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Author Topic: First Week of Law School  (Read 4773 times)

pjb1987

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First Week of Law School
« on: August 28, 2010, 02:13:07 PM »
So, I just finished my first week in law school. Now it's Saturday morning and I feel like a piece of crap because I only did homework for 5 hours yesterday (I don't have class on Fridays.) I think I'm on top of all of the cases, class discussions, and general idea of what the classes entail (Torts, Property, Contracts, and Lawyering Skills), but I can't help but think that I haven't studied enough. I understand that a person can always study more, regardless of how much they understand what they're studying, but when can you call it a week and just go out and have fun for a night? Maybe it's all of the hype that being in law school gets, but the fact that I have only been spending 7 or 8 hours a day on law school (5 yesterday) (between 2 and 5 hours a day in class, and 6-3 hours studying), and have been hanging out and watching TV by 6 or 7 each night (I start at 8:00 am each morning), worries me. Before I started law school I was under the impression that I would be working my ass off for 10-12 hours a day, working all day on Saturdays, never going out with my friends at night, etc... I understand that I have not yet begun synthesizing rules, outlining courses, writing memos and such for Lawyering Skills, which will definitely start taking up more time, but I just feel like I haven't done enough. Can somebody please offer some insight on what I should be feeling after the first week of law school?

I am basically obsessed with doing very well because I am in a 4th tier school (please don't post anything telling me that I'm an idiot for even going to a 4th tier school, I'm pretty sure I have a decent understand of the pitfalls of my situation.) I won't accept anything worse than the top 20% (hopefully better than that), and the anxiety is almost overwhelming to the point where I am going to start becoming a creature, studying all day 7 days a week and never seeing my friends/girlfriend (spare me the cynical remarks on how everybody breaks up with their girlfriend when their in law school.) I've been told that law students, contrary to what people tend to say on this board, can actually have a social life, but to what extent is that true?

Thank you so much in advance for anybody who offers good insight/advice, and for all of you who potentially might post the famed, "You're an idiot for going to a 4th tier school, law school sucks, don't even bother, say goodbye to your friends and girlfriend forever, etc...., @#!* OFF!

For everybody reading this post who is more experienced and graduated law school, can you please just offer some advice on

bigs5068

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Re: First Week of Law School
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2010, 05:41:54 PM »
The feeling is normal, I go to a fourth tier school and people who didn't finish in the top 50% found jobs for the summer. It is not not Harvard, but any ABA will provide you with a decent education and the horror stories you hear on this board and others are generally written by people who have never even set foot in a law school. The pressure is difficult I remember the first week and first semester I had no idea what I was doing. There is so much anxiety, because it is all new and there is no way to know if what you are doing is right. A good thing to do is use Cali Lessons, your library should be able to set you up with them, but since you are only a week in you will probably not have covered much. However, Cali lessons come in handy down the road. There is also a website called e-case briefs that summarizes cases very well and it helped me tremendously second semester.

In regards to your desire to finish in the top 20% there is nothing you can really do about it. Anybody at an ABA school is smart even tier 4's and 50% of the people are going to finish in the bottom 50%,  that is law school. Try your best and do everything you can, but there is no way to guarantee you fill finish in the top 20% or even top 50% only time will tell. If you stay on top of your reading and do practice exams, multiple choice questions, cali lessons, well before finals start and understand how to take an exam you should be alright. Also do not get discouraged if you do poorly on some MC's and Cali lessons right now. I remember I did poorly on my midterms, but ended up in the top 15%. The reason I did poorly on the the midterms in my opinion is because the first 7 weeks I was so obsessed with reading every detail in every case and not understanding the core concepts or practicing questions.

So bottom line is law school is stressful. A tier 4 will provide you with a good education, but you can't stress out about being in the top 20%. You can only do everything in your power read every case before class, take excellent notes, outline the chapters, and if you have questions talk to the professors. It sounds like you are putting in a lot of effort and it should work out. That was a long rambling essay, but I just wanted to say as a fellow tier 4 student who was sh***ing his pants the first few weeks last year it will be alright :).

Cicero

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Re: First Week of Law School
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2010, 02:08:45 AM »
The first few weeks are for getting your feet wet. You will probably be studying a lot more after the 1st few weeks as your assignment load increases--larger readings & being assigned papers. 

