Welcome to Law School

Orientation week is drawing to a close. 2L and 3L classes have begun with 1L to begin on Monday. To all 1Ls here are my pieces of advice. I know that not all who have experienced law school will agree with these and that’s fine, I hope that Slawyers will contribute their pieces of advice in the comments. Here are mine:

  • Go to Class

I know this seems self-explanatory and I also know that one of the guilty pleasures of being a student is the occasional skipped class, so if you are going to skip classes be very judicious in choosing those few occasions. Your profs don’t appreciate the missed classes and if shows when you write an exam if you have missed substantial time. Some believe you can skip class and rely on CANS (see below) that might get you through but you won’t excel and you won’t really know what you are talking about, and it shows, on exams and when you go out to work.

  • Keep up on the Readings

The corollary to the first item; this also seems self-explanatory; however, (and I hope you are already aware of this) there is a lot of reading in Law School, plan for it, allocate substantial amounts of time for it and get on top of it early because it is difficult to catch up once you fall behind. The semester is relatively short and if you fall behind you are going to find yourself three weeks out from exams with a substantial amount of reading undone and trying to prepare for exams ill-equipped (even if you have good CANS) and going into exams with incomplete knowledge. Also, going to class without having done the readings shows. Your profs are pretty clever and whether or not they call you on it, they have a good idea.

  • CANS

Ahh CANS or – Condensed Annotated Notes I would never be so bold as to suggest you ignore the grey market for CANS, even though I believe that your best CANS are ones you create yourself. Those legendary CANS that are floating around the law school are likely several years old and there are likely at least one or two cases which have been superseded or overturned. SO what I will suggest is that you take the CANS and update them yourself, use that legendary copy as a template. Furthermore, you stand a better chance at understanding your own work than that of someone else.

  • Don’t listen to your classmates

I’m not suggesting that your classmates are dumb or malevolent, this simply means don’t let talk affect you. As in: “I read xx number of pages” or “Did you study xxxx” or the pre and post exam talk (albeit this one is difficult to avoid), whether it is intended or not this type of talk psyches a lot of people; you can only take care of yourself don’t let what others say they are doing, affect you. I’m not saying avoid your classmates, you will make friendships in law school that last a lifetime. And in fact a small group of friends whom you trust and rely on can be extremely helpful. I’m simply saying that there is a wave of hysteria that can pass through a law school and catch many people in the wake. It is the type of talk referred to above that fuels the wave, don’t let it affect you.

  • (At the Risk of self aggrandizement) Get to know your friendly neighbourhood law librarian

While we can’t do whatever a spider can; action is our reward. Or more concisely, stopping short of writing your exams or doing your studying for you, we can make your life a lot easier. We know the databases that are available whether that be case-law, legislation, citation managers, legal literature indexes or full-text, blogs, wikis you name it, that is our stock in trade. Furthermore, and perhaps more significantly we know our way around the law school and the university you are attending- what support is offered, good places to study, tips, talks and what we like to call our ninja tricks. We also know legal citation.

Above all, enjoy yourself! it is a lot of work but if you wanted to go to law school you should find most of the work interesting. You may feel that you have entered a different dimension, but the three years goes by in a relatively short time and when it is over you will look back on student life fondly. And to finish with the thoughts of local artist Matt Mays “You gotta move your mind; if you wanna feel welcome; around here”.

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