After my first week of law school…yes. yes I do. Substitute Ms Woods for M(r)s Vann because that was me, in my Legislation and Regulation class, on Friday. Confidently giving my professor a (very) incorrect answer because I had literally no idea what she was asking.
Ah well. You live and you learn (and in this case I learned you can’t be prosecuted by the policy of a statute, just the language of the statute itself. Fun!)
BCT, Round II
The first week of law school did not go as expected. In fact, it was reminiscent of Basic Cadet Training at USAFA (minus the physical stuff, of course). I didn’t know anyone. I had trouble following conversations in class. I didn’t understand legal terms, was terrified of being called out, and felt constant bewilderment as everyone around me seemed to just get it. I was back in survival mode.
There was only one thing I did know; my Section Leader professor’s study advice (read here: https://rileyv.com/index.php/2019/09/02/1l-orientation/) was not working. I read all the assigned material over the weekend, carefully outlined each case – and learned absolutely nothing. What was wrong with me? Obviously, he was the expert on handling law school – he had been around for forty years, had helped so many students in that time…what the heck was I missing?? I walked out of the first day feeling royally stupid, overwhelmed, and nearing a major meltdown.
DING. Divine intervention has entered the chat.
For real though, my bag started buzzing right as I left the school. I pulled out my phone and saw a Facebook message from a friend-of-a-friend, a recent graduate of Harvard Law. She had read my latest post, saw the professor’s study advice, and just wanted to let me know…that was not the way to go.
I’ve never felt so relieved in my life. She proceeded to give me tons of advice about studying, reading supplements, preparing for exams, not worrying about cold-calls in class…basically, how to “cut through the bullshit” and start crushing school. She spent at least an hour reassuring me that it would get better and yes, I would eventually use the term “subject matter jurisdiction” like it was no big deal.
After speaking with her, I immediately changed my game plan. I realized my biggest struggle wasn’t getting through the readings, it was understanding them. If you’re like me, terms like “appellant,” “reverse and remand,” “in rem jurisdiction,” “plaintiff-in-error” and “certiorari” don’t mean much. If you’re like my professors, you’ve been a lawyer for far too long and don’t have time to explain such rudimentary terms to newbies (I’m exaggerating, of course, but law class really is a different language and your girl IS NOT FLUENT). Also, I’m convinced judges’ decisions are purposely written in the most roundabout way possible. Amid each case’s maze of reasoning, I just couldn’t distinguish the important things from the not-so-important.
So I signed up for Quimbee, the equivalent of Sparknotes for law students. Quimbee is a content library/study aid that contains the most important points of each case, which immediately helped me. The site uses correct legal terms but only gives the ‘bare bones’ of each scenario, which then makes reading the actual case much more productive. I’m using it to double check my interpretations of facts and rulings, and understand the reasoning behind a judge’s decision.
I won’t lie though, I initially hesitated on the Quimbee account. The English major part of me thought, “you’re a fraud if you don’t just read the actual case.” Then I realized – that was dumb. This isn’t sparknoting The Great Gatsby, this is interpreting language I don’t know from two hundred years ago. And even then, I wasn’t fully convinced until I tried reading Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714 (1877) without the internet. We’re not in West Egg anymore, old sport.
The next thing I did was organize my notes. This may sound silly but again – I was unprepared for the sheer amount of stuff we’re learning. Each class is about twenty pages of dense reading per night, give or take, with 3+ cases. Each case has a different set of facts/questions/holdings/rules, to be scrutinized in class and again during exams in four months. So I established a google doc for each separate course, and already relying heavily on the Outline feature and Ctrl F to keep concepts and cases straight.
I also realized breaking each doc into separate classes helps me understand that day’s “legal concept,” and therefore understand its applicability to associated cases and readings. Furthermore, when I’m typing notes instead of just highlighting the textbook, I’m forced to a) pare down the facts and b) understand them. I’m only a few days in, but these notes have taken a staggering amount of info and made it 1000x more manageable. I suppose I won’t really know if this method works until December finals, but – for my sanity, if nothing else, it seems to be just fine.
The last part of Settling Back into Academia was joining a fantasy football league. No, seriously! Somebody in my section created one, the offer was extended, and I jumped on it. Not because I have any expertise (or honestly, a lot of drive to do well) in fantasy football, but because I knew it would be a welcome outlet from school itself. However, my fantasy name is still “Riley’s Team” by default…if anyone has something more punny, please let me know.
In that same vein, I didn’t hole up all weekend and study either (even though I could have, and it still wouldn’t have been enough). Instead I went out with my section on Friday night, attended a military BBQ on Saturday, went to a group study session (school-related, yes, but social nonetheless), and got my hair cut. And then I wrote this instead of conducting yet another examination of the differences between a nuisance and a trespass. Bring on the cold-calling today…at least I read it twice!