Observations on the 1L


There’s an old saw about law school that goes like this: “as a 1L they’ll scare you to death, as a 2L they’ll work you to death, and as a 3L they’ll bore you to death.” While I can’t vouch for the veracity of 3L boredom, I can understand how the 2L “work you to death” claim got started. What the cliche doesn’t say, though, is that most of the “work you to death” schtick is self-inflicted. Some people get on a journal and quickly realize that copy editing isn’t as much fun as they thought it would be. Others become research assistants and end up spending most of their waking hours in the law library.

And then there are 2Ls like me. Second-year students who work in their law school’s legal writing department as tutors and mentors for the new crop of 1Ls. Not as glamorous as being on a journal, but the constant exposure to the fright-stress of 1Ls does help put your worries into perspective. Better, seeing the typical 1L bumbling like a moth trapped in a lampshade can also be a much-needed ego boost when you’re otherwise close to hitting bottom. The nasty flip side of that schadenfreude, however, is the dawning realization that I looked just like that last year. Kind of makes me wish that I’d had some idea of what to avoid.

So, in the interest of helping future 1Ls avoid my own mistakes, here’s a short list of things I did as a 1L (and things I’ve seen other students do as a 1L) that really should never be done:

1Using a disclaimer whenever you post something remotely related to law on the internet. When your post simply duplicates the Wikipedia article about mens rea, it isn’t a solicitation for legal services. Don’t add a disclaimer to your email signature and don’t feel compelled to mention that you have to “cover yourself” because, as a student, you’re “held to the same ethical standards as practicing attorneys.”

2Doing legal research on Yahoo! Answers. This one is so bad that I’m compelled to clarify that I did not do this. But I’ve seen 1Ls try this. Don’t. Just don’t. Unless you really think that the collective intelligence of the same people who comment on YouTube is the best place to turn for explaining a decently complex legal theory.

3Complaining about the length of the case you have to read. This is law school. It’s hard. You read a lot. Besides, one of the reasons your writing professor assigned a 100-page opinion was to make you work to find the 20 pages that contain actual legal reasoning. The 80 pages of factual background and expert witness credibility evaluation seem worthless because they are worthless. At least for the purposes of this class. You might need them during civil procedure or evidence, but you don’t need them here. You’re supposed to learn how to ignore the parts of a case that you don’t need. Good luck.

4Writing a five-page case brief for class. This is another case of “just don’t.” A case brief is just that, brief. All it needs to do is refresh your memory of the case. When exam time rolls around and you have 100 pages of case briefs in your outline, you’re screwed.  No one can leaf through that much material efficiently during an exam.

5Assembling outside the classroom 20 minutes before the start of class. Please don’t. 2Ls and 3Ls are cynical, short-tempered bastards who don’t appreciate being given the bum’s rush through a solid mass of 1Ls.

6Judging 2Ls and 3Ls for being cynical. Laugh now, but you’ll be one of us soon enough. It’s only a matter of time.

Bitter Lawyer is collecting short posts from law students who are in the midst of school. Got an opinion, rant, or post about slogging through school or living life as a law student? Email us at email@bitterlawyer.com

(Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/unlistedsightings/3375793493)

The Northwest 3L spent 6 years in the "real world" cultivating cynicism and a dim view of humanity in the telecom and software consulting industries before deciding that the best way to deal with having zero debt in a down economy was to load up on student loans and truck on off to law school. Asked for a description, his friends replied, "says inappropriate things." Grainy, out-of-focus film footage suggests that he attends law school somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

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