As an entering 1L I have tried to insulate myself from other people’s opinions about what law school is like. UCLA will assume I know nothing about law school on my first day so I want to live up to that ideal.
Avoiding these opinions has turned out to be curiously difficult. Telling people you’re headed to law school is apparently an opportunity for them to share their views on the legal profession. NOT THAT I MIND. I’m just not clear why it invites this type of response, more so than “I’m getting a PhD in medieval studies”
For example, recently I was traveling for 2 weeks in South America with random civilians so I had many variations on the stock “what do you do for work” conversation. I just said “I’m starting law school in August”.
The standard responses settle into two categories:
It’s impossible. “You’re going to be overwhelmed by the workload.” “You’re going to have a tough time finding work after graduation.” “What makes you think you’ll do well?”
It’s foolhardy. “Why on earth would you do that??” “My [close relative] went to [important law school] and she hated being a lawyer.” “Joining the dark side, eh?”
Best of all, there’s apparently no way to respond. If I gently say “oh, I’m sure it’s not THAT bad” I’m given the pitying gaze that people save for the hopelessly deluded.
02 Aug 04
The top civilian question: “what kind of law will you study?”
The top answer from me: “no idea”.
Recently I ran into a college acquaintance and law school graduate. Aside from being unusually positive about the life of a law student (optimism is already rare) he observed that people tended to approach law school either as vocational school or grad school.
His view was that attempting to prepare for a law specialty during school is pretty useless, since everything you know about practicing law will be taught to you on the job. He advocated the grad school approach—take the classes that appeal to you. Ignore everything else.
05 Aug 04
I found out today from the handy UCLA Parking website that I got a space in a campus garage very close to the law school. Ahhh.
Women don’t seem to derive the same deep satisfaction from securing a well-located parking space as men do. Why is this. I like knowing that even if I’m flunking out, I’ll still have quality parking.
05 Aug 04
Here are some reasons.
Because I need to expand my territory.
Because it seemed more intellectually challenging than buying a liquor store, which I considered. Briefly.
Because I have the time & the interest & the ability.
Because it seems fun.
Because I’m not looking for a grad degree to give me direction in life.
Because I’ve already had a successful career in a different field.
Because I don’t want to repeat myself.
09 Aug 04
In the 9 months since I took the LSAT, I have minimized my exposure to most information about law school and can say today I am almost totally ignorant about what happens at law school, the terminology, the work, etc.
Not that ignorance is a badge of honor. But I prefer to let the experience just be what it is, instead of building up a bunch of assumptions that will be largely incorrect.
I seem to be in the minority however. There’s definitely a whole category of books, websites and other materials designed to frighten people headed to law school.
I guess I can’t get worked up about it. How bad could it be? It’s school.
10 Aug 04
A new Microsoft product for taking notes, which I considered for school. It has a few clever ideas but like most MS products those ideas are crushed under the hulking mass of the rest of the program.
I like software to be lean & mean. You can trust it. The designers & programmers had a clear idea what they were trying to do, and it’s less likely to have functional problems. It may be a little homely but it will not let you down.
I have MS products I like & use (eg Excel) but they always have to shove in a bunch of useless widgets. Consequently any first-generation MS program is usually a huge mess.
As for lean & mean, I will use a basic word processor (WordPad or WordPerfect) and I’m trying an information organizer called Zoot.
10 Aug 04
The class of 07 is divided into 8 sections of about 40 people (I’m in #7).
Orientation at UCLA consists of some low-density “information sessions” interspersed with scheduled feedings.
A special emphasis is given to warnings against becoming an alcoholic while in law school.
You get a free sippy cup for the library. I lost mine within 1 hour of receiving it.
Also access cards for Lexis and Westlaw. They’re both online case databases, I have no idea what the difference is.
Otherwise the UCLA campus & facilities are pretty awesome, and I mean that in the true sense of ‘creating awe’. I went to college on the east coast (Harvard) where the student facilities were rooted in the Puritan ethic of simple & functional.
Compared to Harvard, UCLA is Disneyland. The student union has a store that sells at least 100 varieties of snowboards. Upstairs is a US Post Office, Kinko’s, travel agency, large videogame room, and a salon where you can get your bikini wax. Down the hall is a Krispy Kreme.
I have reading assignments for Monday. Yes after 12+ yrs, I have homework again.
