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December 20, 2008

Congrats and now start working on deep reflections, suggestions and looking ahead

Congrats to everyone for finishing the first semester of law school.  It is all downhill from now, and law school (both inside and outside the classroom) will start feeling very different from here on out. 

Before you have too much holiday cheer (and egg nog), I would be grateful for comments reflecting on the first semester law school experience and/or suggestions for how Moritz could improve the experience and/or thoughts about what you are expecting and hoping to learn next semester and through the rest of your time at law school.

Please be as broad or as narrow as you wish in your reflections and suggestions: you can and should feel free to discuss broadly how law school has changed how you look at politics or society or your own professional plans; you can and should feel free to discuss narrowly how legal research or traditional classes or career services or Lou's Cafe could be improved.

You should also feel free to post anonymously and to talk candidly about Moritz faculty or staff or students or alums.  Are there ways that faculty or upper-level students or alums could do a better job helping 1Ls in the Fall or activities you hope these persons will sponsor this coming Spring? 

Thanks in advance for your continued engagement.  Have a great break!

December 20, 2008 in Starting a career as a lawyer | Permalink

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Comments

I thought that law school was not as hard as I thought it would be. That being said, it was still harder than everything that has come before it. The reading assignments were of a reasonable length always, but I never felt comfortable with skipping them or skimping on study. In general, the pressure of learning a new way of doing things made me much more concerned with getting everything done than I was in undergrad. For me, the hardest part about law school has been the uncertainty. Even after exams, I still have no idea how the semester really went. I think my exams went ok, but every night I have an insomnia moment where I sit upright and worry about something I didn't write about. In the end, I did my best and I have to accept whatever the results of that are.
On a much broader level, law school made me much more aware of the power of the courts. I thought I knew about this, having taken con. law in undergrad, but I had no real idea about how the courts, especially lower courts, really worked. I now over analyze every situation and am constantly accusing friends of battery. For me, the most fascinating thing was probably theories of punishment and statutory construction. Because I got my concealed weapons permit around the time we were doing legislative stuff, I spent a great deal of time analyzing the gun laws in Ohio and I got pretty into it. I didn't realize how little most other people know about how the law is written until I started reading things other people wrote online about some of the same things we went over in class. I can't wait until I am a lawyer and can work with people to know the law, know their rights, and know what they can and cant do. Maybe I can even influence law or policy someday.

Posted by: Philip | Dec 25, 2008 2:41:34 AM

In my opinion, law school is just like any other new undertaking. You can receive all the advice in the world from everyone about what works best for them, but the only true way to grasp how to tackle law school is through personal experience. At orientation and throughout the semester, I'm sure all of us received advice from 2Ls, 3Ls, and professors, but only now after having completed a full semester does any of it actually make real sense.

For example, what works better, a big outline or small outline? Should I brief cases, book-brief, just read them? Work alone or in study groups? All of us have a better understanding what works best for us and will be better prepared from day one next semester to best utilize our time and study/prepare more effectively.

At that end, there's really not much the law school can do to help us. If anything, the law school does as much as they possibly can for us and bend over backwards to try to help us, ranging from orientations right down to the job search. If I could, I'd tell all of the faculty and administration to keep up the good work!

Posted by: Chad R | Dec 29, 2008 1:25:21 PM

Well, unlike Phil, I thought law school was every bit as difficult as I had been told. One of my family members asked me how it compared to my masters degree program, and I said that law school made my previous grad school experience feel like 3rd grade. But hey, this could just be because I'm not as intelligent as some of my younger peers, but I digress. Chad hit it right on the head when he said that all the advice in the world cannot serve as a substitute for the actual experience. That isn't to say that no advice should be given, but I would tell 1Ls next year to not worry so much about what people tell them and instead to have faith in their own abilities to study, take exams, brief, etc. I found myself wanting to use study aids, advice, etc. as a sort-of Linus security blanket, when I finally realized that I just needed to relax and do most of the things I've done in my previous academic endeavors because, even though law school is a different animal, that doesn't mean I should just scrap all of my academic habits and tendencies. I tend to use hyperbole a little too much, but I think (somewhat seriously) that I've learned more in these past 4 months than in all of my previous academic experiences combined. I can't imagine what I (and we) will know after 5 more semesters of this stuff. Even though it's hard and I complain way too much, I really do love this experience and I actually can't wait to get back to it (although I am indeed loving the time off).

I think that 2Ls, 3Ls, and professors alike have made it clear that they're there for us and have opened themselves up for us to ask them questions and general advice, and that's always comforting. Even in the uber-competitive environment that is 'law school,' I get this general feeling of a fraternity where everyone, at the end of the day, does want everyone else to succeed and do well in school and in life in general. Not that I wasn't like this to some degree before, but law school definitely has made me a more 'critical thinker' (I always hated that phrase in undergrad, I think because it was hammered into our heads ad nauseum). To invoke crim law, since we're on this blog, I find myself thinking more and more about the reasons why we label certain things as 'bad' and punishable by prison time and why we think some bad actions should merit X amount of punishment as opposed to Y amount for some other act. Just simple things like reading news stories takes on a bit of a different light for me after 4 months of law school. What's probably the strangest thing to me is that I actually got out my Geico insurance policy papers one day and read through them and they were so much simpler to understand than before (and in a sick way, I actually kinda liked reading them). Man, what has law school done to me......and I wanted to add that Lou's could only be improved by serving Chipotle burritos so I don't have to walk the few hundred feet or so to get to an actual Chipotle.

