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Author Topic: Wally's 1L Tips  (Read 2280 times)

,.,.,.;.,.,.

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Wally's 1L Tips
« on: April 17, 2009, 04:51:42 PM »
As my 1L year draws to a close, I've found myself often staring out into space, wondering what it all means.  Why do we go to law school?  What have I learned?  Where can I go from here?  I feel like Dustin Hoffman's character in the Graduate as I walk around Hyde Park aimlessly, looking at the homeless people, including the colorful character who always asks me for the time.

Around this time last year, UVa_2L was nice enough to compile some tips, and I thought I would do the same for the n00bs about to embark on their legal adventure.  All abroad the Erie!

1. Professors spend an average of 10-15 minutes on any given exam.

This is the dirty little secret of law school.  The truth is that grading 90-100 of these repetitive, poorly-written clusterfucks means that you will be evaluated very quickly, often with a checklist.  Most exams also look something like this:

There could be murder.
There could be conspiracy.
There could be an attempt.

Then your peer's exam might look like this:

There could be murder. 
There could be conspiracy.

It's hard for many 1Ls to realize, but no matter how smart you are, how much you studied, or how intelligent you sound in class, your grades will depend on these quick evaluations.  You must identify as many issues as possible and write about them as clearly as possible, with the periodic policy argument.  And always tie it back to the facts!  Respect the exam, and, most importantly, respect the way in which it's graded.

2. Grades don't matter.

Well, they do, and they don't.  They do in the sense that they are everything to your early career.  The problem is that it's easy to engage in path dependency and determinism with them, and that's wrong.  They're such a crude metric, it's silly to say things like, "Ah, well, I shouldn't pursue transactional work, because I got a middling grade in Contracts."  The best advice I can give incoming students is to set realistic grade measures.  Ask yourself: would I be happy at the median?  If the answer is no, do yourself a favor and avoid law school.

3.  Realize this is a game.

This ties into my earlier points, but I think I'm at my happiest now that I realize it's a game, and playing it like one.  This is a full court press.  This is not about intelligence (not entirely, anyway), or oral advocacy, or learning.  This is one of the dumbest, most irrelevant games you will ever play, although your entire career depends on it.  But that is life.

4. Make love, not Law Review.

This is a stupid slogan, but, really, my biggest regret is not getting to know more people.  I didn't even realize one of my section-mates was married, or that he liked lizards, or that he wanted to work overseas.  Law students are every bit as neurotic, smart, and interesting as you, and take advantage.  Be kind and courteous, and don't let your neuroses show, you should be fine.

5. You don't know what you want.

When I came to law school, I was obsessed with prestige and clerking.  Obviously, all of the super-prestigious people land on 9th circuit.  The truth is that I don't like appellate research at all.  I find discursive discussions of the law to be boring.  I'm trying to write a brief right now and every moment is pure "meh."  I also dislike legal academia.

On the other hand, I think I would love transactional work, because I love shallow, repetitive tasks repeated for hours.  So keep an open mind.  And good luck.

Illini Boy

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Re: Wally's 1L Tips
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2009, 08:29:20 PM »
I go to the same school as Wally. I'll add a couple of thoughts, because I'm bored and procrastinating on my brief.

Quote
1. Professors spend an average of 10-15 minutes on any given exam.

This is the dirty little secret of law school.  The truth is that grading 90-100 of these repetitive, poorly-written clusterfucks means that you will be evaluated very quickly, often with a checklist.  Most exams also look something like this:

There could be murder.
There could be conspiracy.
There could be an attempt.

Then your peer's exam might look like this:

There could be murder.
There could be conspiracy.

It's hard for many 1Ls to realize, but no matter how smart you are, how much you studied, or how intelligent you sound in class, your grades will depend on these quick evaluations.  You must identify as many issues as possible and write about them as clearly as possible, with the periodic policy argument.  And always tie it back to the facts!  Respect the exam, and, most importantly, respect the way in which it's graded.

