For many 2Ls and 3Ls, going back to law school is just a reminder of academic disappointment—the reality that your grades weren’t what you had hoped. It has happened to many of us at one point or another; however, it is critical to get feedback on those past exams so you can learn from them and have a better academic outcome this semester.
Last semester, I had the privilege of sitting in a classroom and listening to some law school lectures. Now I realize that for many students that doesn’t sound like any fun. But if you teach, it is like having a lens into how your students feel listening to your lectures.
So I took my place among the students; most of them were on their laptops. And you know what I noticed?
Most of them weren’t paying attention.
Now I will be the first to admit that not all law school classes are exciting or riveting. But class is important, as it is the time when your professor (the one who will be grading your exam) is talking to you about the law. More specifically, she is talking to you about what she thinks is important about the law. And you know what? What your professor thinks is important is likely to show up on your final.
Paying attention in class will actually save you time.
You may have read my reflections on my 1L orientation, but I also want to share a list of some of the “culture shock” you will experience in law school.
You may have pack a lunch for school.
If you are starting law school in the next few weeks, you will soon notice that everyone is talking about briefing cases. But many people don’t understand what effective “briefing” is. Well, we are here to help.
What’s a Case Brief?
In a nutshell, a case brief is nothing more than a set of notes you take on each assigned case, to ensure you’re paying attention to the important points (and so you’ll be ready for the class discussion).
However, reasonable people disagree about the best way to brief cases!
Your professor, and your legal writing instructors, will probably tell you that you need to actually write/type out your case briefs. There’s nothing wrong with doing this (and Lee briefed most of the cases she was assigned this way), but there are other options.
Many law professors have started noticing that computers may not be helping law students (as evidenced by the amount of Internet surfing, shopping, and chatting going on in class). In response to this, some professors have banned the laptop from their classrooms. This frustrates many students who are used to or were already planning on taking class notes on a computer.
But taking notes by hand may not be a bad thing.
The next time you encounter a super-confusing legal topic (if you’re an incoming 1L, this is likely to happen very soon after you start), ask yourself one question: Could I explain this concept to a reasonably intelligent 5-year-old? If the answer’s no, it’s time to simplify!
Isn’t the Law Really Complicated?
I can hear the protest now:
The law is really complicated! It’s SO hard and confusing. That’s why lawyers get paid so much!
Wrong. The big-bucks lawyers get paid a lot because they can take complicated, difficult concepts and explain them in simple, easy-to-understand language.
In other words, they could convince a small child that their position is correct! (This, in turn, generally convinces judges of the same thing.)