1L Experience: Thanks for the advice!


A room full of 1Ls, and the conversation is fairly predictable. Six basic questions. “What’s your name?” “What section are you in?” “Where are you from?” “Where’d you go to school?” “How long ago did you graduate?” and “Which of the twenty-five pre-approved corporate law firms do you one day hope to work for?”

Okay, maybe not the last question. But it’s probably coming soon. Put a 2L or a 3L in the room, however, and the conversation changes. Invariably, within forty-five seconds, the upperclassman is holding court, being pelted with questions about which brand of highlighter lasts the longest, and urged to share his or her infinite wisdom with us eager first-years.

And, really, the advice is quite helpful:

“Brief the cases. Don’t brief the cases. Go to class. If you want. Your grades are very important. Your grades are completely random and unpredictable. Gilbert’s, Emanuel’s, nutshells, hornbooks, restatements, treatises, outlines, flash cards, review tapes, Bar-Bri classes, private tutors, rent-a-2L, bribe professors, crimes of passion, transfer to Thomas Cooley Law School and Tackle Shop, the answer is always ‘C,’ read Glannon’s book for civil procedure.”

Maybe the most confusing advice I’ve gotten is regarding study groups. I’ve heard everything from, “I had a study group first-year, and we met every day of the semester from midnight until 4 a.m. going over the day’s reading and taking sample exams. Except we took one day off for Thanksgiving. And did a conference call instead,” to, “At about 11:00 the night before my first exam, I ran into this guy at the 7-11 in Harvard Square. He looked familiar, but I’m not sure if he was in my section or just a panhandler. I asked him if he understood section 2-718 of the Uniform Commercial Code and he shook his head. That was pretty much my only time trying a study group.”

I think I was most disturbed by a piece of advice I got from a particularly hard-core upperclassman. “Just remember,” he said. “You’re not here to make friends. You’re here to get a job.” I have two issues with that statement. The first is that I’m not “here to get a job.” Just the reverse: I’m here NOT to get a job! If I really wanted to get a job, I wouldn’t be here. I’d have a job. I’m here to hide from that, at least for three more years.

My second concern is about the not-making-friends part. Unless the job you’re here to get is kicking babies and tripping the elderly (and since it’s not corporate, that counts as public interest work, right?) I don’t see why you can’t be here to make friends, too. I can’t think of a more dismal outcome from three years here than to leave and not have made a corporate jet-load of friends. Actually, that’s not totally true. I can think of three more dismal outcomes: flunking out, felony-murder, and interest rates on student loans rising to 400 percent compounded daily. But not having any friends is certainly close to the top of the list.

Worst of all about getting advice from 2Ls and 3Ls is that they never tell you how well their strategies worked. You never hear, “Don’t brief your cases. I didn’t! And now I work at Au Bon Pain.” Or, “You don’t need to make your own outlines. I used ones I found on the ground in front of CVS. I’m gonna be a summer associate at the Hark.”

I gave myself some advice the other day about listening to other people’s advice. I’ll nod, and smile, and occasionally say “uh huh,” or “sure,” or “replevin,” but I’m not really listening. Instead, I’m collecting cans for the five-cent deposit so I can earn enough money to buy every hornbook in the Coop. Because the guy in 7-11 said that was a good idea.

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