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Author Topic: American 2007 Incoming Students - Tips for a successful law school career  (Read 3772 times)

Shadowalker

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I have been thinking of doing this for a while, but wanted to wait until people have made final decisions about where they are going to school. I am starting this thread to provide tips to incoming WCL students that could or should help you have a much more successful law school career than those without these tips. Since I cannot think of everything right now, I will update on this original post as I think of new things.

Why should you listen to me? Well, you don't have to. In fact, I do not particularly care whether any one does. As far as my qualifications to give advice and tips on WCL: I have been at the school for 3 years. I feel like I have experienced almost everything the place has to offer me -- good and bad. I have had semesters that resulted in a 4.0, and I have had classes that resulted in a terrible grade. I did AULR (law review for those unfamiliar with the acronyms), and OCI (on campus recruiting). Yes, I am at a biglaw firm, although I have plenty of experience with those who also chose to go other routes. But most importantly, I am starting the thread because in three years, I have learned a lot of things that I wish I had known when I started. With that said:

- Avoid the administration at all costs. Whether it be the financial aid office, the registrar, the student affairs office, or the cafeteria lady: AVOID THEM. As I am sure some of you have already experienced through the admissions process, it is a trainwreck. How the administration can continually bumble over themselves every single year is beyond me -- particularly when the school is not even very large. If you ever have any problems that require administrative attention, no matter how small, try to solve it on your own. If you cannot, prepare for a disaster because it will most likely happen.

- After 1L year, prepare lots of varying class schedules. The scheduling of classes is terrible. Lots of quality classes are offered at the same times, and a lot of them fill up incredibly quickly. Keep this in mind and prepare your class schedules ahead of time with some backup options.

- Prepare to compete. On your first day of orientation, Dean Grossman et al. will tell you that WCL, unlike other law schools, is not competitive. It would be to your academic benefit to ignore this comment. WCL may not be as competitive as other schools, but it is competitive. Anytime you put 400 type-A personalities together, load them down with debt, and tell them the best way to pay it off is to get the highest grades, then a competition will ensue. WCL is no different. The only difference is that the competition does not become as overt until the spring of 1L, after journal selections come out (tomorrow by the way).

- Do NOT rely on career services to get you a job, write your cover letter, or write your resume. This largely goes back to my first point. But more importantly, a lot of students mistakenly believe that OCPD (Office of Career and Professional Development) will provide everyone a job. This is not true and if you think it is, you will be unemployed. Use their resources. Seek their advice. But, do not rely on them. YOU have to do the legwork, the networking, and the interviewing.

- Try to write on to journal. Even if you don't think you want to be on a journal, try the competition. If you don't make it, then you are no worse off than when you started. If you do make it, you will reap the benefits for the next two years. With that said, do not avoid the write on competition because you feel confident that you will grade on. This is foolish and has cost many people spots on the law review in past years--a good friend of mine included.

- Learn the shuttle schedule. A lot of people complain about the shuttle, and sometimes I think that the shuttle aspect is the worst part of some students law school experience (based on hearing their complaints). With that said, I think it is efficient, reliable, and a useful tool to have. If you simply learn when the thing picks students up and where it stops at, you will probably have a great experience with it also. If you fail to even learn the shuttle schedule, you will likely end up like one of the students I mentioned in the beginning of this paragraph.

- Take Evidence even though it is not required. Take Corporations even though it is not required. Take Tax even though it is not required. Don't ask why, just trust me on this one. This is not good material to try to "learn through bar/bri."

- Start outlining from the first day of class. Your first semester grades will be one of the biggest most influential factors in your law school career. If you drop the ball, then you will spend the next 2.5 years trying to recover. If you do very well, you will have a wealth of opportunities at your door. The best way to make sure you do poorly the first semester is to wait too long to start outlining. Every year, the single biggest "what if" I ALWAYS hear from 1Ls is "What if I started outlining in September?" It is easy to do if you maintain a running outline each week. Simply add your class notes, case notes, etc to it after each class. By the end of the semester, it has built itself. While everyone is writing outlines for the first time, you are reviewing yours for the 4th.

