Pre-L Class of 2009

Today I met the newest member of the School of Law's Class of 2009. She was there with her sister and father, touring the building, annoucing that she had just decided to accept, and wondering about the huge size of the classrooms.

She's from a little town in the middle of nowhere Georgia, and gave off a very friendly, happy vibe.

I cannot imagine how I must have appeared to her. Unshaven, bloodshot, sprawled on a couch with a Contracts outline in one hand and a Coke in the other. I did manage to smile at her enthusiasm and say a few nice words, but what wasn't yet dead inside wanted to scream a warning.

Here's my advice instead:

Enjoy the summer before you start. Once there, it's a grind that doesn't let up-- day and night, weekday and weekend, summer and school year. The only escape is that brief period of time after you take the bar exam. I'll let you know how that goes in a few days.

Make sure you know what you want to do with your life before you get there. Law school is not the place to find yourself, but rather the place you go to get a skill to pursue your dreams. If you don't know what you want, find out now. It can open the wrong doors as well as the right ones, so choose wisely.

This is not an intellectual exercise, but rather an endurance test. Don't expect great philosophical discussions. Do expect delving into the intricacies of the federal rules of civil procedure. 12(b)(6) is my personal favorite. Find yours.

Don't worry about getting into the best school you can, unless it's one of the top five. Otherwise, I recommend going to the second or third best school you get into. Your class rank and being on Journal is much more important than the school itself, so it's best to compete against people who aren't quite at your level. That seems strange, but most employers cherry pick from the top few students regardless of how good the school is. Rarely will they go deeper into the class.

If there's a part of the country you want to be in, you should go to school there. That'll help you find a job much more easily. If that seems like an esoteric concern now, it won't be in a few months when the whole job search insanity begins.

Career services sucks. Universally. If you want a job, you're going to have to find it on your own. Make lists, contacts, connections. Start early.

It's important to get to know your classmates, but also know that lawyers have earned their reputation. A lot of them will want to play head games, make themselves seem more important, or generally act like jerks. Don't fall into that trap. Make friends with the few genuine people and play as nicely as possible with the rest. They'll all be your colleagues someday. Unless they end up in jail.

Study aides are the way to go. Don't worry what everyone else is doing, and don't trust your professor to let you know how s/he is going to test you. Read the book if you must, but grab the professional outlines, q&a books, and whatever else seems useful. The best way to learn is to engage the material, no matter how dry. Just don't talk in class: everyone will hate you.

This seems obvious, but if you're single, don't hook up with anyone in your section. Do you really want to see them every day? In every class? With tons of gossip? This doesn't apply to the 3 of you who will marry your study partners, but as a general rule, it's not all that wise to date intramurally.

It's also wise to be wary of dating upperclassmen. On one hand, they can show you the ropes. On the other, in every group of people there are predators. Be careful. They're waiting.

Make friends outside of school. They won't get what's going on with you, but at least you'll have some levelheaded people to hang out with and do fun things.

Although you may get a recommendation to simply focus on your work and cut off your family and friends, that would be foolish. You need to work hard, but keep a balance.

Exercise. Daily, if you can.

If you have a blog, don't tell anyone else about it. Don't talk about grades. People are really insecure. If you have an interview not during class, don't wear a suit to class. Resentment makes the whole thing that much worse.

Get as much experience outside of the school as you can. Work for local practitioners. Volunteer. Get involved in the local bar association. This applies more to second and third year than first year students.

This seems silly, but stay away from alcohol. Attorneys have the highest rates of drug abuse. If you're going to drink, don't drink that much, and make sure you have a ride. Incidentally, doing illegal drugs is the best way to waste a whole lot of money: if you're caught, you won't pass the bar fitness exam.

Karma: share your outlines with underclassmen. Take a couple under your wing. Get involved in a club or two that you really care about. Be a good citizen. It won't help your grades, but people ultimately want to work with those they like. And it's a lot more fun.

And remember that there's a reason why the big firms pay the big bucks. If you were trapped in an office 12 hours a day trying to prevent a major polluter from the legal consequences of giving thousands of people cancer, all while doing the most mindnumbingly boring research, you'd get paid a lot too. And billing in six minute increments sucks.

As a first year: keep your head down, make nice, play fair, work hard, make outside friends, keep score.

Good luck. And welcome to law school.


Blogger lala said...

if someone had given me this advice seven years ago, i would've been a much happier camper. instead, i had to figure it all out on my own. great list, says the girl who went to law school, passed the bar, and is now [happily] an IT consultant.

4:02 PM  
Blogger lawsomnia said...

I'm glad you made it to the promised land. The [happily] part is the most important.

9:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good advice for the most part. I wouldn't knock dating your study partner, but then again I married mine, and you can't exactly guarentee results like that every time.

1:15 AM  
Blogger Kate said...


8:50 AM  
Anonymous Andrea Weckerle said...

Wonderful advice. Wish I'd had this before I started law school. Best of luck on the bar exam!

9:10 AM  
Anonymous Siryn said...

Ah, yes... fantastic list. The geographic lesson about going where you want to practice is one that I learned the very hard way. I've survived, but it cost me a good part of my mental health.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Barzelay said...

I completely disagree with just about everything you have to say here. I find everyone is happy for others who get good jobs and good grades. I don't think it takes much work at all to succeed (though it does to get in the top 10% of the class). I had tons of free time. I have a blog, and everyone knows about it and many read it. All of my profs have been very upfront about how they're testing and what they expect. I've never used a commercial outline or study guide, and find reading casebooks to be helpful.

I mean, seriously, your experience was just vastly different from mine. I don't claim to be the typical law school student, but I think its bark is far worse than its bite. It isn't really much worse than undergrad or high school.

So if you fretted in undergrad and high school and studied a ton and really worked your ass off, chances are that you will continue to do so in law school. If not, you probably won't find law school all that much different.

9:44 PM  
Blogger lawsomnia said...

I'm glad you liked the list and found it helpful. Apparently nearly 400 people look a look at it yesterday (thanks DC Blogs!)

I'm glad that Barzelay found law school to be as easy as college or high school. I wish that were true for the rest of us -- I enjoyed college.

9:05 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home