• Law School

    1L: It Was

    It’s really that much time. We really do read that much. We really do analyze what “is” means. (“Most? Most? How could he use the word “most” on a true/false exam question? “Most” is not a true/false kind of word. “Most reliable?” Inconceivable.) We really, really write quite a bit and stress over memos and appellate briefs for weeks. We really don’t maintain outside relationships very well. For a year, it’s hard to talk about anything but class and cases. For a lot of us.

    I think the purpose of 1L is to fundamentally alter (if necessary, and for most I’d say it is) the way you think. The statistics I read bear out that it fundamentally alters the personality of a large proportion of the students: “as many as two-fifths . . . experienc[e] severe psychological disturbances” within months of starting law school.1 I, and several of those I know and love, are still reeling in various ways.

    But we made it. And you can make it, and the best part of making it is that it’s challenging. The strategy is learning to deal. I found things that work for me and things I wish I’d known prior to law school but so much of the experience is personal that I have no idea how much can be extrapolated to the 1Ls who will begin on Monday. But I think it’s valuable to hear and play with various strategies:

    (1) Used books are fine. Last year’s edition is fine.

    I realized, after dropping $750 on books first semester that I can actually read through someone else’s highlighting and notes (which can be a gold mine, depending on who wrote them). A casebook (those big red books) is a huge book of abbreviated cases and then very few notes and questions (without answers) to get you thinking. You don’t know enough to be thinking.

    Seriously, if you buy used, you will miss some new questions and your pagination will likely be off. Buy used and then sit on the floor of the bookstore and using your syllabus, figure out what pages in your edition you need to read. IF you are missing a case, do not stress. For the love of Cthulhu, you have free access to LexisNexis and Westlaw which not only have the cases in full (the only drawback I note – the case isn’t abbreviated so there’s more to read/skim) but they’ve briefed the case for you too.

    Second semester, I dropped $150 and bought my books on Amazon used. I gently pried off the red hardback cover, paid $3.00 to have Kinko’s chop off the page binding (the glue) and then sat for an hour and 3-ring hole-punched two of my red casebooks. Each week, I just carried around the pages we were gonna read and discuss. My back felt better instantly. You have no idea how much weight you’re gonna be carting around in casebooks. One book I left intact – Dressler’s Crim Law because it’s not a real big book anyway. Maybe twice was a case referenced that I’d left at home. No. big. deal. You may think you want to keep your casebooks forever. You don’t. Don’t.

    (2) You can brief cases if you want. I don’t.

    It’s a valuable skill, no doubt. You don’t have time if you want to sleep during the first six weeks when you’re learning to write and research. LexisNexis briefs each case using the precise language from the case itself. Westlaw’s briefs are in Westlaw’s paid lawyers words. In class, you’re gonna want the case words. Go over the Lexis headnotes which are the rule(s) you’re looking for.

    In your class notes, copy/paste from Lexis or Westlaw the things you want briefed. Read the facts (in the beginning, profs love to quiz you on the facts you don’t even remember reading) and try to make short notes on each judge’s opinion. Can you sum up their opinion in a sentence of your own? Wikipedia.org is amazing at this. Well, not in your own words, but for summing up and noting major concurrences and dissents.

    During class, I keep open my notes into which I’ve copied and pasted things from the case (using Lexis) and which contain hyperlinks to Lexis, Lexis opened (new tabs for each) to the cases we’re gonna talk about, an oyez.org summary, wiki, Facebook (this is because everyone is on FB or g-chat during class) and/or somebody’s brief on the Internet I may have found. When the prof starts in on some phrase in the case, I’m doing a CTRL-F in Lexis.

    (3) You’re not going to class to be taught the Black Letter Law, per se. You’re going to class to torque Black Letter Law (BLL) and you can’t do that if you don’t know it first.

    You want supplements. This really comes before briefing, if you ask me. Look at the syllabus. Are you discussing Pierson v. Post? Look it up on wiki. Why are you reading Pierson v. Post? It’s about possession? Go grab your Crunch Time Property or Emanuel’s or Gilbert. Read them. Now, go skim Lexis and your casebook. Now you might be ready to answer casebook questions or your prof in class. This is time-consuming. But I’d do a supplement and Lexis before I’d read the casebook.

    You do have to know how to read a case and you do need it to become natural, but that process will be smoother, I think, if you know why and what you’re reading first.

    (4) The supplements you want are kind of personal. You’ll look at some and think “overkill.” And they are. For some profs, the supplement may lead you down the wrong path. Sorry to say you’ll just kind of feel your way here. I like CrunchTime because the others are overkill for 1L. Maybe your library has them. (Speaking of, your library may have your casebook and you can just read it in the library instead of buying it.)

    (5) Notetaking software: it does not matter.

