Sunday, July 24, 2005

Law School Wrap Up Post

Part of my problem with the drafting of this post has been my inability to figure out the direction of it. Do I give helpful hints? Do I tell my story? Do I merely reflect on the past 3 years? In other words, what do I want to write and what do I think you want to hear about? I'm still uncertain but I refuse to put this off any longer. This thing is getting written tonight. Damnit.

Law school is like a 3-year vacation in Hell. Not that I actually know what a 3-year vacation in Hell would be like but I'm surmising here and I imagine the description is appropriate.

In other words, law school sucks. It's not fun, you're not going to learn how to practice law and it eats away at your soul like Michael Bolton. (The singer, not the character in Office Space.) Law school is more something you tolerate than enjoy. Granted there were times, classes and experiences that I did enjoy but you have to balance those against the other 95%.

Don't take this to mean "don't go to law school." No, by all means if you think you want to be a lawyer, hit it. Law school, as with college, will teach you to think like a lawyer. Plus the academic surroundings and law school friends you make are fertile ground for legal discussions. And that is the heart of not only the law school experience but also the practice of law. Getting caught up in the latest case, the newest client, the next court appearance, they all have the potential to be exciting. But one of the best parts is being able to read the latest momentous Supreme Court decision and understand exactly what happened then discuss it with your friends or teachers.

As I stated above, law school does not prepare you to actually practice law. The only place anyone learns that is by actually doing it. The best you can do in law school to prepare yourself is to take a clinic. Know that clinics are a lot of work. Don't take one unless you're ready to really dedicate a good chunk of your life for the next semester or year to the clinic. Seriously. But if you do take one and you do put in the necessary effort, you will learn a bit of what it's like to be a lawyer.

Another way to gain this valuable experience is by getting a legal job. My first year course called Lawyering Process may have tried to teach me how to research and write but it was my internship that actually did it. A lawyer posing a potentially-tricky legal question to you and expecting you to find the answer with supporting statutes or binding or influential case law - that's when you learn what to do. I worked for 2 years in an intellectual property firm, performing a variety of tasks, researching various issues, preparing numerous memorandums, undertaking various patent and trademark searches. That was where I really learned about intellectual property law. As a lawyer, I can reasonable expect some of those tasks to continue in addition to other activities such as client correspondence, application (patent, copyright, trademark) preparation and so on.

Law school has a very odd connotation to non-lawyers. Non-lawyers view it as a nearly-insurmountable 3-year venture whose outcome is never certain. Personally, I view law school as a bitch but certainly doable if you want to survive it. That is - Should you so choose, you can and will survive law school. Yes, it can be a lot of difficult work, a great number of hours spent studying and learning, a lot of time spent in class, but by no means is it insurmountable if you don't want it to be.

In my previous 2 versions of this post I had a paragraph all about me not being a strong student. (I'm not.) I guess the gist of that paragraoh was that if I can survive it so can you. And you can. You don't need a paragraph to tell you that. All you need is the confidence that this too shall pass and you will be okay.

One thing you can do to make law school more bearable is to make some friends. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, in the beginning of law school it is very easy. So do it. Use your orientation, your first year classes. Make some friends and then revel with them in the common pain and torture that is the first year. You won't have classes with some of them after that first year so befriend them then and stay friends. Except for one of my friends who transferred to UConn for his 2nd and 3rd years, I met all of my current law school friends that first year of law school. To this day they remain some of the best people I know. I will stay in touch with many of them, if not all of them, after law school and hopefully we will stay good friends. Unlike college, most of them are staying in the area so this is a very real possibility.

Now I never worked very hard in law school. I didn't do all the reading. I didn't prepare for all of my classes. Some of my courses I only attended about half the classes (rare occurence for the courses/professors I disliked the most). Two of my courses I passed due to the outlines friends shared with me. Law school is very odd in its work-input-to-result ratio. That is, if you want a really good grade you have to put in an insane amount of work and time. You have to be willing to be neurotic and obsessive and uncompromising in that regard. However, if that's not your idea of a good time and you're not a super-competitive militant, you can do less than half (comparably) of that effort and still pass with a decent grade. If even that amount of work and effort is annoying to you, as it was to me, you can put in a minimal amount of time and still pass your classes and graduate from law school. It is possible. In fact, it's more than possible. It's not for everyone. In fact, it's not for the vast majority of law students. But that was my take on it and that's how I eventually graduated. Just know that to reap the best grades in law school, you must expend insane amounts of time and effort and dedication thereto.

If you're a prospective law student, you'll hear lots of the same advice, one bit of it going "Find a relaxing hobby or activity and keep at it through law school." That one is pretty important. If you eat, drink, live, breath and die law school, it will eat you up. You need to do other things. Friends will certainly help with this, dragging you out to the bar for a pint after a particularly trying Con. Law class. But you should also keep up your pre-law school hobbies or activities. Make time for them in your schedule. They will help you retain your sanity.

I can't personally speak to significant others and/or dating in law school. I've had 2 dates in the last 3 years, the latter of them resulting in a 5-week relationship-thing with another law student. Sometimes intra-school relationships work, sometimes they don't. Just like non-law school ones. I don't know - I want to pretend to be Yoda here, giving good relationship advice that will save your ass when you need it most. All I can suggest is that if you're the "other" to a current or prospective law student, try to be as understanding and supportive as you can during their 3-year stay in Hell. It'll be rough, it'll be unpleasant, it'll be nasty at times. (Are you into the kinky?) But then again non-law school life is like that too so... I dunno. Personally, at this juncture I'm holding off on looking for anyone/anything. (Relationship-wise! Mind, gutter, out - now!) Alright, I should probably delete the entirety of the preceding paragraph but I won't. Maybe it says something or maybe it doesn't. You decide.

All in all, I'm glad I went to law school. It was an overall positive experience for me. I learned a lot, had some great experiences and learned that I really wouldn't mind practicing law. I went to law school because it was my next step. Not my next step in becoming a lawyer but my next step in life. I met some great people and made friends that I'm sure will become life-long friends. I like to think I've also learned a bit about myself, not that this has helped me to change my habits but I know what they are and can better anticipate them. Hartford wasn't such a bad city. Don't get me wrong, I hate it, but to spend 3 years where I did wasn't the worst. And I do like living half a block from an Irish pub. UConn Law was a good fit for me too. The price was certainly right, in-state tuition being on the order of $10-12k a year. The teachers, for the most part, were good with some of them being downright excellent. It's a good school, though arguably underfunded, being a state school. I'm glad I came here.

Yeah, this looks like a pretty decent Law School Wrap Up Post. Think of it like the nice ribbon on a wrapped law school present. 'Cause I didn't buy you one.. so this is the nonexistent ribbon that it's tied with. Yeah, that's the ticket. If anyone has any additional questions they'd like me to respond to, please feel free to either leave me a comment or shoot me an e-mail. Also get in touch if you have any good recipes for moose sorbe. I like that stuff. (Hold the antlers!)