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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hindsight in wrist-slitting clarity

I'm almost done with the first year of law school. I have one more test, Friday morning, and then it's over. I'm really looking forward to it being done. I haven't posted much on my blog this semester, because in all honesty, I've been too depressed to have anything worth saying. The difference between last semester and this semester have been night and day. I enjoyed myself last semester, even though I complained about Civil Procedure and Legal Elements. I was still having fun. This semester I have hated law school life. Hated it. That's not an exaggeration. I also understand that's not altogether unusual.

I have an attorney friend here in Portland who has given me some advice from time to time, and he told me that he hated law school. Hated it. (He even said it twice, just like that.) But he likes being an attorney, so take heart.

Also, at the end of last summer, when I was having a farewell meal with my old coworkers, my boss said, "I'm going to tell you what my old boss told me when I was entering law school, and when he said it, it didn't really register, but at the end of my first year, I knew what he meant: If I was in your shoes right now, I'd slit my wrists."

And now I am in the position where I can look back and realize that truer words ne'er were spoken.

I think there is light up ahead, though. Despite the torture that this semester has been, I do believe I have learned some valuable things this year. Unfortunately, I feel like much of what I have learned is retrospect-type wisdom that really could have helped me best had I known it this time LAST year. C'est la vie.

Here's what I'd tell my year-ago self:

  • Learn to write law school essay exams the summer before you go to law school, because you aren't going to have time to play that game during the semester. You may be a good writer, but writing law school exams is not about being a good writer. You can be a shit writer and write a good law school exam, and you can be a fantastic writer and write a shit exam. Look into the LEEWS series and the Delaney series, and practice writing exams.
  • Sign up for BarBri right away, and start using its study materials early in the semester. BarBri is a bar exam prep program. There are others like Kaplan that might be suitable as well, but this is the one I signed up for halfway through this semester, and boy am I kicking myself for not getting on this train early. The audio lectures for first year classes are excellent. They provide a very clear roadmap to the entire semester's worth of material in 5-6 hours per subject. Sit down for a saturday or sunday early in the semester and listen to and take notes from the entire class's lecture series. This will give you a clear broad view of the course that you can refer back to while you learn the nitty gritty doing the case method in your course. If you rely solely on the case method to learn your shit, you are going to feel very lost. Very enthralled by the mushrooms growing at the base of that tree, but missing all the forest around you on account of it. Classes are bottom-up, but you need top-down too.
  • It is important to do your class reading assignments, and I recommend doing them all, even if you have to skip some and make them up later. But at the end of the semester, all that reading does not necessarily give you the knowledge you need for the exam. Don't belabor unimportant things. Get the point of each case as best you can, then move on with your life. When I studied German in college, I liked to look up every word I didn't know in my assigned readings. But in many ways it's counterproductive to do that. There are too many words to look up, and you can end up missing the point of the reading because you are so focused on the words, so sometimes you just have to push through your reading even if you are not understanding 100%. The law can be like that too.
  • Spend more time during the semester processing your class/reading notes. It's common to leave that until the last month before exams, but then you have to process 40+ pages of notes for each of 4 classes on top of your assigned readings. That's a lot to do. Set aside 30 minutes per week per class during the semester to do that type of review, and it'll make life a lot easier during the reading period before exams.
  • Remember to mind your reputation, and try not burn any bridges. In many ways, law school is a regression out of adulthood into something much more juvenile. Assholes abound. Don't be one of them.

In case you are wondering, no, I'm not sorry I'm here. I am glad this year is almost over, though, 'cause I need a break. It's been no walk in the park, that's for damn sure.




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6 comments:

one of the girls said...

Sra,

I look forward to reading your updates and I'm so happy to read that your friend insists that he likes being an attorney and therefore the bullshit is worth it in the end.

I'm currently back in school and exhausted already - fulltime job, single parent, condensed courses (because I like to torture myself), and really wishing I hadn't done all this! However, I know in a few years, I'll reap the rewards of my hard work and finally be able to get more than 4 hours of sleep a night.

Congrats on finishing your first year! I know we've never met, but you've always had my support.

Dena

B.R. said...

The truth about graduate school is that it is not for the unfocused and the undisciplined. It is most certainly no walk in the park. For some reason, not a whole lot of public and open talk is made regarding the actual sacrifices one needs to make when going to grad school. I didn't go to Law school but in my line of studies I had many an instance where I would have to pull all-nighters while going to work the next morning. During that time one of my friends who decided to go to grad school as well told me one day that she decided to do so in part because of how easy I made it all look. I was surprised at that revelation as nothing about the experience was easy. It was great to experience but not easy! The thing is, this particular friend did not see the behind-the-scenes, the way I and my person did and experienced. She wasn't there when I would read/write till 4:00 AM. In sum, people who don't have the graduate school experience cannot possibly get this kind of experiential knowledge nor should they be expected to. As it is the case with most things in life that are worth pursuing, they come with a lot of sacrifice, deep moments of loneliness, sadness, exhaustion, and some unhappiness. The end results, however, somehow eradicate most of these initial troubles. There is light at the end of the tunnel. No doubt.
Congratulations on the first year! This is great!
The lawyer friends in my life, and I have quite a few of them for some reason, also say that the first year in school is infernal. But, it does get easier, they say. And a good number of them enjoy the profession, too. I hope you get to decompress a bit during the summer as you get ready for next year.

Sovknight said...

I'm excited for you. Have been from the start, and you know that all the pain will be worth it in a few years. Still looking forward to that Supreme Court nomination in a couple of decades as well.

I have to live vicariously through you because I wasted my youth. I enjoy reading about your adventures... even the negative ones, because I like to see people making something of themselves. All the sacrifice and hard work will be worth it, and you'll look back on these years with a mixture of both hatred and gratitude.

Sra said...

I appreciate each of your comments. Now that I've been done for a few days, I feel a lot better. The sun is out regularly now, and I actually have time to go out and enjoy it!

Sra said...

I appreciate each of your comments. Now that I've been done for a few days, I feel a lot better. The sun is out regularly now, and I actually have time to go out and enjoy it!

B.R. said...

The truth about graduate school is that it is not for the unfocused and the undisciplined. It is most certainly no walk in the park. For some reason, not a whole lot of public and open talk is made regarding the actual sacrifices one needs to make when going to grad school. I didn't go to Law school but in my line of studies I had many an instance where I would have to pull all-nighters while going to work the next morning. During that time one of my friends who decided to go to grad school as well told me one day that she decided to do so in part because of how easy I made it all look. I was surprised at that revelation as nothing about the experience was easy. It was great to experience but not easy! The thing is, this particular friend did not see the behind-the-scenes, the way I and my person did and experienced. She wasn't there when I would read/write till 4:00 AM. In sum, people who don't have the graduate school experience cannot possibly get this kind of experiential knowledge nor should they be expected to. As it is the case with most things in life that are worth pursuing, they come with a lot of sacrifice, deep moments of loneliness, sadness, exhaustion, and some unhappiness. The end results, however, somehow eradicate most of these initial troubles. There is light at the end of the tunnel. No doubt.
Congratulations on the first year! This is great!
The lawyer friends in my life, and I have quite a few of them for some reason, also say that the first year in school is infernal. But, it does get easier, they say. And a good number of them enjoy the profession, too. I hope you get to decompress a bit during the summer as you get ready for next year.

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