- Learn to read and brief a case before law school. DeLaney has a great book on case briefing with some examples in there. If you can learn this before law school, I don't think you will feel as lost as other students the first month.

- If you date or sleep with other law students at WCL, don't advertise it. Law school is 8th grade all over.

- Read the Washingtonian. It is not the best magazine out there, and it is not the bible of everything that is right with Washington. But, it is widely read by all beltway insiders, and any players in the legal, lobbying, or political arena's within DC. Suscribe. Read it. Pay close attention to the people that are profiled as upcoming projected legal stars.

- Do not get involved with SBA, student senate, or any of that other meaningless garbage they try to push onto you during 1L. Think about it. There is a reason that the current students in charge of those things typically come to the 1Ls instead of the 2Ls. Reason: The 1Ls are not far enough into law school to realize how truly meaningless those activities are. No, SBA will not get you jobs. It will not increase your GPA. And chances are, you surely will not get a warm and fuzzy from helping people. Instead, it will drain your time, your mental resources, and your patience. I have a friend that got roped into it a year ago. To this day, I still laugh at him when he leaves the law school at 11pm after an all-important SBA senate meeting.

strongmace

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- Start outlining from the first day of class. Your first semester grades will be one of the biggest most influential factors in your law school career. If you drop the ball, then you will spend the next 2.5 years trying to recover. If you do very well, you will have a wealth of opportunities at your door. The best way to make sure you do poorly the first semester is to wait too long to start outlining. Every year, the single biggest "what if" I ALWAYS hear from 1Ls is "What if I started outlining in September?" It is easy to do if you maintain a running outline each week. Simply add your class notes, case notes, etc to it after each class. By the end of the semester, it has built itself. While everyone is writing outlines for the first time, you are reviewing yours for the 4th.

- Learn to read and brief a case before law school. DeLaney has a great book on case briefing with some examples in there. If you can learn this before law school, I don't think you will feel as lost as other students the first month.


Thank you for your post. 

A couple questions:

1) I had thought that outlining is a very compressed version of case summaries, theories discussed in class, and any other points of interest. Is that correct?

2) Is this the DeLaney book you are referring to?

http://www.amazon.com/Learning-Legal-Reasoning-Briefing-Analysis/dp/0960851445/ref=sr_1_3/104-5040445-7620739?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1176384946&sr=1-3
Attending: Catholic

Accepted: Catholic, Richmond, U Baltimore
Waitlisted: U Maryland, American
Denied: Mason, GW, Georgetown, W&M

Major: Civil Engineering
Minor: Rhetoric
LSAT: 159
GPA: 3.4

Shadowalker

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A couple questions:

1) I had thought that outlining is a very compressed version of case summaries, theories discussed in class, and any other points of interest. Is that correct?

2) Is this the DeLaney book you are referring to?

http://www.amazon.com/Learning-Legal-Reasoning-Briefing-Analysis/dp/0960851445/ref=sr_1_3/104-5040445-7620739?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1176384946&sr=1-3

(1) That is correct. Although, there will be notes from the book (generally following cases) that you will want to include, subtle points of law that appear in various supplements etc. Ihe problem is: most people take class notes, and jot down some case notes during each class. But, they never put it all together, proces the information, and figure out how it all interacts. Keep a running outline throughout the semester and reading period will be a review time for you, rather than a crunch time.

(2) Yeah, that is the correct book. It is short and cheap, but will give you the tools you need for reading cases and knowing which information to extract, and what is useless dictum.

Mpmav1

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What a great post... I only wish someone would do this for wherever I decide on!

bonjour

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Thank you for the great advice!  I was wondering, could you go over the different concentrations, especially Administrative Law and International Law.  I want to focus on International Law, but I think that it is too broad, especially if I want to work in a Big Law Firms.  Which concentrations can you provide information on?  thank you.

kates

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pastor of muppets

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Thanks for the post.  I'm not going to American, but a lot of your advice seems like it would carry over to any law school.

dcforlife

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Great post. Love the last bullet too -- I have a friend that's a 1L there and she said it's like middle school. Go figure!

Forget Money, Read a Book

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Awesome!!!

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