March 21, 2007

I'm 75% done with my 1L year, here are my tips...

For anyone will be going to law school but hasn't started, let me give you a couple of my personal views of the best way to succeed your first year. These tips are the culmination of some successful, and not so successful, attempts at gaining a leg-up on my fellow students:

1. Buy the casebriefs (and make sure they're keyed to your book)
Some people like to do it the old fashioned way, required casebooks only. This is a mistake. As soon as you read your very first case (Pennoyer v. Neff) you'll wish you had a plain-English description of what it is you just read. They are very handy when you have to skip some reading or were too busy singing karaoke and getting drunk the night before to do your reading. They will NOT save you from a Prof who likes to ask follow-up questions, so prepare accordingly. (side-note: I got the casebriefs for my contracts class but they were keyed to a different book. I had to eat the $30 because they're non-returnable)

2. Buy a commerical outline and stick with the same brand-name/publisher.
If you like Gilbert's, stick with it; if you like Emmanuel's stick with it. It's VERY nice to have the same format for all your commercial outlines, it makes it easier to process the information. This is another thing that "purists" think they are too good for. They are dumb. Buy the commercial outline and use it.

3. Don't highlight everything.
If you're going to highlight all but 4 lines of a case, you might as well not highlight anything. Notes in the margins are nice, but don't write a whole freakin paragraph. I used to highlight in 5 different colors (facts, cited cases, important dicta, holding/court, and dissent) I stopped after 5 or 6 weeks because the only really important stuff that you won't be able to remember is the verbatim dicta in the holding and the dissent. You'll remember what the case was about and which way it went (or will remember after skimming it). Spend your time working out the reasoning, not highlighting procedural history.

4. Don't try to sound like a lawyer
You are in your first year, you don't know how to argue with a law professor. Don't try and use big words or attempt to display an advanced knowledge of the case when you just read it 12 hrs earlier. This will make other students hate you and professors cringe when your hand goes up. You can give your opinion of a case when asked, but don't pretend to know more than the don't.

5. You don't have to like everyone, but be respectful and courteous
There are people here that make me want to scream when they give their opinions, and there are people that I want to strangle every time they open their mouths. But guess what, they probably feel the same way about me, and what makes me the lord of all things right? My closest friends are WILDLY different from me in many many ways, but we get along because the stuff that makes us different is minuscule compared to the stuff that makes us the same. You'd be surprised at what people are like outside of the pressures of class and school. Go out on a limb, be daring, hang out with some of the people that you think are completely opposite of you. You'll likely be surprised at what results.

6. Get involved
I know this sounds like a cliche, but it's worth it. When you join groups and go to events you get to meet people with similar interests. It's also nice, in some cases, to be able to have a break from the LAW every now and then. Go to the SBA events and meet some people, join the Running Club, or the Sports and Entertainment Club; talking about the Superbowl is a nice distraction from talking about res ipsa.

7. Do some non-law activities
Play basketball on Wednesdays, or go bowling on Mondays, or make Thursday night movie night. You will absolutely, without a doubt, need a real break from school at least once a week, and bonus points if it is active (sports, gym, walking, etc). If you don't you will get burned out, guaranteed.

8. Study hard, especially when you don't want to
This is one thing I wish I did more of last semester. When your breaks from studying become 2, 3, 4 hrs long, will you be happy when you end up with a C+? "But at least I got to spend time shopping at!" If you don't study your hardest, there's no complaining about your grade. You will get exactly what you earn.

That's all for now, I have to do some Con Law reading.....

"Did that blow your mind, because that just happened."


Another Asian Law Student said...

agree with everything except #6. the premise for the disagreement: i treat law school like work. do it, and get the hell out. i don't know about everyone, but i personally love hanging out with non-law students during my spare time more so than law students.

Cappy-Lawling said...

Very informative, thank you.

Phoebe said...

don't forget the part about asking surrent law students about your potential landlord. some people look fine, then they're not. do your homework and make sure your landlord doesn't expect you to live like a monk...i say this from personal experience

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