Randall’s how to succeed in law school is a nice broad post on exactly that, and you should read it.
But here’s my personal take on law school success. It’s the law school do-over, written as a kind of internal monologue, and most of it is framed in the negative: no, stop, and don’t. It’s not for all law students, but it’s what I would do if I had a law school do-over, and if you’re headed to law school or working your way through now, remember this:
Being a law student does not make you a Jedi.
- Don’t believe your own hype. Believing your own hype—I’m a law student! I’m going to be a lawyer!—is step one toward eventual disappointment. Work hard, be proud of what you’re doing and what you’ve accomplished, but there are a lot of law students and a lot of lawyers. Not to disappoint your future self, Chris, but one day you’ll write a blog post called life as a loser law grad (although it has a happy ending).
- Stop speaking like a lawyer. It’s only after you got out of law school that you realized how lame and pretentious law students sound. You once told your eminently smart and capable father that law school was harder than business school, even though you never went to B-school and can’t add. Shut up, Chris.
- Stop writing like a lawyer. Don’t you think that brief would go better if you weren’t so bent on writing like someone shoved a Latin text up your behind? Andy’s post went viral for a reason: Ignore what’s taught in grammar school. Please don’t confuse those first horribly-written opinions you read as a 1L—or any of them for that matter—as the type of writing you should be doing as a future lawyer. It’s barely comprehensible and it makes you hate law school right out of the gate. Learn to write well. Plain, conversational English is king.
- Stop dressing like a lawyer. Truth be told, you’re not going to dress up all that much, so you’ve got that going for you. There’s plenty of time to wear a suit, anyhow. Be comfortable. Law school is about learning, not looking good. Be bold. Wear the skinny tie, Chris. When the law prof docks you in mock trial, she’s going to blame it on lack of skill, anyway, even if it really was the skinny tie that did it.
- Burn your casebooks. OK, don’t burn them, but do sell them back. And don’t buy any until you feel a compelling need. One, they’re too expensive. Two, they’re too expensive. Three, you can probably get by without them if you’ve got the “guidebooks”—Gilbert comes to mind—and if you need to get from point A to point B, a guidebook tells you exactly what you need to know and how to get there. Smart law students buy only what they really need to learn the material, not what everyone tells them they need. Plus, there’s always Google.
- Skip the laptop in class. That laptop is nothing but a distraction. The web, gaming, chatting, reading blogs, etc. are a time-suck. And contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need to write down every single word that comes out of the law professor’s mouth. Rather, you need to listen. Sit back and listen. Relax. Take infrequent notes. Absorb the lecture, not the screen, not the keyboard.
- Argue less. Or not at all. What, a few law school classes and suddenly everything is a chance to argue? There’s more power in keeping your big trap shut than there is in letting it fly. Save it for someone who cares. Save it for when it actually matters. Being a law student does not equip you with the negotiating power to argue for double meat on your Chipotle burrito. Like some kind of Jedi.