• Survival Tips for Incoming 1Ls

    I remember feeling very excited and scared during the weeks before I started law school.  I remember having a lot of questions and not always having a clear answer for many of them.  I want to share some of the wisdom that I’m glad people told me and some that I wished I had been told before I started law school.

    Enjoy Your Pre-law School Summer
    You will have offers to take special pre-law school prep courses to help prepare you to take law classes.  You probably don’t need this.  Enjoy spending your time relaxing with family and friends instead.

    Law School is Overwhelming – at first
    You might feel like a deer-in-the-headlights for the first month of school while you’re getting used to classes and studying.  This is normal and temporary.

    Your Reading Speed will Decrease
    Reading legal cases is a lot different than reading other textbooks.  Don’t freak out if you are only able to read 6-10 pages per hour your first semester.

    You Can Still Have a Life
    Going to law school does not mean you have to give up having a personal life, but you will have to prioritize your activities.  I strongly encourage every law student to have a life away from school.  I was the most miserable the semester I spent the least amount of time participating in non-law school activities.

    Studying will take up a lot of time.  However, a disciplined person can regularly be done with studying for the day by 5pm or 6pm.  One of my classmates was known for getting all of his studying done between Monday and Friday and was able to spend his weekends relaxing with his wife.

    Don’t Even Think of Trying to Work During Your First Semester
    The ABA prohibits 1Ls from working their first semester, and this is one time where the ABA and I agree.  Having worked 2 jobs (13 hours/day) in the past, I thought I could try working a few hours a week when classes started.  My first week of classes proved to me that this wasn’t an option.  Law school is mentally draining your first semester.  Let your free time be devoted to rest and enjoyment.

    Form Relationships with your Professors
    Professors are great people when you need advice or someone to listen to your frustrations.  They are also awesome resources for networking in your local community and glowing letters of recommendation that make you stand out from your peers when you’re applying for jobs and scholarships.  Professors are a highly beneficial and often under-utilized resource for students.

    You Don’t Have to Change Who You Are to be Successful
    The legal profession is generally conservative and traditional, and I am neither of those things.  When I was accepted to law school, people suggested that I change my wardrobe, my hair, my sunglasses, and cover my tattoos when I started school.  This was loving advice from people who didn’t want me to be judged by my appearance and bold personality.  I can understand why people might want to “tone it down” during the first few days of school to see how people who don’t fit the norms are treated, but in general, you don’t have to change who you are to be successful in law school.  For me, the best experiences and opportunities have come when I have stayed genuine to myself and not followed the traditional path.

    Attitude is Everything
    In law school, as in life, you will be as happy or as miserable as you choose to be.  If you simply accept that sometimes life will be challenging and stressful, but don’t let it get you down, you’ll be a happier person.  I have a classmate who embodies this.  No matter what is going on in his life, whenever I ask him, “How are you?,” he answers, “I’m living the dream.”  A positive attitude will always carry you through.

    Good luck!  If you have any questions about law school or if you have been a law student and have your own tips or experiences to add to this list, please leave them as comments to this post.

  • I like professors who are engaging, who are entertaining, and whose lectures are dripping with sarcasm.  It actually facilitates the learning process because what they say is so striking that I can’t forget it.

    I have a document on my laptop dedicated to quotes from professors I’ve had for the last two years.  Since I’m starting finals this week, it seemed appropriate to share some of the best ones.

    Professors’ Take On How The Law Works:

    • The law has lots of ways to screw you over.
    • This entire statute is geared toward dumb people.
    • There are lots of statutes that cause the crazy.
    • Your job as lawyers is to be as clever and deceptive as possible.
    • Courts come up with sub-optimal interpretations all the time.
    • Agencies are federal beasties.
    • We want people to hit people in the mouth now and again.
    • Child molesters get sad when everyone is told they’re in town.
    • You can’t sue yourself unless you agree with yourself that you can sue yourself.
    • Magic words matter.
    • Compromise results in constant mediocrity.
    • Most of law is totally flawed.  Just go with it.

