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Monday, August 09, 2004

It seems that all and sundry are dispensing advice to first year law students, so I might as well join the crowd.

I hated high school. I didn't fit in at all. College was mostly so-so (same problem, but more interesting courses). But I had a great time in law school. I did pretty well, too.

I went to New England School of Law in Boston. Formerly known as Portia, it was one of the few law schools for women. It went coed some time ago, which is why I got to attend. Part of the reason I so enjoyed it was the fact that it was in Boston. That is a great city in which to go to school. A good part of the rest of the reason I had a great time in law school was that I did well there.

My school was large by Boston's standards. There were something like 200 people in my class. The way the first year was run, the class was divided in half, alphabetically. The first half of the alphabet had classes from 9:00 to 1:00 five days a week. The second half attended classes from 1:00 to 5:00. There were no electives. The first year curriculum was Property, Torts, Criminal Law/Criminal Procedure, Civil Procedure, Contracts and a writing/research methods class. Every class except writing had all 100 or so people in my section in it.

Since I was in the first half of the alphabet, that forced me to get up every morning. That, in and of itself, saved me from disaster. Neither the administration nor the faculty gave a damn whether you attended classes, but fear got me out of bed and into school every day. If I had been in the afternoon section, I really wonder what might have happened, since I would undoubtedly have slept late and stayed up later. As it was, I had a convenient schedule:

9-1: Attend class
1-2: Lunch
2-5: Go to the library and read.

Although I tried, I hardly ever managed to do any work after five or on the weekends (exam preparation was an exception), and I never managed to do any work at home. There were just too many other things to do. That's why the afternoon classes might well have been a disaster for me.

I was a smoker, which also contributed to some degee to my grades. I joined a study group early on, but it mostly did not work out. There was a "floating" group that ran into each other in the library smoking/discussion room. Since I was smoking a pack a day at the time, I usually camped out in the smoking room. People came in and out and discussed various issues. I just listened, and joined in when I had something to contribute.

So, the three most important things necessary for success in the first year of law school are, in order of decreasing importance:

1. Have a name in the first half of the alphabet. If you do not now have such a name, get one right away. If a lot of people take this advice, your name will have to begin with "A".

2. Go to school in Boston. There are lots of choices. Last I looked, Boston had 6 law schools: Hahvahd, BU, BC, Northeastern, New England and Suffolk. New England and Suffolk are tied for last in terms of prestige.

3. Smoke like a chimney. Your future depends on it.
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