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.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

The first perk ever from having a weblog. The author of a new book about law school, Law School Insider, provided a special deal for law student webloggers like me: 2 books, basically for the cost of shipping plus a couple of dollars, on the condition that I give one away to someone who reads the weblog. More details about how you can be the one I give it to -- at the bottom of the post. First, I figure I owe it to the author to post something about the book (I assume the reason for the deal is to get the little bit of publicity that a weblog can provide), and I owe it to anyone who might want to buy the book to provide a bit of a review. So...

Book Review: Law School Insider

Before I begin, a caveat -- I thought the book was okay. I'm really hard to please with this stuff. If you read my review without knowing I thought the book was okay, it probably sounds like I hated it. I didn't. There were things I thought could have been better. I've pointed those out. But it's not a bad book, it's not a waste of your time to read it, and I think it's probably as useful as any other book that's out there. So take my comments as criticism, but couched in the understanding that this is not a bad book.

The first thing you should know about this book is that it has a lot of words. It's 338 pages of content (plus 50 pages of appendix plus index), but on top of that, each page is really dense with text. This book uses the smallest typeface and the least amount of space between lines as any book I've ever seen. The footnotes look like they're probably 8 point text at most. This is a big, big book.

And, if nothing else, with all of those words, it's pretty comprehensive. It really does cover topics from deciding whether to go to law school to the bar exam, and everything in between. If it happens at law school, it's probably mentioned somewhere in the book. Probably more than once. And probably in a lot of words.

The book seems to be trying to be two things at once. It's trying to be a guide to law school life, but at the same time, it's basically a really detailed summary of the author's law school experiences. After reading the book, you know about virtually all of his professors, his classes, his dating life, his study habits, his vacations, his summer jobs (in tremendous detail), his journal elections (in excruciating detail), and his bar exam class -- and that list is without looking back at the book. And some of it is absolutely universal, and interesting and useful to read. But some of it is unnecessary, like when a friend tells you all about an episode of a television program you've never seen and have no real interest in watching.

The good thing about the abundance of detail is that it does provide a picture of what certain aspects of law school life are like for certain people -- although if you don't go to a school where journal selection happens like it does at Cornell (his school), and if you don't go to a school that does recruiting like it happens at Cornell, and if you don't spend a summer split between Cleveland and Irvine, CA like he does, and if you don't have a set of course options like he does at Cornell... then it's less applicable to you.

The frustrating thing about the abundance of detail (for me) was that while stories about life at law school can be entertaining, can be funny, can be enjoyable to read -- I hope my weblog illustrates that, at least sometimes -- his writing isn't particularly witty or amusing. The writing's clear, easy to read, gramatically correct, and all of that... but it doesn't have a spark that grabbed me as a reader and helped me to overlook the abundance of detail, or to actually want to keep reading even when I knew this was just a story and not a piece of information that would be truly helpful. If you're looking for an *entertaining* read, this isn't the right book. It's a fine book for information and detail, but it's not going to make you laugh out loud. One exception was a set of haikus about rejection letters from firms which was amusing, fun to read, and, honestly, felt a little out of place given the tone of the rest of the book.

It may be that after a year of law school, I know about most of what he's talking about, and so I didn't find the book as rewarding as I might have if I read it before law school. If I'd read it before law school, though, it probably would have frightened me a bit. The author worked really hard in school, and paints a picture of 1L life as absolutely wall-to-wall studying, with sleepless nights, hardly any time for extracurricular activities, and a life-altering boot camp experience. Like I've written before, I just don't think it has to be that way, and my experience has told me that for most people, it isn't that way. Most people I know got more than the 4-5 hours of sleep a night he says was normal, and if they were getting only that much sleep it was because they were going out every night. He asserts that more than one extracurricular activity is probably too much to bite off. I think that's wrong. He talks about it being impossible to enjoy law school without having a tremendous amount of passion and diligence -- and of course both of those things help, but I think sleep and time-management skills may be two more important things to be worried about.

...keep reading below... (Blogger said my post was too long)