Saturday, May 27, 2006

So You're Going to be a Law Student...

Over the course of the summer I hope to write various memoranda to the incoming 1Ls about whatever advice that I think is worthwhile. It is not even June yet, so some things will have to wait on the backburner.

With that, the first question that often pops in someone's head is, "What should I do to prepare for law school?" Answer: "Nothing." Well, almost nothing. I've said it before and I'll say it again, those law school prep workshops are a scam and a waste of money (mostly the latter). Really, the most important thing when you are coming in is knowing...knowing how classes work, how exams are given, what's expected of you, etc. But at the same time you don't want to be the person who walks and thinks he/she knows everything. Ok, with that said, let's move on.

DO NOT read any of those suggested books. Really! Maybe the E-Dub Biography, but that's about it. Do read Robert H. Miller's "Law School Confidential." I disagree with quite a bit in that book, but he really does a good job of explaining what law school is all about and the processes and procedures that are all nicely and neatly laid out. He covers a lot of the basics so I won't cover them here, e.g., what does "briefing a case" mean? (Armen's answer? "Nothing, it means nothing, no one f****** briefs a case.")

In broad terms, your law school stint will follow this pattern:

-Orientation to Boalt bureaucracy.
-Assignments before classes start (includes overpaying at bookstore)
- Read assignment and attempt to brief it. Waste 3 hours on it. Still realize you didn't get most of the important stuff while prof calls on some poor hapless soul. (You guys remember when Westen and Moran BOTH called on T-Ray the first day?)
- After first week, just look lost. Assignment after assignment...what the hell's the meaning of consideration? You thought you knew didn't ya?
- Crap, time to pad the resume, ok which journal to join? Umm BJIL is the only one I'll endorse. If you're a tech geek, then of course your heart belongs to BTLJ, and that's fine. Also, the labor and employment journal has the sweetest offices. [As a general aside, as a 1L, you will not be editing some legal scholar's work. No really! But you will be doing some invaluable work for the journals by collecting the sources and checking the cites to make sure they are proper. You'll get the details later.]
- Now a month's passed. You're even more confused. Why the hell did you come to law school? Everyone is sooo much smarter. They seem to get it. (Nah, they really don't). When you have this moment of crisis (not if), take a deep breath. Everyone before you has had that moment, and everyone after you will. There are plenty of attorneys practicing in this State alone who don't measure up to you. You'll do fine. Try to keep up with your classes. Look over the syllabus, you may not be following it exactly but it gives you a good outline of the topics you'll be covering.

Crap this list can go on forever, and I haven't even gotten to OCIP. Well anyway, I'll leave off on this point, by then you should be able to figure things out on your own.

Oh before I forget, if you're planning on buying a new laptop before lawschool, don't do it now, wait. Same with housing.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why wait on the laptop? I was about to go buy one this week.

5/27/2006 1:10 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

You want to get a 3 year service plan on your laptop. Trust me, I'm the last person to get those service plans, but on a laptop, it's well worth it. You also want that plan to cover you through the bar exam. So, hold off.

Furthermore, prices of computers tend to fall fairly quickly, although not nearly as much as a few years ago, but still. By waiting you'll get more bang for you buck. And lastly, I have a few thoughts on the various brands that I'd want to share.

5/27/2006 2:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And what do you mean about waiting on housing?

5/27/2006 2:40 PM  
Blogger stacita said...

read Getting to Maybe.


5/27/2006 2:42 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Housing is sort of a last minute thing in Berkeley. No one lists them in advance. So that's what I mean.

5/27/2006 2:47 PM  
Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

Familiarize yourself with economics. That's what makes you look like you know what's going on in contracts (efficient breach) and torts (the Hand rule) and civil procedure (Mathews v. Eldridge) and property (liability vs. property rules) and criminal law (deterence?).

Oh wait, look at that, it's used in every class. I think one secret of the law that does not come across in romanticized portrayals is that it's largely applied economics (not necessarily applied well mind you, but that's the justification).

5/27/2006 3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: laptop brands - any reason not to go for a mac?

5/27/2006 3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there something weird about BJIL?

I got to edit articles as a 1L on a journal that I was on. On the other journal I was on (yes I was on two), I did not do any editing, but that's because I chose to not get put on an articles team.

