I have a few responsive comments I hope will help.
Jeffjoe wrote: “Think of it as practice.”
Aryeal wrote: “I think it's fairly common to hit the ‘I don't care’ anymore stage.”
Zemog wrote: “I would suspect that it may more negatively affect you after school as opposed to during school. The habits, discipline, and study and research skills you development and hone during law school will be more critical during work...there will not be commercial briefs and extra help for you for your client's cases. What you put in, is what you get out of it.”
In my opinion, all three are correct. Of course it’s common to hit the “I don’t care” stage … many wunnelles do. It’s also very common to hit the “I’m overwhelmed” stage, the “How come I feel so stupid?” stage, the “Why am I here?” stage, and on and on. Consider yourself very normal if you find yourself in that position. Then move on.
I suggest (strongly) to students that they realize they are no longer in college – rather, they have entered the “practice” of law. Within a very short time, they will enter the “professional practice” of law – but for about 1000 days, they have the opportunity to practice being the kind of lawyer they would want to hire if they needed legal representation.
Would you feel comfortable hiring a lawyer whom you know does the very least work to “get by”? Probably not. If you were looking at twenty years of hard time in the state pen, and you were about to hire a lawyer, you’d probably prefer to hire someone who will work zealously and tirelessly on your case – one who makes a practice of this style of work. Why not begin practicing now to be the kind of lawyer you would hire?
Here’s another thing to consider . . . No matter what law school you are in, ask your Dean of Students or Associate Dean for Academic Affairs about bar examination results. You will likely find that those who graduate in the top quarter of the class pass the bar exam on the first go-round at a far higher rate than those in the bottom quarter of the class. Example at one school whose stats I studied some years ago: top quartile – 86% pass rate; bottom quartile – 28% pass rate. Sure, those folks in the bottom quartile all have a Juris Doctor degree, but they will not be able to practice law for 6 (or more) months.
Is that because they are less intelligent? Well, sometimes. Usually that’s not the reason. Frankly, I have seen quite a bit of evidence to convince me that the reasons are three:
1. They haven’t learned the material at a very high level. This means that they will have to learn 50, 60 or 75 percent of the material of more than a dozen subjects (depending on what state they take the bar in) in about 9 weeks – between graduation and the exam – by watching short video tapes. Good luck.
2. They have not sufficiently developed the lawyerly thinking/writing/analyzing skills that are tested on the bar examination. All five test types included on bar examinations (MBE, MPE, MEE, state-specific essay questions, and state specific multiple choice) require applicants to demonstrate these skills at a very high level, and at a very fast pace. If these skills haven’t been learned and practiced at that high level, students find them very difficult to develop in the few weeks between graduation and the bar examination.
3. They are not used to studying long and efficiently. Students who want to walk in to the bar examination room with justifiable confidence need to study somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 hours between graduation day and the bar examination. That’s 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, for 10 weeks. (This is in addition to pre-graduation study, which many bar exam preparation experts highly recommend.) Students who are not used to putting in the time find this very difficult or impossible.
If your goals are …
1. Developing a deep, rich, comprehensive understanding of the law, and
2. Earning grades which demonstrate that you are working at your personal best level, and
3. Passing the bar exam the first time around, and
4. Becoming the kind of lawyer you would want to represent you …
… then I suggest you begin practicing now how to be that kind of lawyer. Read and brief, attend every class, prepare your own course summaries (outlines), practice answering hypotheticals in writing – spending 3 hours of study time for every class hour.
On the other hand, if your goal is merely to “survive” or “pass” or “graduate” then much of what you have just read (above) is wholly unnecessary if you have the smarts to pull it off. Many law students “survive” by doing the very minimum amount of work. They may well “survive” in the professional practice, as well. Of course, those students who do the minimal amount of work in their first year run the risk of being in that part of the class that is not invited to return for year two.
Law students who aim for the bottom often hit their target. So do students who aim for the top – even if they miss, they’re pretty safe.
Ruskie Girl wrote: “I have no intention of driving myself crazy and studying 24-7.”
She shouldn’t. That would destroy the balance that everyone needs in life. I suggest that law students divide their lives into three general parts:
1. Sleep. Most of us need near 8 hours each night – that works out to 56 hours each week (1/3 of the 168 hours in your week).
2. Law study. 14 hours of classes and 42 hours of study (3 X 14) = 56 hours each week (1/3 of the 168 hours in your week).
3. Other parts of life. Eating, shopping, socializing, playing with the dog (cat?), commuting, exercising, going to church, daydreaming, etc. Given the hours in #1 and #2 above, you should have 56 hours each week to do this.
In other words, instead of “studying 24-7,” consider studying 8-7. Lawyers work about 60 hours each week on the average, unless it’s a heavy week – for example, trial time. If spending that much time engaged with law study drives you crazy now, will you be a happy, productive lawyer? Lawyers you have not learned how to lead a balanced life burn out.
You’ll find lots of advice along these lines on my website.
Send me an email if you have any questions.