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.
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.)
How Can You Apply This Idea?
First-year law students all over the country are starting orientation this week and next. This always makes me reflect on my own 1L orientation. If you follow my writing, you may be thinking, “Wow, Lee must have LOVED law school orientation.”
But, in fact, I didn’t. I actually spent much of the week questioning whether I had made a mistake, leaving my comfortable office job and nice paycheck to return to law school. Here are some of my thoughts and reflections on my law school orientation.
I felt as if I was in high school again.
Making friends in law school is similar to making friends in real life.
The distinction, then, lies in the pool of potential friends: it is slightly homogenized in comparison.
Is everyone in law school an archtype?
The moment you enroll in law school you already share a number of commonalities with your first-year class. This is because law school appeals to only a handful of personalities: the hard worker, the go-getter, the do-gooder, et al. Of course, law school is only a means to a professional end, but neither is for the faint-of-heart.
I was tempted to write on the typical archetypes you are likely to encounter in law school (and how to navigate among them). Most books on surviving/succeeding in law school do this (e.g. “the gunner”). You can read these books.