Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Not sure if I've mentioned in the weblog yet -- I'm writing a weekly column for the law school newspaper about life as a 1L. Trying to be even funnier than the weblog, where I don't do rewrites and I'm not expected to produce something with a beginning, middle, and an end. I have an idea for next week's column regarding advice that 2Ls and 3Ls give to us lowly first-years. I did an entry sort of talking about this last week, after the Environmental Law Review's "study tips panel." But that was more of a rambling list. I want the column to hang together better, maybe even to actually have a point. Let's try a quick first draft... postscript: [It needs work. I'm not that happy with it. But it'll do for now.]

Thank You For Your Contradictory Advice

A room full of 1Ls, and the conversation is fairly predictable. Six basic questions. "What's your name?" "What section are you in?" "Where are you from?" "Where'd you go to school?" "How long ago did you graduate?" and "Which of the twenty-five pre-approved corporate law firms do you one day hope to work for?"

Okay, maybe not the last question. But it's probably coming soon. Nevertheless, the conversations all seem to start out with those same basic questions. Put a 2L or a 3L in the room, however, and the Earth begins to spin in a completely different direction. Invariably, it seems like within forty-five seconds, the upperclassman will be holding court, being pelted with questions and urged to share his or her infinite wisdom and advice with us lowly first-years.

In case you haven't yet found yourself in one of these conversations, here's the advice you're missing:

Brief the cases. Don't brief the cases. Go to class. If you want. Your grades are very important. Your grades have nothing to do with how well you know the material. Your grades are completely random and unpredictable. Everyone gets B's, even people who say they got A's. Grading is blind. No, it's not. Gilbert's, Emanuel's, Nutshells, Hornbooks, Restatements, Treatises, Outlines, Flash Cards, Review Tapes, Bar-Bri Classes, Private Tutors, Rent-a-2L, Bribe Professors, Crime of Passion, Transfer to Jupiter, The answer is always "C," Read Glannon for Civ Pro.

Maybe the most confusing advice I've gotten is regarding study groups. I've heard everything from, "I had a study group first-year, and we met every day of the semester from midnight until 4 a.m. going over the day's reading and taking sample exams. Except we took one day off for Thanksgiving. And did a conference call instead," to "At about 11 at night the day before my first exam, I ran into this guy at 7-11 in Harvard Square. He kind of looked familiar, but I'm not really sure if he was in my section, or a panhandler. I asked him if he understood section 2-718 of the Uniform Commercial Code and he kind of shook his head. That was pretty much my only time trying a study group." (Of course, after trying this paragraph out in conversation the other day, just to see if it could get a laugh or if I should just toss it, I got a reply, with all seriousness, "I think the best strategy may fall somewhere inbetween those two." You really think so?)

I think I was most disturbed by a piece of advice I got from a particularly hard-core upperclassman. "Just remember, you're not here to make friends. You're here to get a job." Actually, I have two issues with that statement. The first is fairly easy to dispose of. I'm not "here to get a job." I'm here NOT to get a job! If I really wanted to get a job, I wouldn't be here. I'd have a job. I'm here to hide from that for three more years!

My second issue with the advice is that the two statements don't seem mutually exclusive to me. Unless the job you're here to get is kicking babies and tripping the elderly (and I believe that since that isn't a corporate firm job, it would count as public interest work under the LIPP program, yes?), I don't see why you can't be here to make friends too. I'm totally here to make friends. I can't think of a more dismal outcome to three years here than to leave and not have made a corporate jet-load of friends. Actually, that's not true. I can think of three more dismal outcomes: (1) flunking out, (2) felony-murder, and (3) interest rates on student loans rise to 400% compounded daily. But not making any friends is close to the top of the list.

Worst of all about getting advice from 2Ls and 3Ls is that the advice never comes with the right disclaimers. You never hear, "don't brief your cases. I didn't, and I got all D's," or "you don't need to make your own outlines. I used ones I found on the ground in front of CVS. And this is my fourteenth year as a student here."

I gave myself some advice the other day about listening to other people's advice. I don't. I nod, and smile, and occasionally say "uh huh," or "sure," or "replevin," but I'm not really listening. Instead, I'm collecting cans for the five cent deposit so I can earn enough money to buy every hornbook in the Coop. Because the guy in 7-11 said that was a good idea.