20 Aug 04
Here is the single most interesting item from orientation:
UCLA has a policy on classes of larger than 40 people that grades be assigned on a strict curve—20% of the class gets A’s, 60% B’s and 20% C’s.
I guess this is a shock to the system for folks who came from massively grade-inflated colleges. To me, restoring statistical value to the A is a worthy goal. The last time I got a C was in 5th grade for ‘behavior’. Fortunately in 6th grade they stopped evaluating that category.
20 Aug 04
Speaking of grading on the curve: though the IOC is at pains to note that the Olympics is a competition between individuals, not nations, newspapers nevertheless publish the daily ranking of the nations by medal count.
I was thinking today that the medal count is rather misleading since it doesn’t take into account the population or wealth of nations. We would EXPECT that the US and China would be at the front of the pack, since we are wealthy and they are populous.
Thus I created my new MB Olympic Ranking, which runs as follows.
1) total up the medals, no weighting for gold vs silver vs bronze (since the difference between the three comes down to essentially random factors of environment, personal condition, judging, etc) Ignore countries with fewer than 5 medals.
2) I got population figures from the UN and calculated a medals per capita index. I got GDP per capita figures from the US govt and calculated medals per GDP per capita index also.
3) I normalized the indexes (or indices, if you prefer) to 1 in each category by dividing through by the lowest index value in the category (thus the “best” score is a 1.0 and they go up from there)
4) I multiplied the two adjusted indexes to create a composite score.
So what we get is a medal ranking weighted by a country’s available human & capital resources.
Gold medal rank
Who’s the man now?? All hail BELARUS!!
23 Aug 04
I have four classes: Torts, Civil Procedure, Criminal Law and Lawyering Skills. The first three involve large heavy casebooks. The 4th is a hands-on class where we apparently will learn skills like case briefing, writing complaints & motions, research, etc.
Torts is about how injuries (of which there is an amazing diversity) are converted into money—who pays and why.
Civil procedure covers the life of a civil lawsuit, from inception to completion.
Criminal law is about why & how certain acts are criminalized, and what it takes to establish guilt or innocence.
The workload is not, dare I say it, especially taxing as yet. For each class session we usually have one case assigned, maybe a total of 10-12 pages of reading, though it’s usually worthwhile to go through more than once.
The one essential habit that I’ve picked up is immediately looking up any unknown legal term as I come across it, some of which are common (‘certiorari’) and others superfluous (‘ambit’)
The other is taking as few notes as possible during class. I personally get more out of giving my full attention to the lecture rather than taking oodles of notes. Also, it’s pretty clear that these classes are not like a history or literature class where you move along a one-way track—it’s more like the snowball model, where you have a key concept that grows and refines as you watch it progress through sample cases.
I expected to be more confused than I am. Since last Friday, I actually feel like I’ve learned something—not much, to be sure, but measurable progress has been made.
27 Aug 04
As I was preparing for the LSAT last fall there seemed to be endless debate among people not in law school about how predictive the LSAT really is (not that these people are in any position to offer evidence) The conventional wisdom seemed to be that it tests skills that are irrelevant in law school.
If you’re planning to take the LSAT, I’m here to tell you that it just ain’t so: even after a week of classes it’s clear that the question types on the LSAT are well-chosen to be similar to reasoning patterns you use every day in law school.
Reading comprehension - the cases you read are not long but they contain small, important details. You can’t just skim over things and get it.
Logical reasoning - most of the cases come from the appellate courts, so there’s often a line of reasoning leading to one decision, then the appeals court finds flaws in the reasoning, and puts forward their own theory.
Logic games - believe it or not, these are relevant too. When you read criminal statutes or rules of procedure, you have these interlocking requirements and conditions that all have to be reasoned out to get to the right result.
31 Aug 04
Epilogue 8: Buy my book
Epilogue 7: Recessionaires cont'd
Epilogue 6: Schill quits UCLA
Epilogue 5: recessionaires
Okay, I lied. Epilogue 4
Epilogue 3: The End (really)
Epilogue 2: Nov 2007
The eagle has landed
Seduced by the dark side
You've been in law school too long when...
I have only five more class days
The lone gunman
The last spring break is over
Someone saved your life tonight
Dean Schill & the Pussymobile
Help me yet again