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.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

JCA, over at Sua Sponte offers a summary of advice by bloggers about a bunch of different aspects of law school, along with her thoughts. It's an interesting post. Just thought I'd piggyback on it, and offer my thoughts on some of the categories of advice she lists that I haven't expounded on before.

1. Doing what other people tell you

I agree with what seems to be the prevailing wisdom here -- obviously some advice works for some people, other advice works for other people, and you probably just need to figure out what works for you. I have nothing profound to say here, except that at law school more than during undergrad -- probably because everyone was taking the same classes, so it was easier to compare tactics and discuss study strategies -- I've realized that different people really do learn differently, process information differently, have tricks and tactics that work for them, but may not work for others. Just like people prefer different professors and different subjects. I'm amazed that the people who don't take notes in class (there are a few) can retain all of the information the professor says in class. But I bet they're amazed that people who are typing virtually a transcript of the class are listening well enough to really understand and comprehend the material at all. So we're all different, I guess.

2. Talking in class

Again, I think everyone's different. But for the people who want to talk in class -- who really, really want to talk in class -- I'd actually urge them to lay back a bit at the very beginning and let other people talk. I'm just inventing thoughts on the fly here, so this may not make any sense. I haven't really thought this through. But, potential talkers, just watch and see how people are reacting in the first day or two of class to the people who are talking a lot. See how you're reacting. Are you thinking, "oh, wow, she's really smart; I'm glad she keeps raising her hand; she has interesting points to make," or are you thinking, "oh no, not him again." See how it feels not to be a talker. And then ask yourself, "do I really want to be one of them?" And if you do, then go for it. As long as you kind of understand that some people's reactions to some people who talk a lot in class are going to be negative. I think some people are just gifted with the ability to be engaging, to seem humble and polite yet intelligent, and to be people who students like to hear talk, and appreciate their insights. And some people, even though it's not their intent, come off as a little bit full of themselves. I don't know if it's real, or just something in how they're talking that makes them seem different than they really are. All this is to say talk if you want to talk, but recognize some people might form an impression of you that may or may not be true. Unless you're one of the gifted ones, in which case you should talk all you want, because I'd rather listen to you than be called on myself.

3. Balancing school and life

I think I've beaten this one to death throughout the archives. There are activities you can do that have nothing to do with school. If you're not happy with your school-life balance, it's your own fault and you can do something about it. Don't make yourself insane. That's all the advice I have there.

4. Urban legends about law school

I read One L. I recognized it for what it was -- one guy's successful battle to have a miserable time at law school. Read it for an illustration of everything you don't need to do unless you want to be sad.

5. Metamorphosis

JCA writes, eloquently: "It's hard to invest so much of your time and energy into an experience designed to change you as a person without it having some effect on your identity. There are people, it seems, who can manage this, people who can cleanly maintain their law-school self and their external self in parallel. This skill is as mythical to me as shyness, or mathematical brilliance, or the ability not to take oneself seriously: all features that other people have, or claim to, with which I have no firsthand experience."

But I'm just not sharing JCA's sentiments here, at all. I don't think law school is, or at least needs to be, "designed to change you as a person." It's school. It's teaching you stuff. Some knowledge, some skills. It's school. Not POW camp. If law school is making you become someone who you don't like, or who isn't really you anymore, you're taking it too seriously. Way too seriously. I met with someone at the office of student life counseling at one point during the school year -- to get summer job leads, after being referred there by career services (see the sketch from a couple of weeks ago about career services; it's fact, not fiction) -- and the guy I met with was concerned because I seemed to be "observing" law school as opposed to being "immersed" in law school. I guess this is the distinction JCA is talking about, but I'm really not convinced that I'm on the incorrect side of that line. Even for someone who wants to be a lawyer -- you don't actually want to *be* a lawyer as your exclusive identity, do you? You're a person, with lots of other characteristics and traits, who happens to have a law degree, and practices law... I hope?