Posted by: Josh | Dec 29, 2008 10:16:18 PM

My law school experience has been a mixture of all of the above comments. For me initially I walked into law school with the attitude of working my ass off, and that is exactly what i did for the first 3 weeks probably. I read every case as if I would never read another case again, and treated it like the gospel of law school. Then I realized I should work smarter not harder, or more accurately smarter and harder. I started to book brief cases, and give a summary in my notes instead of doing full briefs. The book briefing in which i utilized different highlighters to show where in the language the issue, holding etc were, which allowed me to quote from the text exactly where I found something. That method worked especially well in civ pro where Greenbaum seemed to want to know where we were pulling stuff from the text.

Another thing that I think helped (we will see after we get exam scores) is supplements. I took the time to ask every professor what they used or reccomended, and utilized that supplement. I am a morning person so every morning I would spend an hour reading and outlining supplements that complemented where we were in class. It was very helpful in the sense that I went into class with a foundation of knowledge vs. just having read cases.

Overall I would describe the 1st semester of law school as initially overly intimidating, then incredibly repetitive to the point of boredom, and finally once finals come around, anxious.

I ended up treating law school like a job, doing work from 6 am to 5 basically everyday with small breaks, and it worked well because I could come home at night and spend time with my fiance who moved here for me, and it kept me focused when I was able to see an end to the studying for the day. Of course around finals I probably never stopped studying.

I think a crucial aspect to the administration in law school is the fall break, which I dont think is had by many other schools. For me the first month of law school was the hardest and I was studying from 6 am to 11pm, and if that break didn't happen I may have gone insane. The break for me put things into perspective and allowed me to catch my breath. I would imagine for many it did the same.

Staying on policy issues, I think the administration should make legal research a pass/fail class. Although it is only one credit it seems ridiculous to give someone a C in that class because soemone may have written a bit clearer on the exam. All 1L's seem to work incredibly hard to understand the material, and lets be honest legal research is relatively easy to understand, so when you have every 1L working hard to understand it they are going to know it sufficently. I feel bad for Dean Johnson when he grades the tests because most likely the differences will come down to writing style or at least I would imagine.

Lastly, I am not a big fan of Lou's cafe... It is incredibly over priced for a campus cafe, if you can even call it that. Who charges 3 dollars for a pb and J?! Its un-american. The coffee is always ridiculously hott and never fresh, and they raised there prices by 50 cents a cup of coffee within one month of us starting school there.

Like Josh, I do somewhat miss law school I find myself getting excited to buy new law books and learn a new topic, and I also agree with Josh that the wealth of information that we learned was more than my previous educational experience, however I differ in that I think the reasoning we learned more is because we worked much harder. I and others im sure did not work very hard in undegrad and therefore didnt learn as much. I think we all realized we could get A's without much work, and I would bet that if we could get by with out doing as much work in law school and get A's we would learn much less. I suppose that is the beauty of the competitive curve, it makes you work.

Posted by: Craig R. | Dec 30, 2008 8:48:22 AM

The first semester didn't seem that much more difficult than my undergrad experience; it seemed as though the difficulty of the work was comparable but the amount of time spent doing it was much greater. I found it difficult at times (most notably after the first few weeks of enthusiasm wore off) to come home and bury my head in books for several hours every day. At times it felt like all I did was go to school, do homework, eat and then go to bed. Although I think that is largely a product of having our contracts class end after 5pm 3 days a week (I'm sure many of my classmates will agree that getting out of class at 5:05 is too late).

As for Fall Break, I found that it was pretty much wasted time. I'm sure it is useful for 2L's who are prepping for interviews and such but this year it just seemed like it wasn't necessary. I would rather skip the fall break and start our winter break earlier than Dec. 19th. But, as Craig said above, I can see how some students might find fall break to be much more useful.

Finally, why is it that the classrooms have such extreme temperatures? I have to believe there is some smart person at the law school who can figure out how to avoid equator-like temperatures in the winter and glacier-like temperatures in the warmer months for many of the classrooms. I won't hold my breath.

Happy New Year.

Posted by: Steve | Dec 30, 2008 2:41:11 PM

Great comments, gang. Keep them coming and please send this link to other 1Ls so we might get as many comments as possible before big bad grades come into the mix. (BTW, I plan to have another open post for comments like this after everyone gets their grades.)

Posted by: Doug B. | Dec 31, 2008 3:20:20 PM

http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Firefighter-Killed-By-Firetruck-In-NJ.html

The causation/mens rea issues in this situation struck me as worthy of thought, so I wanted to share this article. I guess I need to research New Jersey's murder statute because I feel like murder seems a bit too harsh here.

Posted by: Josh | Jan 4, 2009 12:31:38 AM

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