...And While I'm At It


I suppose, while I'm thinking about it, I may as well give my unsolicited advice for incoming law students.

Paradoxically, the only advice I can give is not to listen to people's advice. Everyone's full of ideas on how to succeed, either because they did X and it worked for them, or because they didn't do X, things didn't work out, and they figure that if they had done X things would be better. The thing is, everybody's different, and things that work for some people won't for others. I don't highlight, underline, or otherwise mark my books, because I find it distracting. But I'm way outside the norm on that.

So my general advice, which you're obviously free to ignore if you choose, is to basically do whatever it is that you did that got you into law school, but do it somewhat harder. Don't kill yourself, but realize that this is more difficult than undergrad. Don't waste too much time thinking about how well your classmates are doing, because you can never really tell and you're likely to drive yourself crazy with paranoia. Realize that every class is graded on a curve, which means that, regardless of how difficult the material may be, all of your classes are equally hard. It doesn't matter that Torts is a pretty easy subject; everyone else finds it easy, too, and you're only being graded in relation to them. This isn't to say you should focus on how your classmates are doing; it is to say that you should devote roughly equal amounts of time to all of your classes. It's not unusual to find yourself getting your best grade in the class you thought was the hardest, because you wound up putting all of your energy into studying for that class.

I only have one absolutely 100% solid piece of advice, applicable to everyone at every law school at all times: Buy Glannon's Examples and Explanations in Civil Procedure. Buy it along with your casebooks, and read it from the first week. It will make your life much, much easier. It's not perfect, insofar as it has notable holes and weaknesses in a few areas, but it'll make things fit together for you in a way that you almost certainly won't get from your casebook.


Zach, you have a hilarious way of phrasing advice which I've now seen in action three times.

Time one: right here, where you say, "Don't kill yourself, but realize that this is more difficult than undergrad."

Time two: Friday's post on peanut butter balls, in which you state, "Don't rush it or anything, but be aware that you can't goldbrick while doing this."

Time three: an email that I found tucked into the clerk manual at work, from you to Bridget on the subject of the India Census Project. I believe your words were something like, "No pressure or anything, but don't fuck this up."

All I'm pointing out is that in every case you're highlighting the need to balance between two extremes, but without providing any kind of landmarks by which the reader can actually accomplish the balancing. If you don't see why it's funny, imagine for a moment that I'm instructing a small child on how to ride a bicycle. Don't tip over to the left, I might say, but be aware that you shouldn't tip over to the right either. It's not as though I've told the child, who's looking apprehensively at the ground, anything that he or she isn't already taking into consideration.

To be fair, I'm nearly certain that last bit of advice was intended as a joke.

And I would argue that a lot of times these are vague things where there aren't going to be identifiable or quantifiable markers to tell you how to strike the balance. I'm merely calling attention to a balance that needs to be struck. Once thereby made aware of the issue, the reader can judge for herself whether she is moving too far in one direction or the other.

As I think about it, I think the second piece of advice is motivated out of a genuine concern for moderation. It actually started a priori as "Do A, but not too much." The first piece of advice, though, ended up that way through lawyerly hedging. The actual advice I wanted to give was "Don't kill yourself." However, I didn't want that to be taken too far, so I subsequently added, "but realize that this is more difficult than undergrad." The first part is the advice, the second part is the ass-covering disclaimer.

Well, okay. That makes sense. And I didn't realize that the email was supposed to be joking, which may merely be evidence that I have an embarrassingly underdeveloped sense of humor. Or that I'd been listening to Bridget's horror stories about the project and so was inclined to take everything related to it as universally horrible.

The lawyerly hedging, in any case, should serve you very well in the future.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure, without the context of the e-mail to guide me, that I intended something along the lines of "Now, I don't want to exaggerate the importance of Claims Returns, but if you screw these up the entire library system will collapse around you and it will all be your fault."

Ah, the India Census. As I recall, that's where Bridget cut her clerkly teeth; she was charging, packing, and shipping India Census books before she learned how to process Bill/Fine Memos.

You know, between my "Don't fuck this up!" advice and my exacerbation of your fears about various New York neighborhoods, I can't help wondering if I don't get some sort of joy out of putting people on edge.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on August 14, 2006 1:48 AM.

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