    Professors’ View On Teaching:

    • Did anyone read the case?  I didn’t.
    • Who else wants me to point at them and say “No?”
    • I wanted to prove I’m smarter.
    • The point is you’re all wrong.
    • I’m going to keep insulting everyone for no good reason.

    These Have Almost Nothing To Do With The Law But They’re Funny:

    • Does anyone know who Oscar Wilde is?  He was a drunk.
    • I think of myself as a playboy . . . a bit of a dandy you might say.

    Hypos I Will Never Forget:

    • If the potential harm is you’re dead, then we generally don’t wait until that happens to allow you to sue for damages.
    • What if I sell you one piece of bubblegum with a little bit of arsenic in it?  What’s the problem there?
    • If you get run over by the mailman, you have no recourse.  You have to just lie there with your broken leg.
    • Eating dead baby type stuff . . . you can always come up with a situation where that’s OK.
    • When someone cuts off your face, you don’t get your face back. You get money. It’s a substitute . . . I have to change the movies I watch.

    Thank you all for being effective teachers and making class entertaining.  The world needs more professors like you.  I wouldn’t know as much as I do if it weren’t for these verbal gems.

  • Demanding My Money Back


    Underground entrance of Charles Trumbull Hayde...
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    I think I’ve established that I expect a high value for my tuition.  This past week, I got to confront the problem head on when a professor was very late to class.  He was apologetic and delivered a shortened version of his usually awesome lecture.  While I was waiting for him to arrive, I started calculating what his tardiness was costing me and I decided to do something about it.  I sent the dean of the law school a letter demanding my money back:


    Dear Dean Berman:

    The College of Law has committed a substantial breach of our contract.  The letter is to inform you of the expected remedy.

    On January 31, 2008, I received my acceptance letter to ASU Law School.  The school extended me the offer to pay tuition and fees in exchange for the opportunity to attend classes.  The terms of our agreement included adhering to the ABA’s rules of law students and the law school’s honor code, maintaining a minimal GPA, and making biannual payments to the school.  If I completed these requirements, I would be awarded a J.D. degree in May 2011.  I accepted your offer and have performed my requirements diligently since August 2008.

    For spring semester 2010, the school continued our contract by allowing me to continue to take classes in exchange for $10,618.05 in tuition and fees.  Scholarships paid $750 of my financial obligation, leaving me with the $9868.05 balance, which I paid on January 14, 2010 with an electronic check.  This check pre-paid for the classes I am currently taking.

    I am registered for 14 credits this semester, which translates to $704.85 per credit.  My three-credit Intellectual Property course that is scheduled to meet 26 times during the semester, for 85 minutes per session has a value of $2114.58 for the course, $81.33 per class session, or 95.7 cents per minute. 

    Paying $81 for an 85-minute lecture is a significant amount of money, and I demand a high value for my money.  Professor Douglas Sylvester teaches Intellectual Property and usually delivers an $81 value in each class with his dynamic style.  However, on Tuesday, February 16, 2010, he was 37 minutes late for class.  I appreciated his apology for his tardiness, but this does not negate the fact that ASU Law School did not fulfill its obligation to me that day.  Therefore, I am entitled to recoup $35.40 of my spring semester payment….

    Ruth Carter, LPC
    Class of 2011


    I thought it was hilarious to demand my money back.  Thirty-five dollars isn’t much to some people, but that’s months’ worth of ramen to a college kid. 

    I was a little surprised when I got a call from Berman yesterday wanting to talk about my letter.  He basically took my fun away and said I could either (1) have a 37-minute tutorial with Sylvester or (2) file a law suit against ASU, but I wasn’t getting my money back because “it doesn’t work that way.” 

    Even though things didn’t work out the way I hoped, I followed my rule: You can’t bitch about something unless you’re willing to do something about it. 

    Mission accomplished.

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