I didn't have much of a social life at all my 1st semester (but I'm married, so I wasn't exactly totally isolated). I felt like I studied or was in class pretty much from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed a lot of nights during my 1st semester. However, I do spend a lot more time briefing cases & taking notes than most people do. I also make my own outlines, do cali lessons, etc. The second semester, I was able to do that stuff, but also have a little bit more time with friends and more veg out time. My study habits landed me well within the top 5% and allowed me to transfer from a T4 to a T1.

I don't necessarily agree that where you fall in the curve is all luck. Perhaps there is some luck to it, but a lot of it comes down to your preparation. Beyond Cali, Q&A, Law in a Flash, etc., you need to practice essays. Essays will likely be half of your grade and LS essay writing is very different from the essays you wrote on college exams. It's too early at this point to practice them, but when you have covered more material, you should try to take essays from past exams or ones from Academic Success or a supplement/casebook. If possible, get your profs to look at them and have them tell you what you should do to improve. (Some profs may offer this option to the class and provide the essay and others will do this if you request it.) You should also find out what they want from the essay--purely IRAC or more free flow, do they want case names, do they want MOR analysis, etc. You also need to practice issue spotting, and reading the cases and practicing MC and essays will help you become a better issue spotter. Making your own outline will really help you boil down the material, synthesize it, and internalize it. (Getting a pre-made outline off of the internet or from a 2L won't help nearly as much, unless it is just used for comparison.) Read the supplements when you are confused and talk to your profs if you are still confused. Don't fall behind on your reading. Finally, you need to know the law really well and be comfortable applying it to different hypo situations.

It is pretty normal to feel scared about the curve and worried about where you will fall on it. It's also normal to worry about failing out the 1st semester. Most students, myself included, seem to go from wanting to be at the top, to worrying about failing out after the first few weeks. There is no guarantee that you will be in the top 20%, but doing these things should greatly increase your chances. Good luck! :)

bigs5068

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Re: First Week of Law School
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2010, 02:33:52 AM »
I honestly think me and you were lucky to be in the top of our classes. Obviously, you have to work hard, but there are those that worked harder than me and did worse and those that worked less and did better. No matter what happens 50% of the class is going to be in the bottom 50% it is just the way it is.

I really think the whole way students are ranked in a school  is retarded.  Having your class  based on some multiple choice questions and regurgitating what you learn on an essay does not make you a good lawyer. I really can't see what any of that has to do with being a good lawyer, but it is the way the system is. I think they should make you take the tests to see if you can pass the bar, but make you do some kind of trial or something at the end of the first year to give you a class ranking. Or write motions etc against other students and have it be a competitive format in what the real world is like.

Cicero

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Re: First Week of Law School
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2010, 12:40:41 PM »
I believe that there is a little luck in the test taking, but a lot of it comes down to preparation and learning to think like a lawyer. I hope your final isn't just regurgitation. Ours certainly weren't. There is some regurgitation in terms of spitting out the rule, but then you must connect the fact pattern to the rule and analyze it to come up with an answer.

I guess part of why I don't see how it is luck is that the same people consistently get the top grades and others consistently get the lower grades. If it was all up to luck there would be more mixing of grades. Furthermore, if it is all luck, then why do schools take the 1st year grades as a replacement for your LSAT (for transferring) and as a big indicator of your success on the bar exam?

Were you not graded on motions and trial arguments in your legal writing class?

I do agree that ranking isn't a wonderful thing. It just adds more pressure and stress. However, it can help you transfer.

Oh, on a totally different subject. Bigs you know how we've discussed attrition at T4 schools on other threads. Well, I recently learned that FCSL's attrition this year was over 50% (not all academic). Twenty-five percent more people dropped out or transferred than last year. I was shocked when I heard this news. Did GGU have a much higher attrition rate this year too?

bigs5068

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Re: First Week of Law School
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2010, 04:37:30 PM »
Of course the application in IRAC matters and it is not merely regurgitation. I think but your ability apply to type really fast helps students unfairly. The legal writing class did have us do briefs etc, but it was only worth 3 units so 10% of our first year ranking was based on LRW. LRW is the one class that I think relates to the real world and is how you should be ranked opposed to the current system.  It is the way it is for now and it is helping me out so I will take it, I suppose. 50% is a little shocking, I think the attrition at GGU was something around 18% including transfers. 