    I use a Mac. If you’re on a PC, a lot of people swear by Microsoft’s OneNote. Looks like severe overkill to me. Many people just use Word to take notes. There is no point in taking class notes or book notes in outline form. Your exam outline should be an outline of your class notes. That said, I would try to outline each section of the syllabus when you finish it in class. End of semester is a hard time to completely outline a course. But, I managed and I never quite outlined before the last two weeks. Look at outlines online and you’ll see what people do. (Just found this blog draft from last semester: Finals begin a week from Thursday. Con, Crim, Prop. I’ve got two mostly finished outlines and one that I swear looks like I just began it tonight.) (Ha.)

    I use OpenOffice on my Mac and am very happy with it. I save everything in .doc and can easily share with classmates and can easily (easily!) make a PDF if I want.

    (6) Back everything the freak up. Use Dropbox. Use Mozy. Use Google docs. Email your notes and outline to yourself. Back it up. I mean it. Don’t be this guy.

    (7) Share. Your notes or outline will not propel someone into the grade stratosphere; you can afford to share. Unless the dude is never coming to class, I share. If he’s not, I just say I don’t share. It’s a pet peeve. I’m not doing all your work, but if you miss a class or two, or need to step out, ‘s’all good.

    (8) The issue isn’t always black and white. Listen to other people – their arguments are going to come in handy on the exam when you need to see both sides.

    (9) Don’t sweat the questions in class. None of us knew the answer and we were all just glad we didn’t get hit with the question. Unless you’re a gunner, we are so not laughing at you.

    (10) For the love of Cthulhu, do something social with your class: beer darts, softball, whatever-it-is-you-do-in-groups besides drink (that’ll be a natural occurrence for most of us in law school).

    Ran out of time on this, but a lot of stressing occurred over this year as I look back over it, so I throw out there what worked for me. I wanted to add some more positive things, but I’ve got to get this up. I meet the 1L’s I’m peer advising in 2.5 hours and can not understand the new mass transit system map. Unless it means we have no service to the law school. (I think that’s what it means. I hate them. I hope they die.)

    Now Playing: When 2Ls Ruled the School.

    1See Grant H. Morris, Preparing Law Students for Disappointing Exam Results: Lessons from Casey at the Bat, 45 San Diego L. Rev. 441, 442 (May-June 2008) (citing a 1986 American Bar Foundation Research Journal study which reported that seventeen to forty percent of the alumni and students studied suffered from depression and “reported other significantly elevated symptoms, including obsessive-compulsive, interpersonal sensitivity, anxiety, hostility, paranoid ideation, and psychoticism (social alienation and isolation).”) The students were normal when they began school.

  • Law School

    Seriously Neurotic

    I wear the same shirt to bed before every exam. Last semester I wore this shirt (Nautica mens’ nightshirt) to my last final, Contracts. I needed a new lucky charm.

    I wear the same Gap boyfriend jeans and Loft navy hoodie sweater to every final this semester.

    I sit in the same blessed seat for every final in the auditorium – this semester and last.

    Uh, Ryan? No. That’s, like, my seat. Can you move? Do you mind moving? Are you sure? Cool. ’cause I need you to move. Perfect. See? That‘s where you were last semester for Torts final. This works. Thanks. This is drama. Not a meltdown.

    Tomorrow 8:30a is Property final. I don’t know future interests to save my life and they, follow me closely here, won’t. The freaking Rule Against Perpetuities? Hazing. 1L hazing.

  • Law School

    Test, Criminal – tomorrow

    Implicit meaning: let’s blog.

    No, really, I’m good with crim; the policy question may give me some trouble but my feeling is I have opinions; I shall elaborate. Seriously, I love this stuff. Property – confidence lower, but no unmanageable anxiety whatsoever.

    We’ll talk later about exams, 1L and anxiety; I need to mean that. I have meant to write up 1L for a while now, but there is just little time and when I do have down-time, I take it away from the computer screen. I drive. I meet with friends at A-Bread (Atlanta), Chili’s or Cheddar’s. But tonight I’m here because I totally forgot to record a cool thing I did (and I’m relaxing from crim-study): made the College of Law’s cheerleading team, aka Trial Team.

    There aren’t a whole lot of 1Ls who try out for the college’s competitive trial team; the competition is mostly rising 3Ls. Good reasons for this exist, or at least they did this year. The tryout for the team came precisely when earnest studying for finals should begin – 1Ls have no time for not-studying. The try-out consisted of drafting and giving a five minute opening statement, based on the fictional case of “Micah Victor,” a clear play on the Michael Vick 2007 dog-fighting/abuse case (which I’d never heard of), five minute direct examination of a live witness, and five minute cross examination of a live witness.

    You will spend your entire 1L year in classrooms and not once will they mention or read to you an “opening statement.” There will be no “direct” or “cross” examinations considered. It’s all case law, all the time. You’re writing memos or appellate briefs (and definitely not reading them – honor code violation) and briefly arguing both. Unless you’ve watched Law and Order or Perry Mason, opening statements are not in your little 1L sights.

