Saturday, August 16, 2008

Advice for Giving Advice

Last night was an SBA sponsored party, mainly for the new 1Ls, but all law students were invited. We went for a little while, and I met some pretty cool people. One 1L went to Princeton, traveled the world and has worked for the government.

On one hand, law school is a great place to learn from your peers. You're with a diverse group of people in terms of experience and goals. Some have worked for the ACLU, while some have worked for the Carnegie Institute. I really enjoy the intellectual sparring that results from throwing all these people together.

On the other hand, we're all fundamentally alike. We're all type-A personalities who are used to winning. When you throw in the first year curve, it means all those type-A people who are used to winning are competing for the limited number of As that are available. As you can imagine, this brings out ugly characteristics in people. We've had reports of people ripping out pages of library books so no one else can use them, or refusing to share study materials. It's very different from college, to say the least.

So I'm struggling with what to tell the 1Ls as advice without sounding too dark. What do you guys think?


Jessica said...

Tell them to be nice but not naive, to find a few friends they can really trust and to never forget to take at least a little time each week to do something that they love.

Most importantly, tell them not to take themselves too seriously.

Phaedrus said...

I always tell them, as I did at orientation, "Know everything and you will be fine!"

Anonymous said...

A bunch of geeks, nerds, and dorks trying to academically sabotage one another in the law school library and study groups. LOL! That is pitiful. In high school, if I heard about students doing this, we would have found them, dragged them to the park across the street, and beat the living hell out of them as a matter of principle.

But grown adults doing this crap? I never hear about medical students doing that to each other, but I have to admit that I heard similar stories about law students stabbing each other in the back back when I was in law school. And for what?

For the right to be me. To have my life. Well, let me tell you right now that my life sucks. Yeah, the Friday night strippers, everyday booze, occasional pleasure vacations, and holiday nose candy and party favors are nice every once in a while. But then I have to put up with socially inept, nitwit partners who scream, pout, and bitch non-stop over the most paranoid of delusions. I have to put up with fat, ugly secretaries who routinely gossip behind your back and screw up the most mundane of tasks every freaking second of every freaking day. I have to put up with the constant grind around the clock on weekends and holidays, so much that it makes no sense to ever make any social plans anymore because I know I'll be late or cancel. And the work is boring, boring, boring. Legal research sucks. Discovery sucks. Depositions suck. Closings suck. Negotiations suck. SEC and other corporate filings suck. Going to trial sucks the worst.

Client interaction? That's the worst part of the job. Clients are never satisfied, mainly because they are paying the firm exorbitant fees, but because of that, they somehow think that they can abuse you on the phone and second-guess you every second of the day. And they are rich people, so they are used to getting what they want, no matter how stupid their brain cells are.

It all sucks. That one week per year to Amsterdam, the Dominican Republic, Thailand, the Hamptons, or Dubai just isn't worth the trade-off. But it's amusing to hear you are stealing pages out of library books for the right to experience what I experience on a daily basis. Good luck, kids. You are all idiots.

bitter biglaw associate

Anonymous said...

Dominican Republic, how TTT. No wonder Cadwalader gave you the boot.

Micheal said...

I'm not a law student, but having double majored in Criminal Justice and Computer Science-type programs, I can say I've never encountered people ripping out pages of library books. Oh, you thought I was going to give some advice with that opener? :P

Obviously I don't have experience in law school, but Criminal Justice can't be too different, what with being part of the court circle thing. Yes, that's the official term. ;) But I can say that the personality type for law enforcement is pretty similar to that of law students. It takes a certain type of person to go out and put their life on the line day in and day out, and not everybody can do that. So here's my advice: Be proud, but don't think you are above studying or helping classmates, because it will come back to bite you if you don't.

Jennifer said...

My advice is much simpler and (I think) a lot less bitter. First of all, ignore all the other advice and do what works for you. For example, I have never, once, written an outline for an exam. I haven't failed out and I do pretty well, actually. But I also take killer notes and have found a system that works for me.

Be nice to people, even if you don't like them. (Actually, be extra nice to those people.)

Buy all the commercial study guides, and buy them early. They will help you understand (and succinctly summarize) topics that can sometimes feel nebulous during the semester. But do this while the semester is going on, so you won't have to cram it all in at the end, while you're writing your outline or whatever else you do to study. Professors always say not to buy the commercial study guides. Screw that and buy the books. Consider it part of your textbook mini-mortgage.

Finally, it's pretty damn hard to fail out if you actually care about not failing out. You do have to remember that everyone here is used to being top-dog, and someone WILL be last in the class. As long as you make a conscious effort to NOT be that person, you won't be.

In short: do what you are comfortable with. Relax. Be nice to people. It's really an awful lot like elementary and high school.

(Now, if the person's goal is to be #1 in the class, there is a whole list of things I'd add to this advice, but for a 1L who's just nervous about what to expect, that's my nickel's worth of advice.)

Jennifer said...

Please forgive the fact that I have way too many commas above. That's what I get for watching the Price is Right while I try to write.

Anonymous said...

my advice: don't give advice unless you're asked, it's presumptuous. if you're honest, you know that you care much more about the sense of importance/respectability you allow yourself than about helping someone do better than they otherwise would. considering that no one fails out anymore, is it really such an accomplishment? it's just as likely that your advice will do more harm than good.

maybe there should be an exception if you're willing to give your (honest) rank, so that what you say can be discounted accordingly. but even then, doesn't everyone attribute successes to conscious behavior, while never doubting that shortcomings are due to chance/circumstances that cannot be controlled?

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with 12:22. Unless you are in the top 10%, on law review and have serious offers from top Vault firms, your advice is probably unwarranted / not that valuable. It's close to impossible to fail out of law school, so no one needs advice on how to be mediocre. It just comes off as seeming self-important.

scumdog0331 said...

1) Think about who you sleep with

2) Learn to properly be drunk at social gatherings

3) Go to class every now and then