Most of this is true, but it's also important to reference things. Cases, restatements, discussions in class, doesn't matter. Don't make it seem like you're just pulling things out of the air, even if you're right. A judge saying something is worth more than you saying it.

As for the other points: this sounds basic, but don't get into bad habits. Bad habits could be a lot of things. Lots of people develop study habits that are absolutely awful, but because they got used to them in the first four weeks of the school year they do them all year. Don't be that person if what you're doing isn't working. Don't brief every case if all it does is suck away your time without much added benefit.



,.,.,.;.,.,.

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Re: Wally's 1L Tips
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2009, 08:36:54 PM »
I wrote that when I was procrastinating on the brief, too.

I would say that reference is good, but don't go overboard, because if the prof feels like you're vomiting an outline, that's very bad.

I like your second point.  I have friends who still brief and then complain about its uselessness, lol.

SplorkyFish

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Re: Wally's 1L Tips
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2009, 03:08:25 AM »
I have friends who still brief and then complain about its uselessness, lol.

This isn't quite me, but it's close to me.  I've introspected long and hard about why I keep picking through cases so closely. I think it might be because I respect the time, effort, and reasoning that the judge put into their opinion and just writing "it's the same case or controversy if there's a common nucleus of operative fact- Gibbs" just feels wrong to me.

On the other hand, it's not like I internalize all the reasoning and dicta.  I spend most of the quarter trying to get it out of my head, actually, because I know how useless it is for me.   

Maybe this means I'll be well suited for appellate work.  :-\.

Anyhow, I would advise against my self-defeating and inefficient approach.


Edit: I re-read my post and thought, "Go cry, emo kid."  Rephrased accordingly.

Ninja1

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Re: Wally's 1L Tips
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2009, 04:40:29 AM »
Totally agree with all of the initial points. Well done.
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,.,.,.;.,.,.

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Re: Wally's 1L Tips
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2009, 11:51:36 AM »
Totally agree with all of the initial points. Well done.

Thank you.  A friend of mine read this and told me that, while it's true, no 0L will believe it.  I guess I'll have to settle for being the unwitting Cassandra of an unread forum at the non-TLS law school discussion side of the internet.

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Ambidextrous Thinking
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2009, 12:20:27 PM »
One thing I'd like to add is from day one to "think with two minds" (or more).  "The Law" isn't some solid block of information that you need to learn.  It's an amorphous gelatinous cube that you as a lawyer must become skilled in shaping

Keep in mind, when you read your first cases, you will see one perspective on the law (the judge's opinion).  The first case I remember was Dudley v. Stephens in criminal law.  Three sailors were stranded at sea on a small boat, and the two adults killed the kid and ate him like 2-3 weeks into being stranded.  LIke a couple days later they were rescued and tried.  The holding of the case was that the defendants were guilty because their action was not "necessary" since they were all still alive and had a chance of being rescued.  Now, when I read that holding, I was like "okay, can't kill someone to survive if there's even a small chance of being rescued, end of story.  Glad I got that down."  But in reality, the whole defense could've come out the other way if the judge had been different, or the lawyer had argued better, blah blah blah.  So when you read a holding, you should think about the best argument on the other side, and realize that argument almost won.  "WTF? Who in their right mind would put their faith into getting rescued after being stranded in the ocean for 3 weeks?  They were all starving and decreasing by the day in stamina, of course one of them had to go!  I'd be better that one person die than all three start experiencing irreversible organ failure!"

Note:  this is especially true in Constitutional Law (read those dissents!!).  Anyway, this is sort of long, but really important to keep in mind.  Always think of the best arguments on both sides.
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Matthies

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Re: Wally's 1L Tips
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2009, 01:30:32 PM »
All good stuff.

The only thing I will add, and itís because Iím past 1L that I can say/see this, is that there is an overwhelming herd mentality in law school, especially the first year. You will be tempted to do everything your classmate are doing for no other reason than you think thatís the only way to do it.

