Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Socrates was a Jerk. Advice for the First Year Law Student.

Welcome to the Paper Chase
As the dog days of summer come to a close, many of our nation's brightest legal minds will be entering the hallowed halls of our illustrious legal institutions. As the nation's leading legal blog for first year law students with Snapple addictions according to completely fabricated statistics, we at the Nutmeg Lawyer feel it is our duty to pass along some advice to this year's entering class. The following is our annual warning to the incoming class. So without further adieu, welcome to the paper chase:

(1) Many of you will encounter the Socratic Method. For those of you not familiar with Socrates, he was a classical Greek philosopher and jerk. His method requires your professor to call on you despite the fact you did not raise your hand. He or she will ask you a question which, when answered, will only illicit another question. Unfortunately, American law schools never signed on to the Geneva Convention. As such, this form of interrogation is still practiced despite attempts by Jimmy Carter and Amnesty International to stop it. Ironically, the Socratic Method is what caused the death of the great philosopher. In an ill fated teaching lesson he looked in a mirror and inadvertently used the method on himself. The experience was so troubling, Socrates took hemlock thereby killing himself.

2) Often you may feel you are the dumbest in class. You are not. Well, technically one of you has to be the dumbest. Maybe it is you. But, chances are it's not you. Your fellow students may give rather insightful answers in class. They will say things you may not have thought of. They are thinking the same thing when you answer in class. Most of it is just posturing. Everyone is in the same boat. They all have the same nervous anticipation. Don't worry, you'll do fine as long as you prepare for class. Besides, you will learn who the dumbest kid in class was after you graduate. He will be one of the senior partners at your firm.

(3) The practice of law and the study of law are two completely different things. To better prepare for actual law practice have a friend dress in a black robe and then kick you in the shins. Respond with "thank you your honor."

(4) If your law school has an open door policy with professors, take advantage of it. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Feel free to pester your professors. Call them at home. Poke them and say things like "I pay your salary." They will respect you for it. It's anonymous grading anyway.

(5) Join a study group. Conventional wisdom says to pick the smartest kids in class. I disagree. Pick the most popular kids. They will have the best jobs and make the most money out of law school.

I leave you with this. Jackass law students become jackass lawyers. Try to remain grounded throughout your experience. Take some time for yourself. And communicate with your friends and family. They may have trouble understanding the enormous stress you are under. They think law school is like college. They might not understand why you can't attend Aunt Martha's birthday party. They often do not understand that your law school exam takes up more time to study and requires more intensity than their final pottery exam. Law School can make or break relationships. Their idea of law school is probably the movie "Legally Blonde." Show them what you are going through. Let them look at your casebooks, assignments, etc. Make your loved ones watch "The Paper Chase." Ok, so maybe law school isn't quite as over the top as that particular movie, but it should buy you some sympathy and a little understanding. I wish you the best of luck in your legal studies and look forward to seeing you in the trenches.
Editor's note: I encourage our readers to submit tips in our comment section that might actually be beneficial to a first year student. You may also want to check out the Law School Rockstars Blawg to relive your law school days from start to finish.


Irene C. Olszewski, Esq. said...

On the first day of law school, we were all ushered to a huge room and given a stern lecture. The Dean began by saying, "look left ... look right. One of you won't be here for graduation."

We all thought it an odd statement and I believe it amused us at the time ... right up until the first semester had ended and some of our classmates were gone. Some of them hadn't even stayed long enough to take the exams.

If I can give one important piece of advice to the incoming 1Ls, it's to take law school seriously. The Socratic method takes getting used to. It's unlike any educational experience you've ever had.

The job of your law professors is not only to teach you how to understand and interpret the law, but to teach you to think like a lawyer. They will teach you to think on your feet and to view every set of facts from more than one angle (yours and the opposing party's).

Read every word of those cases, draft detailed outlines, buy the supplemental materials (and USE them) ...

Three years of hard work will be expected ... but those three years will pay off if you put forth the effort.

Good luck 1Ls. You'll do just fine.

Anonymous said...

Thanks...I look forward to this ride and to joining the ranks.

Peter said...

Develop great relationships with your classmates. Beyond friendships, you law school classmates can be great colleagues for years to come and sources of business...I've gotten many good referrals over the years.

Mavis Ronayne said...

My advice - be nice to the students sitting next to you in class, for they just might help you out when you get called on for the Burger King case in Civ Pro!

(Hi Adrian - just found your blog!)