For those of you into legal scholarship, and a bit indecisive, it's not a bad idea to work on two journals. Larger journals like BJIL and BTLJ publish more often and have more well-defined roles. Smaller journals publish less frequently, but you typically get more time to work on stuff and might be more close knit so you can develop strong relationships with 2Ls and 3Ls.

5/27/2006 3:43 PM  
Blogger barristerina said...

Good tips, Armen, but I'll have to disagree on the briefing part. I briefed everything (in classes where it mattered, like torts or contracts but not property) and it meant that I only had to pay 1/2 attention in class and did not freak if I got called on. Also makes studying at the end of semester much easier. Of course different methods work for different people, but I just wanted to put a plug in there for briefing. That being said, I'll probably never brief again now that the 1L classes are over.

Summer reading: I did some of it before school started (though certainly not all that Planet Law School II suggested) and it did help with the lingo. But it only helped me not feel dumb the first week. After that, I'm not so sure that it was helpful. Planet Law School is written for kids going to middle- to lower-level schools who have to stand out if they want to get a decent job - you can ignore most of it for Boalt.

Macs: now that they got rid of the ExamSoft testing procedure, there is no reason to not have a Mac.

No matter what you do to prepare, the first week is nuts.

5/27/2006 9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suggest you bone up on your pop culture and learn some good jokes.

5/28/2006 6:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Relax, clear your mind, sleep a lot, do some pleasure reading. You'll have plenty of time to figure out the vagaries of law school in the fall.

5/28/2006 8:45 AM  
Blogger Isaac Zaur said...

I recommend two things. First, if you have a boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse, get that person to read _A Civil Action_ by Jonathan Harr. Also read it yourself. Totally entertaining and it will give you both a frame of reference when you come home from your civil procedure class or your torts class too caught up in the material to talk about anything else. The movie is not as good.

Second, try not to do anything else in "preparation." Do whatever you like doing. Law school is basically very self-explanatory. It takes a lot of work once you get there, but there aren't a lot of secrets to it and there's really no point in trying to get a jump start.

5/28/2006 7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there used to be a reason not to have a mac in that ExamSoft didn't work on it. now the only reason not to get one is that you can't take the bar on it (but you can on a PC)--unless that has changed too?

i'm confused by the advice about joining a journal for some sort of strategic purpose. why wouldn't you just join the journal on the topic that most interests you and has the people you think you'll like the most?

5/28/2006 9:42 PM  
Blogger casey said...

I strongly recommend getting the smallest and lightest laptop that you can afford (unless you have abnormally large hands that make using a small keyboard painful). You will have this sucker with you EVERYWHERE you go, so its a worthwhile investment.

The one thing I have to add to the journals discussion is that journal work is not nearly as overwhelming as it may seem your first semester, and the community benefits of being on a journal are priceless. Refrigerators, couches, a place to throw all your shit that doesn't fit in your tiny locker, and a community of 2Ls and 3Ls who want to procrastinate from their work by giving you advice. One journal clearly surpasses all others in this regard, but I will remain neutral here :)

5/28/2006 11:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To 9:42

Obviously your primary consideration in picking a journal is that it is a topic that you are interestd in. Nobody's telling you to choose do a journal if you're not interested in the topic. But not all of us are so focused and may be interested in multiple journals.

All I'm saying is that if you're indecisive, it is manageable to do two journals as a 1L and if you have more than two that you're interested in, choosing one larger journal and one smaller journal is not a bad idea.

But anyway, you'll out what's right for you.

5/28/2006 11:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since Fletcher majored in econ, I think he may have focued too much on the econ issues and perhaps missed a few things that were going on in first year classes. In addition to economics, for most classes it is helpful to know something about philosophy, British history, American history, sociology, anthropology, human geography, psychology, and political science. So, it seems like law cuts through pretty much every one of those disciplines that were maligned as being "soft" when you were choosing a major.
In fact, it seems that law is the application of the ways of thinking about people that we have developed in other disciplines. So any background you have in one of these disciplines will be helpful and don't worry about gaps in your knowledge because there are always many different angles for looking at an issue. Except in antitrust, which is all microeconomics for some reason.
And, if econ is your bag please be aware that it is very easy to overdo the economic analysis by bringing it up four times per class and becoming your mod's law & econ douchebag. It's not a huge problem at Boalt but let's keep it that way (and Fletcher is not a law & econ douchebag in case you thought I was trying to imply something negative).

