So I've asked a few people, done a lot of thinking, and there's not one magic bullet that I can tell you about how to succeed in law school--or what to do the summer before so that you will succeed in law school. Law school doesn't suck like other things suck. It's an indescribable experience. If I could go back and give myself one piece of advice before law school, it would be "don't go to law school." But I know I wouldn't have listened, and maybe even now I'm just falling into the practice of profession-loathing, just like so many other lawyers.
The conventional wisdom is that you cannot prepare for law school. So take your summer easy and fill your head with fun things like cotton candy. Screw the conventional wisdom. I think there are a few things that can prepare you for law school. But nothing, other than three years of law school, can truly prepare you for three years of law school.
I would recommend a book called "Law School Confidential." I read it before law school and it helped to give me a sense of what law school is. Take note of the rainbow method of case briefing. Also note that the students profiled in the book are hand-picked douches. If I recall, they didn't profile the student who went to law school for a stupid reason, got mired in debt, and couldn't find a decent job upon graduation. That will be a majority of your classmates. So even if you're not in that situation, these are the people you will be around.
For example, right now my roommate Greg doesn't have a job, despite sending out literally hundreds of resumes and doing numerous interviews. He was on the executive board of one of the journals at Emory and he was in the top third of the class. He worked for a judge this past summer, and he is an excellent writer (from what I've read of his). Yet, he cannot find a job.
I also sent out hundreds of resumes, did numerous interviews, and only came out with two job offers. Sure, I wrote my way on to the [School] Law Journal (a coveted position), and I did end up as the Executive Managing Editor (the second-most prestigious position on the journal). But my GPA was in the shitter--meaning right near the middle of the class, but always below the top half--which basically reamed me. GPA is everything on the legal resume. (As a side note, here are the things that mean nothing on a legal resume: everything other than GPA and school attended. I'm serious. Unless you're going into public interest. Then the only thing that matters is how much your heart bleeds.)
One book I would NOT recommend is "Planet Law School" or any of its sequels. It's junk and looks like it's self-published. I read a good majority of it before I just put it down. It's mainly just a scathing indictment of law schools and professors. After your 1L year, you won't need a book to tell you how horrible law school is.
The next thing you can do is read something like "Scalia Dissents," which doesn't really introduce you to anything that you will encounter during your first year of law school. But it is entertaining.
You could also buy this book by Erwin Chemerinsky's hornbook on Constitutional Law. Open the book and choose a topic that sounds interesting to you. Try "Procedural Due Process" if you really want to mess with your mind. Most people would say, "Oh, no, don't do that because you'll learn it wrong." Con Law is a load of crap, but it's a lot more accessible than, say, civil procedure. (Civil procedure makes the perplexing phrase "International Shoe and its progeny" mean something.) And you might as well learn Con Law from the most respected name in Constitutional Law than from your professor. Everyone reads Chemerinsky's hornbook while they take Con Law.
So that's about it for pre-law school preparation. The wife should also prepare for the next three years of law school. They will be hard on her like they're hard on you. I've seen law school destroy too many good relationships.
Also, send me a message when you start law school, and I can tell you more things to help you. But if I start telling you now, it will sound like I'm trying to tell you how to land a 747 and it won't make sense.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Advice is the same, no matter who you ask.
A friend of mine, currently in Egypt on a Fulbright, is considering whether or not to attend law school (he's already deposited at a school in Massachusetts). His cousin gave him this advice about law school, which saved me 10 minutes from typing the same response to him. I think it's pretty spot on and rather amusing.