    I took two days, probably, in toto and researched how to draft a statement, how to examine witnesses on direct and cross, where to stand, and how to enter exhibits into evidence. I learned that no one really knows what being “argumentative” is during an opening statement, so you can probably get away with it for around 15-20 seconds before opposing counsel’s eyebrows begin to lift. Four hours one Sunday, right before my try-out, I memorized my opening statement.

    Fifteen minutes before a video camera and six 2 and 3Ls. Five minutes seemed like an eternity when I realized I hadn’t researched how to shut the defendant up on cross examination. Also when I realized my shoes didn’t fit. Curses when I buy shoes because they are too cute* but clearly not my size. I kept walking smooth out of them. I stood still on cross.

    I’m utterly excited – tentatively I’m on the part of the team (there are twelve of us total attending 2-4 competitions throughout the year) that will attend the Chicago ABA Labor Law Competition in November.

    red heels*Apt. 9’s Glance Red Patent Heels.

    Adorable. I have them in black and red. I’m keeping the red – sentimental reasons, really, and because I rarely have need to wear red shoes. The black ones are not functional for me whatsoever. Want a pair of 7’s?

  • Law School,  Life,  Technology

    iPhone: If Found Please Write

    2009_05_07_finals_1L I’m exhausted. I finished the 3 hour Con Law exam less sure of myself than I wanted to be, but there’s nothing for it. I began some crim tonight. Totally not fun to walk into that. I’ve taken some breaks, most notably to create an “If Found” message for my iPhone. I kept thinking this does not require extravagant moves or money (although this is a lovely app for just $.99 and may be well worth your dollar).

    (1) Choose your wallpaper from the web, there are many beautiful images free to download.

    (2) Save it to your computer and then import into an image editor. For ease of use, I used picnik.com, a free image editor.

    iphonepasscode2(3) Add text to your image – your email or an emergency contact number, save to your computer and synch with your iPhone. I had to play around with the exact location of my text to prevent it from being hidden from view under “Enter Passcode” and the passcode entry area.

    (4) And now my email address is visible on the wallpaper; no passcode required to contact me. The first day of school this semester, I left my purse on the shuttle bus. I came unhinged and had the company not worked with me to secure my purse immediately (The first dispatcher would not actually “work with me” and contact the driver but would “file a report.”) I would have wished I’d had some form of contact information available on my phone in case a student should have secured my purse and attempted to return it.

    Now, should an honest soul find my iPhone and wish to reunite it with me, they are not locked out of all contact with me by my password; they’ll have access to my email address, in plain view on the wallpaper. (My phone is always password-protected and therefore ICE – In Case of Emergency listing in contacts – could not be viewed and used to contact me without the password; now wondering why I have an ICE entry….)


    EDIT: I wrote this last night, clearly for people who already understand what I’m getting at and while zonked on nighttime meds. I’ve since clarified a few things because, hey, I have time: I watched Unsolved Mysteries yesterday in the nail salon on my way to my Con Law exam and correctly identified the accomplice who will be charged with the same substantive crimes as the principal and noted attempted felony murder and discarded – heh, attempt is a specific intent crime! – for purposes of exam-work and charged that bad boy with attempted murder, robbery and kidnapping (we have asportation!).

  • Law School

    Veni Gambini

    me-dark1 Trial Advocacy notes on writing our appellate brief from the files of Shellie “VENI1” Gambini, 2/10/09, in toto:

    Ineffectiveness of attorney is a constitutional something. Only a few issues. Go quality. Very important. No material mistake as to fact or law. Meritorious claims or something.

    1VENI: my Route 66 Illinois license plate. It’s Latin. (For the young, reference is to: My Cousin, Vinny.)

  • Law School


    If tomorrow were a big exam and you just trashed four summary judgment questions, would you have a drink?

    Earlier, it was Exam Week Curse. A.S. reminds me to bring an ethernet cord for exams. (Who keeps CORDS anymore?) I can get a cord. But it won’t do me any good as my beautiful Mac has a defective ethernet port which I intended to remedy over break. Whatever. A.S. lets me borrow a computer and it’s all ExamSoftwared up but it’s different than mine. I don’t like the feel. I need my Mac running bootcamp and Vista. So I ponder: Is the cord required or just recommended?

    G.D.’s computer, after removing an offensive bit of software causing ExamSoft to lag, denied him access. To his whole freaking computer.

    He’s back now and writes me (paraphrased): I’m 99% positive the cord is in case wireless goes out. Don’t sweat it

    I’m 99% sure you’re a god.

    I am now going to bed, shortly, after a smallish drink and a largish amount of cramming.

    Clearly I’m now starting to overthink.

    Or not.

    Peace out. (If only.)

  • Law School

    Note To Self


    I have no time for this. But as I’m studying for finals I keep coming across Notes To Self embedded in my class notes.

    I was confused at this point in the lecture.

    Not bargained for? WTF?

    Civ Pro:
    30(c)(2) An objection must be stated in a … nonsuggestive manner.
    [Kramer voice]I’m OUT![/voice]

    Spa Envy: 217.555.5555

    I had no idea how funny these would be while outlining the semester.