5/29/2006 8:53 AM  
Blogger La Mitotera said...

Although I am loath to disagree with Armen, I have to say that waiting to find housing is not a good idea. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that you will end up paying too much for something crappy.

5/29/2006 12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ya, i thought the housing advice was strange - that said, i have found squat and have been looking the last few weekends.

anyone here lived in rockridge? how is it? am leaning towards living there.

what re: law school confidential do you disagree with? i thought some of it was heavy-handed (i.e. if you dont get into a top-14 school, dont go to law school), but on balance it seemed like good advice. although of course i havent been to law school yet.

a faithful 0L reader

5/29/2006 12:09 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

LM, you're right, but you have to concede that housing doesn't become available until the last minute. And so unless you want to move to Berkeley early (not a good idea if it's beyond an August 1 move-in)then you kinda have to wait. That's all I meant.

5/29/2006 12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't worry about economic thinking too much. That may be the way some see the world, and it's a helpful tool of analysis and perspective, but I guarantee that you can kick every single ass in your classes come exam time without having much of an economics perspective.

5/29/2006 4:01 PM  
Blogger Jungle Cat said...

Please Please Please, when responding to the professor's questions limit your answers to the question. Nobody wants to hear about your work experience, your uncle the federal judge, or your fucking lame ass platitudinal social justice bull shit. There is a time and a place for this stuff, and its a coffee shop, not a law class room.

5/29/2006 6:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE the thread about drawing upon disciplines such as econ, philosophy, etc:

It helped me to approach problems with the toolkit I had developed before law school. Not having much familiarity with econ, and having spent most of college reading old texts in other languages, my forte was unpacking ridiculously dense language. I liked CivPro but sucked ass in torts.

So don't try to completely reinvent your mode of thinking just because you're now a 1L. Be inquisitive and all that, and embrace all the things you never knew were out there. You'll definitely change in the process, but don't discard your learnings in life for the sake of some tantalizing new theory.

5/29/2006 9:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree with the advice on waiting to find housing. Think about the type of people who are looking for a new roommate two months ahead of time, and those who are looking 2 weeks in advance. Who do you think will be the more responsible housemate? Maybe its different if you are looking for a single.

Rockridge is a great neighborhood. Its close to BART and there is a busline that runs right through the neighborhood to the law school (albeit somewhat crowded and not always timely during rush hour). Its green and quiet, lots of nice coffeeshops and restaurants. The downside is that there are a lot of young moms leaving their Pilates class pushing their baby around in a stroller, carrying a latte. Gag factor can be tremendous-- lots of very privileged people.

5/29/2006 10:02 PM  
Blogger G. said...

To Anonymous about the Mac -- don't get one! You can't take the Bar on it. This may not seem like a big deal now, but in three short years you don't want to be in the position of trusting a borrowed/rented computer for the most important exam of your life.

5/30/2006 2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually now you should be able to take the bar on a mac if you get the new ones with the Intel chip and have Boot camp.

I loved living in Rockridge. And, when the bus is slow or absent, it's only a 30 minute walk to the Rockridge BART station from school.

My one piece of advice -- don't read Scott Turow's One L. It's just totally freaked me out. Boalt is not like that at all.

5/30/2006 4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, don't read or watch the Paper Chase until you are safely past 1L year.

5/30/2006 5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding privileged people in Rockridge: They won't rob you or steal your car. I didn't know anything about Berkeley neighborhoods when I moved here, but was lucky and ended up in a decent neighborhood. If you are completely unfamiliar with the area, you might want to check the crime map before you sign a lease:

5/30/2006 8:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right, the privileged people of Rockridge... unlike those who, ahem, attend the law school and never drink lattes, attend pilates, or have children. Please.

To see the unprivileged, hop aboard that bus that traverses Rockridge (trusty 51) and see who's riding around for shits and giggles (literally: they shit themselves and giggle).

5/30/2006 9:15 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Yeah, I don't like using privileged either. They're more like "well-off hippies." Also, it seems like you don't keep track of law student purchases at Strada...the drink of choice is the bianca.

5/30/2006 9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of drinks of choice. . . My drink of choice has always been the iced coffee, and I am usually alone. Rarely does anyone else ever have an iced coffee, yet here in New York it seems to be everyone's favorite. I was in S-Bucks this morning and litterally the 3 people on either side of me all got iced coffee. All the barrista had to do was keep on pouring that black gold. I like to be unique and am offended by this cultural difference.

