Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Ten Promises For New Law Students to Consider

It is orientation time for West Virginia University College of Law, and I am sure other law schools around the country. If not, it's coming soon. I always like the buzz of the new students returning to the building, though it is a little bittersweet as the time I had for other projects is clearing nearing the end. All in all, though, I miss the students and the activity, so I'm happy the new year is getting ready to start. 

The combination of excitement and trepidation (if not fear) seems to be what stands our to me the most. It makes sense. Law school is a big undertaking, and it's not easy.  And it can be hard because it can be challenging both academically and socially.  As my wife has noted, "Law school can be more like high school than high school."  (I had a distinct advantage in skipping a lot of that because we were married when we started law school.)

To that end, here are my suggestions, based on the promises I made to myself when I left my job and went back to law school. Give it a try (and I welcome additions to the list in comments.)

I promise: 

(1) To read everything assigned.  Really. Not like undergrad, but actually read it all.  Then read it again. And again if I need to.

(2) To be honest with myself about whether I really understand what I' m reading so I know if I should read it again. 

(3) To view Black's Law Dictionary as my friend and use it liberally, rather than guessing at words from context.  

(4) To remember I don't know Latin very well (and see number 3 above). 

(5) To go to every class -- every class -- that I am able to attend and participate in that class so that I can learn what I know or don't know, not to so show what I know (or think I know). 

(6) To recognize that no one class is more important (or easier or harder) than another.  I will not skip Torts or Contracts to work on my Legal Writing memo.  It all needs to happen. 

(7) To do my best to get enough sleep. 

(8) To remember that everyone has a story and not assume I know it. 

(9) To be friendly and build relationships so that the community I know is a community I want. 

(10) To do my best work and know that my real competition is myself, so that when I finish an exam or paper, even though I don't know how well I did, I will know I did everything I could to do well. As John Wooden said, "Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability."


Joshua P. Fershee, Law School | Permalink


Good list. My first year, I made a promise to meet with each professor at least once -- and not just right before exams. It was worthwhile.

Posted by: Haskell Murray | Aug 12, 2015 4:44:30 AM

I like it. It's very similar to my own (mental) list. I'm going to post it on my bulletin board

Posted by: Matthew Bruckner | Aug 12, 2015 7:07:35 AM

Nice list!

More than reading it again, I would promise to read more critically, more intentionally--to focus on why I am reading an assignment (what place it has in my learning experience) and to build knowledge as I read. Too many times I read a case three times, and it was really just going through the motions. I got little, if anything, more in terms of legal knowledge out of the subsequent readings . . . . And I would promise that, if I do not know what the purpose of a reading assignment is, I would ask!

I also would promise (consistent with getting sleep) to take care of my physical, emotional, and spiritual self.

And your #9, Josh, also helps build connections and communities useful to law practice and life-long learning.

Great stuff.

Posted by: joanheminway | Aug 12, 2015 12:51:11 PM

I would add--you bought the books--don't be afraid to write in them extensively and contemporaneously with your thoughts, even if you have to come back to the issue. Notes, reminders, highlights, underlines, question marks--marking up your material forces to consider the material more closely. I was surprised how many students hardly touch their material.

Posted by: Marcos Antonio Mendoza | Aug 12, 2015 2:47:24 PM

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