From briefing, to taking notes, to outlining, to study groups, to trying out for law review to crafting your resume to look like everyone elseís. Iíll just say it does not have to be that way. Find what works best for you (this takes time, a semester and some trial/error). But if you have never been a flash card learner donít start now just because thatís how your friends are doing it.
Trust in yourself that by now the best judge of how you learn material is you, so do what works best for you, not what everyone else thinks you have to do, and that goes for everything from study techniques, to school activities, to job hunting.

Donít do anything just because you think you have to because your friends are doing it, some 3L did it, or some book told you had to do it this way. If you do it will likely turn out half assed because thatís not what your really good at.  People are different play up your personal strengths and down your personal weakness rather than giving into the pressure and trying to mold yourself to be just like everyone else.
*In clinical studies, Matthies was well tolerated, but women who are pregnant, nursing or might become pregnant should not take or handle Matthies due to a rare, but serious side effect called him having to make child support payments.

just some guy

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Re: Ambidextrous Thinking
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2009, 02:48:38 PM »
One thing I'd like to add is from day one to "think with two minds" (or more).  "The Law" isn't some solid block of information that you need to learn.  It's an amorphous gelatinous cube that you as a lawyer must become skilled in shaping

Keep in mind, when you read your first cases, you will see one perspective on the law (the judge's opinion).  The first case I remember was Dudley v. Stephens in criminal law.  Three sailors were stranded at sea on a small boat, and the two adults killed the kid and ate him like 2-3 weeks into being stranded.  LIke a couple days later they were rescued and tried.  The holding of the case was that the defendants were guilty because their action was not "necessary" since they were all still alive and had a chance of being rescued.  Now, when I read that holding, I was like "okay, can't kill someone to survive if there's even a small chance of being rescued, end of story.  Glad I got that down."  But in reality, the whole defense could've come out the other way if the judge had been different, or the lawyer had argued better, blah blah blah.  So when you read a holding, you should think about the best argument on the other side, and realize that argument almost won.  "WTF? Who in their right mind would put their faith into getting rescued after being stranded in the ocean for 3 weeks?  They were all starving and decreasing by the day in stamina, of course one of them had to go!  I'd be better that one person die than all three start experiencing irreversible organ failure!"

Note:  this is especially true in Constitutional Law (read those dissents!!).  Anyway, this is sort of long, but really important to keep in mind.  Always think of the best arguments on both sides.

Wally would likely go with three minds, you know, like a tree in which there are three blackbirds.
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Ninja1

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Re: Ambidextrous Thinking
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2009, 07:34:46 PM »
One thing I'd like to add is from day one to "think with two minds" (or more).  "The Law" isn't some solid block of information that you need to learn.  It's an amorphous gelatinous cube that you as a lawyer must become skilled in shaping

Keep in mind, when you read your first cases, you will see one perspective on the law (the judge's opinion).  The first case I remember was Dudley v. Stephens in criminal law.  Three sailors were stranded at sea on a small boat, and the two adults killed the kid and ate him like 2-3 weeks into being stranded.  LIke a couple days later they were rescued and tried.  The holding of the case was that the defendants were guilty because their action was not "necessary" since they were all still alive and had a chance of being rescued.  Now, when I read that holding, I was like "okay, can't kill someone to survive if there's even a small chance of being rescued, end of story.  Glad I got that down."  But in reality, the whole defense could've come out the other way if the judge had been different, or the lawyer had argued better, blah blah blah.  So when you read a holding, you should think about the best argument on the other side, and realize that argument almost won.  "WTF? Who in their right mind would put their faith into getting rescued after being stranded in the ocean for 3 weeks?  They were all starving and decreasing by the day in stamina, of course one of them had to go!  I'd be better that one person die than all three start experiencing irreversible organ failure!"

Note:  this is especially true in Constitutional Law (read those dissents!!).  Anyway, this is sort of long, but really important to keep in mind.  Always think of the best arguments on both sides.

Ah, Dudley v. Stephens, I remember it well. :) We actually went over it at both the start and end of our class. Amazing what a semester of crim can do to your perception of things.
I'mma stay bumpin' till I bump my head on my tomb.