« on: September 24, 2011, 01:05:02 PM »
If not, and you are studying extra hard to counteract a massive panic attack, you might become a 2L someday.
I'm a 2L, but looking back at last year, that statement is fairly accurate for how a 1L should be feeling after one month of law school. Some 1Ls seem to spend as much time looking for shortcuts to learning the material as simply reading and learning the material. This is perilous. Yes, it's a hell of a lot of work. But I'm generally of the view that there are very few meaningful shortcuts. Some say that you don't really have to read the cases to pass the exams. And perhaps a few people out there do fit that profile. But I would caution any 1L against embracing that idea because in reality, it's not going to work for the vast majority of 1Ls. I've got a load of reading to do myself for next week, so I can't spend a lot of time here, but here are a couple of benefits to reading and briefing all of the cases:
1) to witness how a plethora of diverse facts are analyzed by legal minds and how they apply the law to such facts; and
2) to develop a "legal voice" in your head.
You can memorize the definitions and elements of inchoate crimes, 3PB contracts, private nuisance and all that fun stuff that we learn in 1L. But rote memorization doesn't teach you how to write a great essay in which you analyze the facts and apply the elements the way an attorney would. I discovered as a 1L that reading a thousand cases begins to infuse a certain intangible quality to one's written analysis on exams. It's a certain "legal voice," for want of a better term, that gets cultivated over months and months of reading endless cases about drunks scratching out an offer to sell the farm on a napkin or the knucklehead who shipped himself aboard the train in a box with the intent to rob it. As you flood your brain with all these cases, you start to hear a subtle new voice in the back of your mind, which is a composite of all those erudite judges' voices mixed with your own. This is the voice that you use when you write your exams. It's not just an enhanced vocabulary: it's analysis. Developing this legal, analytical voice/outlook is critical to writing an excellent paper. And it comes in large part from reading, reading, reading one case after another. And just as critically, from writing practice exams over and over.
After only one or two months of law school, if you are feeling comfortable, unhurried, or "got this sucker in the bag," so to speak, and you're brushing off even some of the reading, then you may want to carefully consider whether or not you really want to reach 2L. It's easy to fool yourself. 1Ls in September should feel sightly overwhelmed, together with a sense of urgency to complete all of the work. I don't know if you need to panic, but I can say from experience that that's not far removed from how most of the 2Ls that I know felt in September-October last year. It's certainly how I felt.