Monday, July 07, 2008

What To Expect From Law School--Part 1

"See, the sad thing about a guy like you is in 50 years you're going to start doing some thinking on your own and you're going to come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life. One, don't do that. And two, you dropped one hundred fifty grand on a fucking education you could have gotten for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library "

---Good Will Hunting

I have recently been getting a lot of hits from what I assume are people who are entering their first year of law school in the fall (i.e. What to expect from law school or Hardest part of law school).(Every one else is interested in diamond rings). So this is my attempt to distill my knowledge into a short primer (and to take a break from bar study because two hours of that shit fries your brain).

Starting simple. What is the hardest part of law school. That is easy. Final exams. Next question.

Alright, here is some more detail on that. The vast majority of law school classes have one exam. And that is it. That is your grade. Unlike in undergrad you are not going to be able learn everything you need to know in one 24 hour bender the day before the exam. Well you might, but not many people can. So you have to go to class. You have to take good notes. You have to do the assigned reading before class. You have to brief those cases you just read. Granted, this only applies if you are trying to do well. But you should follow those tips for at least the first year, do your best, and then see where you stand. (This is also an option).

The long and short of exams is that 14 weeks comes down to two, three or four hours. Keep that in mind on a Wednesday afternoon when all you want to do is go out and get hammered because your brain is already fried.

As long as we are talking about exams, let's take a look at the classes. First year your classes are likely to be Criminal Law, Torts, Con[stitutional] Law, Contracts, Property, Civ[il] Pro[cedure], Crim[inal] Pro[cedure], and some sort of writing class. Now, the important thing to realize at the outset, is that each of these topics (save Civ Pro) are tested on the MBE. Civ Pro is going to be on the essay portion of the bar exam. Each class presents its own challenges, except for Torts, Torts is fucking easy.

I hated contracts. I still hate contracts. But that is probably because the text book did not even discuss how a contract is formed until my second semester. Also, conditions, still do not understand them. They should be easy, but I read that shit in the Bar Bri outline, and I am more confused than ever. And that is my contracts rant (though I somehow did well in contracts class. To be fair, I probably thought I understood it better when I took the test than I realize how poorly I understood now. Confidence is key.)

Of those classes, Con Law is the one that really only presents an abnormal level of difficulty (but note, Crim Pro is virtually a Con Law class too, but solely focuses on the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments). Supreme Court Judges like to use big words. And they love to spend eight pages explaining something when a half a paragraph would suffice. They love to refer back to every case the Court has ever decided in the same opinion. And they love to obfuscate what they said in those cases. Plus, it is the one class where dissents actually matter. Other than Con Law I can think of one case off the top of my head where a dissent mattered (Palsgraf; but I did just take the BarBri Torts class a couple days ago).

In addition, Justices hate to be clear. They cannot just lay out the rules as you learn them (Rational Basis, Strict Scrutiny and Intermediate Scrutiny), but continually use different language for the same test. It is highly annoying. So here is my trick for Con Law. Wikipedia. It is like a ready made case brief. For instance, if you read the SCOTUS opinions for Hamdi and Hamdan, they are almost impenetrable (and fucking long, but casebooks edit the cases they present). But read Hamdi or Hamdan on wikipedia and they almost make sense. (or just read about the case that came down this term)

The other hardest part of Law School is finding a job. But you should not worry about that now. Because the best part of Law School is that you have three years where you do not have to work. Some people do. I did not (other than a summer assoc position, but that does not count really). Sure, the cover charge is steep, but I have the rest of my life to work and I love to stay up until four and sleep until noon everyday.

Yeah, there are other good parts too. Making new friends, learning stuff, getting blitzed the day finals end, etc. But really, none of the best reasons for going to law school are the reason you are going. Keep that in mind too.

More thoughts on law school coming soon.

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