"We all have a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be." JA

Find musings on Perfecting Pao

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Alas, a genuine effort...

Dear Readers,
The best way to read in law school is 3,400 feet away from your computer. "Why", you ask?  Quite simply because you end up like this----reading Gibbons v. Ogden, which ofcourse appears to be written in the most archaic form of [insert language you don't even remotely speak] and itching to do anything else [i.e, writing in blogs]. I think it's time for a few pieces of law school advice, I'll be doing this periodically because I keep getting calls requesting "advice" and I have this funny feeling they're only going to increase. Furthermore, the posts will be in no coherent order and will be tidbits of wisdom that randomly occur to me.

For the incoming 1L

1. Don't type out briefs. Unless you know what you're doing, it's virtually useless. What's more, it provides a crutch such that you will copy and paste these briefs into your final exam outline and never digest the cases again. As the author of "Law School Confidential" recommends, you should 'techni-color' brief. Now, this isn't a biblical rule, some of you will still want to write a compendium longer than the case itself. That's fine, you'll find your way second semester. I, for one, like to highlight in the following:
Facts + Procedural History
Court's Reasoning (however strange)
Holding (aka disposition of the case)
Furthermore, you should take any notes or comments you think of while doing the reading on the margins in Blue. Why? Because when you go back and outline ALL your info will be on the "home base" - i.e., in the book which will become a sacred object to you. Also, if the professor says "On page 78, Justice Scalia refers to...." What do you do? You jot that down in Red. Again, when finals time hits (and it will, like a ton of books or a blizzard) you'll have everything in one place.

2. Don't be one of those people who transcribe class. Ok, people. This is controversial. BUT here's my point. The clicking is annoying. Further, if you're typing every potentially baseless comment every classmate makes, you're not participating in the fantastic "Socratic method". And the Socratic method isn't just a cruel tool for humiliation (I know it totally seems that way sometimes), it really can be a learning experience (OK, too much, I know). When the professor asks "Jimmy, what do you think the dissent is trying to accomplish here?", rather than typing your little heart away you should answer the question in your head---anticipate Jimmy's response. Now, it's likely Jimmy will have a better answer than yours. Or just as likely Jimmy will be one of those people who takes every opportunity to go on a jurisprudential tangent. Either way, you'll catch the professor's response to Jimmy, Jimmy's answer, and your brilliant answer. And this, boys and girls, is MUCH more valuable than having a court document of the entire class. With all this said, there are some who will still feel the pressure and insurmountable need to type EVERYTHING. It's OK. You'll find your "groove". I admit that at times I'd love to have one of those transcriber's notes--but my in-class experience catching Jane Austen analogies (Ala "BBC" and Property's Pride + Prejudice) still seems more valuable to me.