not buy into the cash machine that is law school prep books, etc., too much.

Joshua Auriemma said...

You mention that you don't book brief by highlighting. Do you book brief without highlighting or avoid book briefing all together?

I went with book briefing in "technicolor" (as Law School Confidential calls it) last semester and the results were fairly good, but, well, I'm getting lazy now.

Butterflyfish said...

Jeff -- just didn't find it helpful or particularly enlightening. Maybe because I read it after reading so much else.

Josh -- depends on the class. In some, I type mini briefs/notes into my laptop (a few facts to jog the memory, key reasoning, and BLL... *very* short, like "outlining as I go" short, which I then cut down even further when I really outline).

In some classes I do margin notes in the casebook instead of OR in addition to the above. Can't give a good justification for when I choose to do it or why -- I did it in Evidence and Tax last semester but in no other class, for example. I aced those classes (yay), but maybe I was more into them. Who knows?

There are pros and cons to both methods.

I tried technicolor for about an hour as a 1L and just found it wasn't for me.

nameless student said...

I didn't do anything to prep before school, and I don't regret it. Most of my profs took things a little slow for the first month (it didn't seem like it at the time, but man, did it speed up later), and that was enough to get oriented.

I'm a little wary of being led astray by things like LSC and the EEs. I met a new admit this year who was focused from day one one on (a) getting onto law review and (b) finding the best commercial outlines, advice he said came from LSC. For the love of god, don't be that guy. And I've watched the EEs confuse the hell out of some students when the professor's take on the law didn't quite align with what the student thought they understood. Watching other students try to correct a prof based on Gilbert's is an experience I could do without.

Butterflyfish said...

Its been a year since Nameless's comment, but I think a caveat needs to be noted for all future viewers:

*All* pre law books suggest you get on your professor's wavelength. If he wants to teach tort law with heavy emphasis on economic loss doctrine, and the E&E doesn't go into much detail on that doctrine OBVIOUSLY you need to write about what your prof says on practice exams and real exams. You *don't* tell your prof that the economic loss doctrine is not the only lens through which to view tort law.

BUT there is nothing wrong with learning the basics of black letter law and application before law school. Its a skill. Any skill takes time to acquire.

Anything that gives you a framework upon which to hang your knowledge is good.

Just Trying said...

THanks this has been useful!