As usual, I'm late to the party. Like many of the other posters on this thread, I'm a Michigan 1L (fall starter) who just finished the first batch of exams. Though I lost interest in LSD pretty much the moment that I entered A2, since becoming aware of this thread's existence I've felt a gnawing need to reciprocate for all of the assistance that I was able to get out of the site last year. I also just can't seem to get enough of telling people how pleased I am with my Michigan Law experience thus far. Even if I do no more than repeat what others have already written, then at least I'll still be able to add one more number to the legion of Michigan Law 1L fanatics.
In every respect (with one exception: a lack of interest in community service), my law school experience has surpassed even the highest expectations that I had in August. My undergrad school was a large public school where good in-class discussion was nearly impossible to come by and there was a lot of bureaucratic red tape. Here, solid professor-classroom interaction is the norm, and I think that a couple of my professors genuinely perceived student comments and questions as new ways for them to think about the material. Unlike my undergrad, discussions often extended far beyond the classroom into bars and bowling alleys, as students actually wanted to use their free time to talk about the law. Undoubtedly the best part of my experience so far has been the people: other students, the faculty, the admissions and career offices, the staff at the Snackbar (actually, the Snackbar has been the best part of my experience
), I guess almost everyone that I've encountered. There's simply a general sense of goodwill, with everyone wanting everyone else to succeed. While the student body is competitive, it's only competitive in the sense that people generally bring their best efforts to the table and hope that they measure up to other people's best efforts. Every day, without fail, I find myself in awe of my classmates, proud to belong to a community of people that I respect so much for their intelligence, maturity, and diversity/tolerance of perspectives.
Most of the positives that I've come to love about Michigan Law have already been elaborated upon at length, so I'll leave them alone. However, since I got so much out of general advice from 1Ls last year, I figure that it's finally come time to offer my own. Here are some general tips concerning law school admissions and the law school experience in general:
1) Don't despair if you're getting a late start in the cycle. I didn't apply to my first school until Christmas day last year, and I'm pretty sure that I was just as successful I would have been had I applied in mid-October.
2) If you're a member of the LSD community, then there's probably little chance that you'll need to worry about this, but make sure that you invest as much thought into your decision to attend law school as you possibly can. After taking a legal internship, reading One L, Law School Confidential, and Double Billing, and spending a ridiculous amount of time reading posts on this board, I was still besieged pretty much every day during the admissions cycle last year by concerns that I was making the wrong decision. Upon matriculation, I was pretty astonished to find that a somewhat large number of other students decided to go to law school (mostly folks coming right out of undergrad) without any idea whatsoever about how they intended to use their degrees. A lot of the same people didn't know what courses they were taking or what the courses even were. I think that a lot of law students are bright folks who know that they're not interested in medicine or business, know that they like writing, that law can be very lucrative, and knew that the law school admissions game is a relative cinch. None of the above reasons, by themselves or as a whole, represent good justification for learning the law. The bottom-line is that law school is a gigantic investment of your time, money, and psychic labor. If you haven't put in the effort to know whether it would be a sound investment, then you are effectively making one of the most important decisions of your life without having acquired the information necessary to inform a good decision. Honestly, I was terrified coming in that law school would consume my entire life. During the one semester that I completed, it pretty much did consume my entire life, but I got through it largely because I knew to expect it (I told myself to expect the most difficult experience of my life). Thankfully, what I actually experienced was easier, maybe even much easier, than what I anticipated....not because the courses weren't challenging (they definitely were) or because my free time wasn't severely limited (it was), but because I very much enjoyed doing the reading 80-90% of the time and very consciously could sense and appreciate my brain being rewired as I learned new ways to think about things. It also helped immeasurably to have friends to talk to who were going through the same experience. Ok, I've totally gone off on a tangent, so I'll stop myself from writing further on this point, but, again, please choose to go to law school only for the right reasons. You owe yourself and your future nothing less.
3) Don't let One L and Law School Confidential freak you out. Yes, law school will occupy a ridiculous amount of time in your life. Yes, you're expected to bring your A game to every class every day and to strive for a higher bar than you've probably ever been asked to reach before. Yes, learning the law is very much like being tossed into the deep end of the ocean without a life preserver because it's so radically different than anything you've done in class before (or at least in my case it was). Despite all of the above, the authors of both books characterized this experience as one that you would have to suffer through on your way to a successful legal career. Maybe I'm crazy, but I generally had a blast my first semester. I loved learning the law, asking more of my brain then I ever had before, and being surrounded by super-smart people all the time. The aspects of law school that Turow and Miller seemed to hate were parts that I came to love. Another mistake, in my opinion, that both books make is that they characterize the classroom experience as a means towards the ends of taking and doing well on the exam. While it's important to keep the exam in mind, I tried not to think about exams until about a month before they were to take place. If I had done what Turow and Miller suggested, I would have already highlighted and outlined myself into a burned-out frenzy by that point. I think that my time was much better spent making sure that I had a good grasp of legal concepts for my own sake rather than for the sake of doing well on the exam. Keep in mind the following about Miller: he got so anxious the week before exams that he moved out of his dorm and into a hotel for a week, he recommends as free time on weekdays only time that you can spend working out so that you can build better stamina for the other parts of your daily schedule, he wants you to make 800 different outlines per class... As well-intentioned as he might be, he overemphasizes the utility of his methods and makes bad assumptions about what he can expect from the typical reader. I'm no slouch, but I didn't put in anywhere close to the colossal effort that Miller would have asked of me. I'm in fact 100% sure that had I adhered to Miller's advice than I would have suffered come exam time (premature to write given that I haven't even received grades yet, but I know that for myself even having maintained a detailed outline over the semester for every class would have been a huge waste of time).
4) If you go to Michigan, do the MAP program if at all possible. On top of forming a much better idea of what to expect over the semester, I also met almost all of my close law school friends via MAP. I also met a lot of 2L mentors who really have gone out of their way to offer advice when they've spotted me in the hall.
So that's all. As is probably obvious if you've read down to here, I couldn't be happier with my law school experience up to this point, and I think that it's largely because of the fact that I'm a student at Michigan. I'd be happy to answer any questions that people have about anything that I've written here or to write more about any aspect of my experience...