5/31/2006 5:24 AM  
Blogger Armen said...

"what re: law school confidential do you disagree with? i thought some of it was heavy-handed (i.e. if you dont get into a top-14 school, dont go to law school), but on balance it seemed like good advice. although of course i havent been to law school yet."

You'll have a better grip once you actually set foot in law school, but here's a very short list of things I disagree with that Miller is zealous about:

1. Dog-eat-dog world. There is a curve and you're in direct competition. But it never crosses Miller's mind that being on top of the curve does not HAVE to be your goal. Previous discussions on this blog regarding the precise number Boalt units necessary to qualify for an award may point to the contrary, but take my'll be far better off if you arrive in law school content with par.

2. Using outlines for everything up to and including wiping your ass. As a 1L, I never used outlines. As a 2L, I used them once last semester, but then I never attended that class and I never read for it. It's harder without the outlines, I won't lie to you, but for me it just felt right. It was easier to digest the information on my own. The whole process helped me remember the material, and come exam time, I wasn't flipping through my technicolor flip book to find the answers.

3. Highlighters. I've explained my distaste for briefing. Another commenter explained the benefits of it to him or herself. You be the judge. But I'll put it to you this way, it's really annoying to see someone with 8 highlighters sitting on the 51 while an old bum trying to get to rockridge has to standup.

The first one is the most important. Other stuff in the book are really helpful. E.g., get to know the environment, don't concentrate on details, don't fall behind, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A SEMBLANCE OF A NORMAL LIFE, etc. But I'll get to all that in later posts.

My next one will cover the 3 year law school process, so if any of you have any particular areas of concern, feel free to put in your requests here. But the underlying reasoning is that the more you understand what lies ahead, the better you'll handle everything that's thrown at you.

5/31/2006 9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Skipper J says...
My drink of choice? Why, non-fat decaf vanilla soy latte, of course. True baller styles.

5/31/2006 12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about that Fall Break? I just noticed it on the calendar. As a 1L, can I really use that time as a break? (travel, relax) Or is it just a week without classes that all the 1L's use to spend even more time freaking ourselves out with needing to find more stuff to do?

5/31/2006 6:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure everyone has a different take on how to spend fall break, but mine seemed to work OK so I will share it. I went out of town for the whole week for both fall and spring break. I took materials for one class with me each time and spent maybe 12 hours over the course of the week working on my outline for that class. It wasn't an excessive amount of time and I had plenty of time to relax, but it got me started on preparing for finals and it was nice to have the work done when finals approached. Twelve hours is not that much time and you could probably do absolutely nothing during fall break and make it up during the remainder of the semester, but I was glad that I did it.

5/31/2006 7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing you'll notice when you get to law school is that everyone has a damned opinion that they think everyone else would benefit from. I guess I'm like every other law student in that regard. So here's my opinion, based on the best law school advice I got: do whatever you've done up til this point to be successful in life, just do it more. Are you the guy who always waited til the last minute to study, then crammed the last week? Then do that, but maybe start a day early to learn the rules of civil procedure. Are you the girl who takes extensive notes on all the reading? Then make sure you brief every case.

At the risk of sounding platitudinous, the bottom line is, you've all done something right to get to this point in life. Law school's hard, but there's sure as hell nothing magic about it. So don't feel like you need to re-create your identity to get through. If you do, other students will probably just think you're an asshole anyway.

5/31/2006 10:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's my advice: when they tell you "don't worry about your grades" they're lying to you. Lying like hell. Your entire ocip (interviews at the start of your second year) is based off of your first year grades. I'm not suggesting that you should freak, but you should definitely know that 1L grades are the *most* important, if you want a job at a law firm.

And join a journal. You won't learn anything, but it looks good on your resume. (You may learn to spot the difference between a period that has been italicized and one that has not, though. This is a very useful skill. In anal-retentive land. (Law Journal land.))

6/05/2006 10:17 PM  
Blogger dirteens said...

On the Mac v. PC question, even the Intel chip equipped Mac's won't work for the Bar Exam. The PC-mimicry software isn't compatible with what you have to use for the Bar. While this (lame policy) might change by the time 0Ls are suffering through BarBri, your safest bet is to get a PC.

6/10/2006 3:19 PM  

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