September marks the changing of the seasons, from summer to fall, from hot to cold, from break to school. And this year is no exception. Starting this September, thousands of new students will enter law school from across this country. These students will buckle down, meet new friends, and confront new concepts.
It is with this in mind that I provide the following advice:
(i) Before starting law school, read about the history of our legal system and read about the legal principles underlying our common law. Look to Professor Adam Dodek’s superb reading list to get started – http://bit.ly/1MtnuHu.
(ii) Enter law school with the intention of building your professional reputation from the first day of orientation.
(iii) Compete with yourself, not others. The old adage of “look to your left, look to your right, because one of you won’t be here by the end of the year” is false. “True nobility lies in being superior to your former self.” – Ernest Hemingway
(iv) Focus on understanding the material before you instead of fixating on the pursuit of good grades. As future officers of the court, you have a professional obligation to understand legal concepts. And, in any event, good grades follow an understanding of legal concepts.
(v) Keep perspective. Although good grades are important, ultimately grades are a footnote in your life journey. Trust me, no one is writing them on your tombstone.
(vi) Read different textbooks. Cheat on your syllabus and start “seeing” different textbooks. Maybe even different libraries. And, find a textbook that clicks with the way you think. If you live in Toronto, go to the Great Library in your quest for better resources.
(vii) Modify – Don’t Adopt: Study as you studied before with minor tweaks. Professors will make a huge deal about summaries. Often people waste hours making them look perfect. This is stupid. You do not submit these summaries for grades. Write them for you. And do not reuse a another student’s summary. The point of writing the material down is to learn the concepts and hopefully to think critically about the course material. Recycling another student’s work is a disservice to yourself.
(viii) Enjoy the ride! Three years goes by in a flash, and it is a privilege to be in law school.