1L Inessentials: Law School Study Guides Reviewed


While the 2Ls and 3Ls are just starting to think about the exams they have starting – oh, God – Monday, I imagine they’ve been on the mind of you 1Ls for quite a while. Probably, if this year’s class is representative, since before you started law school at all.

Ideally, of course, you wouldn’t worry about them until after New Years. In reality, though, you will panic about them throughout the entire winter break, culminating in an unpleasant incident at a family dinner in which you lob the entire bowl of mashed potatoes at your younger brother after he jokingly suggests that law school has made you annoying. Depending on your personality, you may or may not have actually touched your books during this two week period of mental deterioration, but never fear: no doubt you will have several days after you get back to lock yourself in your room and focus.

And focus on what, you may ask? After all, there are about a gazillion books purporting to give advice to 1Ls on studying and exam preparation. Are any of them any good? I did a brief survey.

Planet Law School, by Atticus Falcon.No stars.

Under no circumstances should you buy this book before you start law school. You should, however, obtain(1) a copy after getting your first semester grades back, or maybe after you get a job at OCI. That is because this book is the perfect way to unwind after a stressful semester by, how else, taking schadenfreudlicious pleasure in the suffering of nervous pre-laws.

Planet Law School was written by Atticus Falcon. You may remember him as the villain in Star Wars, Episode VIII: Revenge of the Money-Grubbing Hacks.(2) His advice? God knows I didn’t read the whole thing, but what I got from it is largely that you should spend all summer and winter break prepping for your next set of classes with a staggering number of supplemental materials (I can only assume he gets kickbacks from the publishers). Combined, these materials cost roughly the same as, well, a nice vacation over the January break to somewhere warm plus enough drinks with little umbrellas to ensure you won’t be thinking about your upcoming semester. Yes, the dark side of the Force runs strongly in this one.

Anyway, given that Darth Falcon has a special “panic plan” for people who are starting law school in, like, 18 months but haven’t started studying yet, I’m guessing that his advice wouldn’t help you at this point even if it was any good to begin with. Which it isn’t. Skip it.

Law School Confidential, by Robert H. Miller.2 stars.

This book is responsible for both the best and the worst piece of advice given to incoming law students. The best: that bizarre system for “briefing” cases using 87 different colors of highlighter. This is a great system not so much because you actually learn the cases better than by highlighting them with one color, but because it allows you to

(a) spend many happy hours in the highlighter aisle at Staples (I like the retractable kind);

(b) spend many more happy hours in class (especially important if they ever get around to blocking wireless internet) deciding on little mnemonics for what color highlighter you’re using;(3) and

(c) because it fools your classmates who weren’t neurotic enough to read Law School Confidential before starting law school (yes, both of them) into thinking that you are impressively organized and thus worthy of respect.

The worst piece of advice given to incoming law students? Read each case three times. Yeah, they’re serious. I know.

Civil Procedure: Examples and Explanations, by Joseph Glannon.4 stars.

You probably already know about this book as it is ubiquitous at 1L study groups (and with good reason). But did you know that Joseph Glannon teaches just downtown at Suffolk Law School? Yes, that’s right! The one by the movie theatre! The nice movie theatre that actually shows the movies you want to see!(4)

Personally, I like to imagine Suffolk as a magical wonderland, one inaccessible to outsiders. They live in high-rise apartment buildings overlooking Boston Common. They take in evening movies at matinee prices. They go to Civil Procedure class and have it actually make sense.

Naturally, I tried to verify this once last year (under the cunning guise of putting up “posters” for the “Environmental Law Program” conference). Only to be denied admittance to their shiny, state-of-the-art facilities by an officious security guard. I can only imagine they were too busy partying on their rooftop party balcony or sending out rude e-mails to hiring partners or something.

But I digress; not even my now lifelong vendetta against Suffolk Law School is enough to dissuade me from recommending this book. It’s the one study aid you’ll buy to use rather than to make you feel like you’re accomplishing something, and it is well worth the money.

——(1) I say obtain because you definitely shouldn’t pay actual money for it. Fortunately, I can guarantee you that someone you know did and is now desperate to get rid of it (because it’s taking up half the bookshelf space in their Gropius room), and so you should have no problems getting it for free.(2) For those of you keeping track at home, that would indeed make 1Ls equivalent to Ewoks. Cute, annoying, or a little of both. You decide?(3) “You see, I use periwinkle to highlight conjunctions because my favorite cartoon as a kid featured a periwinkle sea horse who liked liver and onions, get it?” (4) By which I mean, “the trashy blockbusters that I want to see.”

Katie Mapes, 2L, applauds the decision to move 1L exams to December.

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