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.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Okay, so you're going to law school in the fall...

...and this is your last summer of freedom. I know I've posted about this stuff before, but since the academic year is over, and there are all sorts of college grads now looking forward to wasting three years of their lives and $120,000 just so they can work 20-hour days in white-collar sweatshops, I figure now is as appropriate time as any to try and formulate some sort of summer-before-law-school advice, all wrapped up in a neat little bow. Ten tips for law students-to-be. Not to be taken completely seriously, because maybe I'm just trying to be funny. Maybe I'm serious. I don't even know anymore.

1. Come up with a neat little 90-second answer to the question, "Why are you in law school?" Whether it's real or invented doesn't matter, it's just that you're going to be asked this question eight hundred times for the next three years, so you may as well figure out something to say. "I want to help people" will get you laughed out of orientation. "I want to help people who are fairly rich become moderately richer" is a little bit better. "I want to help myself" is probably the best one of all.

2. Write yourself a note. I've seen this advice before, but I can't remember where. So I'm stealing it. But my conscience can live with it. Write yourself a note all about the high-minded goals you've got going in. "I'm going to use my law degree to work for Greenpeace and make sure evil politicians don't burn down all the forests and dig for oil in all of the nation's public housing projects." Whatever your dreams are, your idealistic reasons for joining some of America's most successful standardized test takers, write them down, put them in an envelope, seal the envelope, and give it to someone you trust. Then, three years from now, you can look back and cry.

3. Stop imagining that law school is so different from everything else you've ever done before. If you're going to law school, you probably didn't completely screw up college. Law school's a lot more like college than, say, a job is. If you survived college, you'll survive law school. Heck, if you enjoyed college, you'll probably even enjoy law school. Yes, you need to read a bunch of stuff every week. No, this will not be the most grueling three years you've ever experienced, it will not require you cut off contact with your family and friends, it will not require you radically change your lifestyle and force yourself into a miserable existence because you don't think you'll pass Torts otherwise. It's school, you know how to do school, just put in the hours you end up needing to out in, which will probably be fewer than you fear, and you'll be fine. This is not some sort of radically different paradigm.

4. Go on your school's website and look at the extracurricular activities. Find some you're interested in. If you're really interested in them, track down someone involved in them and shoot them an e-mail. They'll be happy to know you. Thinking even broader, find out some stuff in the city you'll be in that you might enjoy doing and see if you can lay the groundwork for getting involved in that too. Even if you do nothing and just keep some ideas in the back of your head come fall, it'll keep you from feeling like there's nothing outside of the classroom, your dorm room, and the library. To stay sane you've got to do stuff you find fun and rewarding and fulfilling and satisfying. Classes may be all of those things. But you'll probably need more. Don't be afraid to find more. This is three years of your life. You don't get any extra credit for being miserable.

5. Write a resume. It will feel like it's much, much, much too soon in the fall when people start frantically looking for summer jobs. If you already have a resume -- and maybe even the start of a cover letter -- it'll just be one less thing to have to deal with. Plus everyone's going to ask you forty times a day if you wrote your resume yet, and this way you can say yes. Anecdotal evidence indicates to me that what you do your summer after 1L year does not impact your 2L job search much if at all. So don't worry if you don't get a law firm job and you're stuck working somewhere you'd rather not be. You'll survive. And, if faced with a choice between two jobs that won't have radically different impacts on your future, choose the one you're going to enjoy more even if it's the one you're more uncomfortable telling your classmates you've accepted. They don't have to live your life, you do.

6. Resolve not to lose touch with everyone you know outside of law school. Whether this means pledging to write e-mails, planning visits in advance, setting up a weekly dinner, starting a weblog... just make sure you have some sort of way to avoid getting so wrapped up in law school that you have nothing else. Even if you like law school. Because at some point law school isn't new anymore, and you're going to feel lonely, and want to reconnect. So why lose touch in the first place. The 3 years goes fast, and then what? Don't lose the life and friends and hobbies and passions you have just because you're going to law school. It's not worth it.

7. Buy big fluffy pillows, a comfortable desk chair, a working alarm clock, a bunch of highlighters, and a t-shirt with the name of your school on it. The first four things are to maximize comfort and productivity. The last is so that when you wander off in a law-induced stupor, someone will know where you belong and lead you back.

8. Ignore anyone who tries to tell you that some sort of week-long law school preparatory class is going to be anything more than a waste of money. That includes ignoring the voices inside your own head that are telling you to go. You won't get a "leg up" and, at worst, you'll be the jackass who keeps raising his hand because he knows the answer and everyone will hate you. If you really want to get a head start, find a 3-page summary on the Internet of all of your classes, and read it. You'll be more prepared than you need to be, but it won't turn you into "one of those people."

9. As soon as you find out what casebooks you're going to be using, go on or Amazon used and buy them there. They're much cheaper. Also, befriend some law students and they'll give you their old study guides. Not worth buying new. Not worth buying at all, really (the study guides I mean -- your casebooks, unfortunately, really are worth buying, and reading, and even occasionally highlighting), but if you can get them for free, why not.

10. Have fun. This is probably not your last summer of freedom, and it may not even be a summer of freedom at all, but it's still important to take advantage. Law school may dull your personality, quash your creativity, and silence your passions. So this may be the last time you're really you, and not some defanged, exhausted, and soul-less version of yourself. So you should do the things you're afraid you won't ever do once you're in law school. Write a novel. Take a pottery class. Make the world's longest paper clip chain. However your spirit moves you. Good luck. And godspeed.