In regards to finishing the top 20% etc there is no way to know. I remember when you started saying all you were worried about was passing and when you did well then it was awesome. I had the same feeling when I was starting and had I finished 61% or 12% I wouldn't have been surprised. The reality is it is tough not everybody can be in the top 10%. Everybody in law school is pretty smart and generally 100% of people bust their ass, but 90% of them won't be in the top 10%. I just think that attitude of I have to be in the top 20% is going to lead to disappointment. It was like when I was coaching basketball all the kids were good, but everyone wanted to score 20 pts a game and it can't happen. They all put in work, but sports are competitive and the chips are gonna fall where they fall. Put everything you can into something and that is all you can do. 

Cicero

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Re: First Week of Law School
« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2010, 08:30:46 PM »
Eighteen percent attrition isn't bad at all. That's less attrition than FCSL normally has (usually about 25%).

I agree that you can't go into LS  thinking you have to be in top 20%. It will be really hard to do, and there is no guarantee. You won't necessarily know if your study habits worked for you like you thought they did until you encounter the final exam (everyone learns things differently--visual learner, etc.), or whether you really understood the material better than everyone else. After the first semester, you will know how well your study habits worked for you, so you should be able to make some improvements to them. (If you have midterms your 1st semester, they will really help you figure out where you fit into the curve based on your current level of prep, so that you can adjust what you're doing and do better on the finals. They also give you a taste of what you're up against. Midterms definitely helped me.)

Please don't put that kind of pressure on yourself, at least not this early on in the 1st year. Feeling like you have to do well can put good pressure on you to study hard and to take LS seriously, but it can also cause physical and emotional problems such as stomach aches, loss of weight, and insomnia or you could become that legendary person who freaked out during the final and ran out screaming. LS is stressful enough without feeling like you have to be at the top.

Good luck, and please don't be so hard on yourself. You can still be a lawyer if you aren't in the top 20%.

bigs5068

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Re: First Week of Law School
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2010, 05:36:59 PM »


I guess part of why I don't see how it is luck is that the same people consistently get the top grades and others consistently get the lower grades. If it was all up to luck there would be more mixing of grades. Furthermore, if it is all luck, then why do schools take the 1st year grades as a replacement for your LSAT (for transferring) and as a big indicator of your success on the bar exam?


I will say there is definitely luck on finals, because a lot of people who did well first semester did not do well second semester and vice versa. The Dean's list did not have a lot repeat people on it, but there were some. One girl who was on academic probation first semester, got two Witkin awards the next semester, so I think there is a lot of luck in it.  Schools and employers take the class ranking very seriously, but I really don't understand why. How you perform on a 3 hour multiple choice test and essay exams seems to be no indicator of your ability to be an attorney. It is an indicator for the bar, and I understand why the exams are that way, but for employers to only talk to people who got a few more multiple choice questions right, (which you can guess on) seems wrong to me. At least on the SAT you are penalized for guessing, I mean quite literally your pure luck on guessing on 3 or 4 multiple choice question could mean the difference between top 20% or Top 35% and it just seems weird to me. Legal Writing and Research should be the one class combined with a trial that determines you ranking, because that is real life. The system in it's current design is helping me out, but I really don't think it is right. That is just my two cents, and I doubt it is going to change anytime soon. 

interrex

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Re: First Week of Law School
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2010, 11:01:25 AM »
If you enjoyed the first few weeks of this term, you will LOVE the last few!(exams in lawschool are a unique process compared to undergrad)

Expect the first few weeks of next term to have people who used perfect grammar and got all A's in undergrad to cry and scream in anger when they get straight C's since none of that means jack in lawschool and then see the guy who looks like GomerPile get all A's and say "Well gosh, aint that gonna be awsome, I got none B's er below, YEHAAA!"

Watch, experience, and enjoy.

marcus-aurelius

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Re: First Week of Law School
« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2010, 12:22:04 PM »
If you enjoyed the first few weeks of this term, you will LOVE the last few!(exams in lawschool are a unique process compared to undergrad)

Expect the first few weeks of next term to have people who used perfect grammar and got all A's in undergrad to cry and scream in anger when they get straight C's since none of that means jack in lawschool and then see the guy who looks like GomerPile get all A's and say "Well gosh, aint that gonna be awsome, I got none B's er below, YEHAAA!"

Watch, experience, and enjoy.

Evidence?