10 Law School Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Law school bloggers exist to blow off the steam they build up during their stressful classroom / internship / entry-level job experiences. Often, maybe even intentionally, they teach their readers what not to do. Here are some bitter scraps of law school wisdom, brought to you by law school and law bloggers across the Web. Read and learn.

1) RTFC

Lawyers have to memorize a lot of acronyms, the practice of which could be entirely its own occupation. As one blogger learned, this is an important one:

I was just out of law school and things weren’t going well. I kept making the same mistakes.

I walked into a partner’s office and asked him a question. He didn’t say anything. He just opened his desk drawer, took out a Sharpie, and wrote RTFC in big bold letters on a legal pad. Then he got up from his desk, walked to my office, taped the sign to my monitor, and walked out without saying a word.

It wasn’t pretty, but he made his point. I keep the sign in my desk drawer so that I’m always reminded to “read the fucking contract”.

From Addicted to Medblogs

2) Play by the rules, not the seat of your pants.

Sometimes it’s tempting to try to make things up as you go along, instead of the much less rewarding “following procedure.” This is called B.S., and it’s usually better just to play the game.

[While role playing in an American Law class], I played the trial judge in one case. In my decision, I added my own opinion of what I thought the prosecutor forgot to argue. Even though I had disregarded the correct process altogether, I had a valid point. This conversation proceeded:

Teacher: Do you know what dictum means?

Me: No.

Teacher, laughing: Well, it’s part of the judge’s decision that is completely irrelevant. It doesn’t help the judge come to his decision, it’s just something he wants to throw out there to make his decision more painful for us to read. So, thank you for your opinion, Miss Intern, but nobody cares!

-Everyone laughs-

From Barely Legal Intern

3) Be prepared.

Just like you learned in Boy Scouts (if you’re male), being prepared is better than being embarrassed.

I’d like to state Rule 1 of Socratic Method as I’ve learned it:

You will be called on only on the day that you’ve not prepared your briefs and have to bluff your way through. Preparation is the best way of getting out of ever getting called on.

I didn’t make an utter fool of myself, but I wish I’d read a little more closely.

Update: Got called on for the next case, and did make a fool of myself. Lesson learned.

From Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil

4) What goes around comes around.

Or, don’t skip class.

Yesterday [my roommate] skipped a class. When her professor walked through the lounge she hit the floor faster than a speeding bullet. I laughed at her. Hysterically. I think I told her she was being ridiculous. Today when I decided my afternoon class was not on my agenda, I should have remembered that moment, because as I walked out of the building my professor was walking in. And he waved at me merrily saying “Good Morning!” At that moment I prayed fervently that the floor would open and swallow me whole. It didn’t happen though, and I’m thinking it’s because The God of Karma remembered me laughing at [my roommate]………too bad he didn’t make me reconsider skipping class……

From Legally Blonde Ambition

5) Try to avoid bluffing it.

If you have to build yourself an air-filled argument, take the time to put it together well. Ideally, it’s better just to have a stronger argument.

I’ve got 2 hours until the Court hearing where I’ve got to attempt to bluff the shit out of the opposing counsel. My bluff, also known as my motion, has been plagued by writer’s block and I cannot seem to get the damn thing to flow properly without showing the world that I am, in fact, bluffing.

From the Namby Pamby, Attorney-At-Law

6) Especially avoid bluffing it in a job interview.

Interview settings matter more than most. So sticking to what you actually know is a great policy.

A few weeks ago I had an interview with a Personal Injury firm… Our conversation diluted into pointless small talk when the partner asked me what I thought about tort reform. I hadn’t thought about tort reform since the November elections, and even then I never thought enough about it to form an opinion. But considering my audience, I improvised and told them why I was strongly opposed to tort reform, although I’m not sure if I made much sense.

Partner: “Wow, you sure feel strongly about this. I heard they have a tort reform club over at your school. Is this true?”

Mike (not wanting to dig myself in deeper than I already was): “I don’t know. They have a club for everything.”

Partner: (laughs) “There sure were a lot of clubs. I didn’t have time for too many.”

Mike: “Yeah, I can think of better ways to spend my Thursday lunch hour than meeting with the Elder Law Society.”

Associate: “I was president of the Elder Law Society.”

Mike: “Oh …(awkward pause) Well, it’s really gone downhill since you left.”

Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

From Barely Legal

7) Don’t make stupid dares.

Or at least don’t dare with money.

One day while having lunch with a few classmates in the cafeteria, I had a water bottle in my hand and for whatever reason, I said, “[Ex-Football Player], I’ll give you $100 if you’ll pee in this bottle during property class today.” That’s a pretty safe dare, right? I mean, who the hell is going to pee in a water bottle during a law school class? As you’ve probably surmised, I had to go to the ATM after class so I could pay off the ex-football player because during the second half of property class, he urinated into an empty water bottle while sitting in the back row of class. (No, I’m not kidding.) Needless to say, there were a handful of students who knew what was going on at the time (the guy sitting next to me and the people sitting next to the football player – boy, weren’t they in for an unexpected treat). All of us broke out into uncontrollable laughter that lasted for about ten minutes. I didn’t make many dares after that day.

From the Thinking Fool

8) Don’t abuse the meeting calendar.

This blunder, narrated for once from the side of the righteous, demonstrates the intricacies of office etiquette. Or of plain negligence.

If you send around a meeting appointment that you say is urgent and we all say yes and then actually show up….don’t blame us for getting pissed when you forget about it and don’t show up…..especially not get angry when we wait 10 minutes and then get back to you.

Also, when you sent around a 2nd meeting notice for later that afternoon despite the busy blocks on people’s schedules and then proceeded to leave work 30 minutes before your 2nd meeting started….yea we were not impressed.

From First Year or Last

9) It’s “judgment,” not “judgement.”

This is a tiny, almost inconsequential bit of wisdom. But hey, it’s wisdom.

I’ve been obsessing for several days about how absurd it is that I’ve been in law school for three years and I never came up with a shorthand abbreviation for “judgment.” How could that possibly be? (I settled on “jmt.”) While we’re on the subject, why doesn’t MS Word auto-correct “judgement” (with the E) into “judgment”? Do you know how many times I’ve typed that wrong?

From Above Supra

10) Just don’t trust people who are in law school.

They will eventually be lawyers, so they might say anything. A good example is this conversation between a first-year law student and a more experienced one, from Barely Legal:

Anonymous1L: Can I ask you a question about exams

barelylegalblog: shoot

Anonymous1L: Whats the least you’ve ever written for an exam answer

barelylegalblog: Once I turned in a blank exam, didn’t write a word

Anonymous1L: Are you serious?

barelylegalblog: Yeah…I wasn’t prepared, and I figured writing the wrong answer would hurt me more than writing nothing at all

Anonymous1L: What happened?

barelylegalblog: Grades came back and I got a B

Anonymous1L: No way! How?!?

barelylegalblog: I dunno, I don’t question how the curve works

Anonymous1L: Thats incredible

barelylegalblog: I know, but I wouldn’t recommend trying it…leave it to the pros

Anonymous1L: Wow…I can’t believe that worked.

15 Minutes Later

Anonymous1L: Are you still there?

barelylegalblog: Yep

Anonymous1L: When you said you turned in a blank exam and got a B, were you just messing with me?

barelylegalblog: Of course I was, you fool…How are you in law school?

From Barely Legal

Posted in blog Tagged ,