Sunday, November 8, 2009

Law School Tips #2 - Concepts

Something Else #2 - Law
Last time I gave those fabulous 1L's some advice. That's what they call first year students, One and El, learned something new. Well that was advice, now here are few concepts to get you through this first...of many...rough patches.

They don't really want to to fail

Well not most of them don't. I did have one professor who was relatively clear in his need to "protect future clients from our potential incompetence." Which is admirable. But the vast majority of at least first year law professors want to help you pass. That and you're paying that tuition thingy. If they let you in, they want you to be there. So go and see them in their office, ask them questions after class, and don't be afraid to say the words that no one wants to say in front of you competitive peers - " I don't know." I can just about promise you that half your class is in the same boat. And if they aren't, you need to drop the shame and catch the hell up!

Your professor isn't crazy.

To practice law for any real period of time....then go into teaching... you have to be some sort of character. Especially teaching new lawyers, all of whom have these notions of what law is based on old episodes of Matlock, Law and Order and the movie Legally Blonde. [ sidenote - law professors love that movie. I don't know why. ] They have to wrest the sugar candy visions you have of law from your head and make you realize most of law is reading and writing, and there are very few "right" answers. They may be peculiar, and sometimes you don't get it, but it's kinda like watching a part two of a trilogy without seeing part one - you have no idea yet why they're doing what they're doing. Yet. There is a method to the madness.

You'll get it eventually

There is no middle ground here. At some point, as my professor told me, you'll start giving more commentary than answer because not only do you know what they're talking about, you've developed an opinion on it. My first year of law school I was a mess. I talked a lot, but I didn't know what I was talking about. Law isn't really about memorization and regurgitation, which is the premise of 85% of all other education. Law is about a foundation based looking at how the actual law was created, then taking that and applying it to a given situation. It would be simpler just to give you the law and ask you repeat it, but then you'd suck as a lawyer.

Write it down

The law is about writing. Yes, you can read it and get it, otherwise you wouldn't be in law school, we know all that. But it's the application that always gets us. We know what we want to say, but can't figure out how to squeeze it all into the space limitation they've imposed. And since, because you're smart, you waited until the night before it was due to get don't have time to craft an answer with grace. I'm telling you now...WRITE IT. Practice writing it. A lot of us issue spot - go through looking for the issues to see if we got it - and don't practice the actual writing down a cogent response part. The people who got 95 and above? They're practicing writing. Or they are law prodigies.

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