Best advice.

I only got one piece of advice before law school that ended up being worth a damn.

“Find the best professors ... and take their classes.”

Credit to Ben Wizner of the ACLU. Ben & I lived in the same dorm in college and I randomly ran into him at a party in LA shortly before going to UCLA. That was his advice. He was right.

(Confidential to everyone but Ben: your advice sucked.)

The reason this advice works is simple. First, a great professor will make you love their topic. Even if you thought you hated it before. Second, it doesn’t matter what classes you take in law school. So you might as well take the best ones.

The corollary to Ben’s advice is that you need to bypass the bar courses that you might be taking out of a sense of obligation. That is a terrible use of your time & your tuition dollar, unless the course happens to be taught by one of the A-list professors. You need to save your credits for the good shit. Leave the rest for Bar/Bri.

How do you find the best professors? That’s trickier than you think. I’ve investigated our teaching evaluations pretty thoroughly. Even professors I know to be miserable bastards get pretty decent reviews. Which shows that a) personal taste varies or b) a lot of people didn’t show up to class except for evaluation day.

What you’re looking for is two things. One is consistency. If everyone likes a prof, chances are you will too. If opinion is divided, that’s a risky proposition. Two is raves. Not just good reviews. You want insane reactions, e.g. people scrawling on their eval sheets in two-inch letters “BEST COURSE AT UCLA!!!” over and over again. I saw that a couple times. I took those courses.

Be careful though: great profs are not necessarily great in every class they teach. Make sure you are taking their “crown jewel”, the course they’re known for, not some random seminar that they concocted during a Robitussin-induced daydream.

Oh, and take Evidence. No, really. You need it.

16 Mar 07

Comments

You can learn evidence in Bar Bri. Really.

Posted by: at March 16, 2007 10:12 AM

Certainly Barbri will teach you enough evidence rules to pass the bar. But it won’t teach you the importance and pervasiveness of evidence considerations throughout litigation.

I was prepared to skip Evidence because I had the idea that it was mostly about controlling what the jury sees during a trial. That’s true in a narrow way.

But in a broader way, all litigation unfolds against the backdrop of a potential jury trial. So the evidence that would be admissible at trial affects prior decisions—such as whether the case settles, how much it settles for, even whether you take the case at all, if you’re the plaintiff’s attorney.

It’s not the only factor that shapes the outcome of a case—but it’s a big one. If I were the king of the 1L curriculum, I wouldn’t hesitate to replace Property with Evidence. Property—- there’s a class I would’ve been happy to learn at Barbri.

Posted by: MB at March 16, 2007 05:12 PM

Any other parting law school advice?

Posted by: Bruce at March 21, 2007 08:22 PM

matthewb @ ucla
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