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, April 29, 2004

The soon-to-be law student at Neo Tokyo Times writes:

I understand law school won’t be like [undergrad]. In fact, a rigorous academic schedule is something I’m worried about. I’ve never done it before. I’ve always been able to skate by, secure in the knowledge that while I won’t necessarily earn the highest academic marks, I’ll make up for that laziness with success in some standardized test score, or extracurricular or professional component to my resume. But in law school, even the choice extracurricular and professional opportunities have a significant display of academic performance as a prerequisite.

My own unproven ability to keep up a demanding study schedule is my primary anxiety about attending law school.

My current plan here is to start putting myself into a mental place where I am comfortable with the idea of sinking into a routine of constant studying and lecture attendance. The only practicing Harvard/ Stanford grad I know suggested that I ignore all non-academic extracurricular activities during my freshman year.
We've exchanged e-mails before, so I just e-mailed him some thoughts on that, but as I sent them I realized I may as well post them too. I think that's awful advice. Really quite awful. (Not to say it wouldn't work for some people, and I'm sure it was well-intentioned advice, and maybe it's actually good advice and my advice is awful, I don't know). There are people here who work harder than they did in undergrad. There are also people here who work less hard. I think most people probably work about the same. They all do fine. Law school is not some other world where people who are smart and competent and can balance school and having a life suddenly are forced to spend 12 hours a day in the library. Law school is just school. If you did fine in college, you'll do fine in law school. Probably with the same study habits. Yes, there are lots of people who were at the top of their class and are now in the middle of the class -- but it's not because they don't study hard enough, it's just because there's a curve and who knows what they're testing on, and sometimes you just don't get stuff, and you survive. And, yeah, there are people who spend lots of time studying, and some of them do quite well, but the marginal returns start to get pretty lackluster I think, and studying hard is really no guarantee of anything. But the people who try to be super-study-man, I think largely are miserable and don't enjoy their time here -- and that doesn't make continuing to study and put in the energy and focus any easier. Maybe it's different elsewhere, where not everyone gets a firm job if they want one -- and I don't mean to apply this advice where it may not belong, because I just don't know what life is like at other schools except for what I hear from a few friends but the happiest -- and most successful -- people I know here do a lot of stuff, to keep them sane -- you CAN'T spend all week studying -- there isn't that much to study! There's a fair bit of reading, but there's very little writing, much less than in undergrad, many fewer assignments to complete, it's mostly just go to class, do some reading, and have a bunch of hours left over for other stuff. I have the opposite advice -- 1L year join everything -- so you can figure out what's worth spending your time on. So maybe a month in you've gone to meetings for 12 activities and you liked 4. So you forget the other 8, but this way you've met people and seen what's out there, and started to pave the way for a happy and fulfilling 3 years and not a miserable one. Just my opinion. This advice may suck. But doesn't it sound like a happier three years than the other advice?