Joe Ross, a contributor to Phillyist, is going to my alma mater, the Beasley School of Law at Temple University.

So I commented on his blog. I’ll leave the motivational speeches to others. Here’s my practical advice to him and other entering law students:

Congratulations!

Get some commercial outlines, preferably ones keyed to your casebook. Use them in addition to, but not in replacement of, your casebook, which you should at least skim prior to every class. Realize that while the cases in your casebook are selected by a law professor, the text of the cases is edited by a blind monkey with a sharpie, and do not hesitate to read the full text of the case online if you are confused.

Do not, under any circumstances, keep to yourself a bright idea you get in class. Many of your classmates will do this, and, “knowing” the answer to a question, will not say it out loud, believing that it will help them on the final exam. Their answers are likely wrong, just as your answer is likely wrong. You will do far better by having the professor correct your wrong answer.

When taking a test, if you think something, write it down. Many law students fail to realize that a “correct” answer like “schools cannot discriminate” is far less useful, and will earn far less credit, than an “incorrect” answer that correctly raises issues such as the Constitution, its application to the states, the appropriate enforcement mechanism for it, and the constitutional language purportedly being violated.

A study group is very helpful except when it’s not.
Do not feel you should, or should not, join one.

You will not like your legal writing class. Everyone does at every law school in the country. That’s okay. Try to write what they tell you to write.

On-campus recruiting is a marketing gimmick big firms use to convince young lawyers like you that they are rich and powerful. Odds are, you will not get a job through it, so do not for a moment rely on it.

Go talk to your professors. Tell them your immature ideas about the law; most of them genuinely like to teach, and like to help you understand this stuff. You ignore that resource at your peril.

You don’t need luck, you just need patience, dedication, and humility.

 

[UPDATE: Lest it be unclear, I mean no offense. Quite the opposite, in fact. Law students are often far too shy, and unwilling to speak their minds for fear of embarrassment. My point above it is to let law students know that their feelings of inadequacy are entirely normal and should not dissuade them from asking “dumb” questions in class and asking their professors for further explanation, even where it appears everyone “knows” the answer.]