Going to Law School Again

Not an Elle Columns, law school, Lawyer, Not an Elle 5 Comments

shutterstock_121035721About a month into this semester, a classmate told me he “almost wished he could do law school again.” Cue my wide eyes and partially-dropped jaw. At the time, we were less than four months from our law school graduation. As a class, we have spent the last five semesters commiserating together, and I don’t know a single soul who ever indicated an interest to spend another five semesters together.

He was quick to defend himself, as law students typically are. It turned out that he was essentially suggesting a law school perversion of the old, “if I knew then what I know now” saying. Now that he knows what he knows about law school, professors, classes, and himself, he almost wishes he could do it again with that knowledge. Almost.

And my eyes got just a little bit wider and my jaw dropped just a little bit more when I realized I almost felt the same. Almost. The more I thought about what he said, the more it made sense.

In my final semester, I have finally determined what works for me and what doesn’t; and it’s taken me the last five semesters to learn. I know how to take the best notes in the right styles to be a useful tool. I know what studying tips and tricks and techniques work for me. I know what my best pre-exam and in-exam routines are. I have mastered the arts of escaping and evading and avoiding even the most persistent of post-exam-dissectors. In a nutshell, I’ve finally unfolded what works best for me.

Each semester, my various processes altered in some capacity. Call it learning from my mistakes and the mistakes of others, if you want. No law school semester is complete without at least one hard and/or painful lesson. But if you ask my transcript, each semester has been some kind of improvement over the one before it (not that it matters much; grades are more or less cemented after 1L).

I’ve finally got a handle on how to cater exams to professors, how to get old outlines and – more importantly – how to get the good ones, and how to make the most of an insufferably dull 75 minute class period I have no interest in. I’ve figured out which classes to read for, which classes to skim for, and which classes to not even bother buying a textbook for.

Maybe I was slow to coming to those realizations. Maybe I’m behind the learning curve here. But as my law school experience draws to a close, I find myself feeling like I have all of this wisdom to impart, this information to dispense, like I am some kind of overlooked font of knowledge.

The real plot twist hit me at the end of this of realizations. Knowing now what I knew then and what I know now and how I could have done so many things so differently (and theoretically done them better), if there was some way to impart this information on 1L me, would it have mattered? Would it have made a difference? If I could tell myself then all the things I know now, would I even have listened? Or would I have thought, like I am so often so guilty of, that I know myself and what’s best for me, and disregarded the instruction?

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  • BL1Y

    I suspect this is an incredibly common feeling, that you only become good at law school by the time you’re done. By that time it’s too late.

    This is part of the problem with the scare you to death / work you to death model. You don’t have time to stop, breath, gain some perspective, and think about just what the hell it is you’re doing. When you’re spending every waking moment just trying to keep up with what you’re supposed to be learning, you don’t have time to learn how to learn it. And you especially don’t have time to rethink what it is you want to learn.

    If I could go back (for free), I think I might. Not because now I know how to answer exam questions, but because I’d take a whole different set of classes, probably focusing on T&E and tax, instead of generalized corporate issues. But that’s one of the other things they don’t mention in law school, that aside from the degree not being flexible in terms of other careers, it’s inflexible even transitioning between practice areas. A year spent doing securities work in no way prepares you to practice family law or litigation. You’re pretty much pigeonholed by the time you pick your first elective, so you’d better be damned well certain of what you want to do before you even apply to law school.

  • Hank

    If I went back, I’d spend more time getting humped.

  • Susan

    I was academically dismissed nearly a year-and-a-half ago from Florida Coastal School of Law, after the 1st semester of my 2L year… I spent that time reflecting what I’d do, keep with my old dream, or make a new one. In working in Corrections Administration, then as a Legal Assistant in a federal internship while working on my M.S. in Criminal Justice… I decided no, I need to go back… My drive is stronger… but I am a total masochist… I get to do 1L twice! Heaven help my depraved soul…

  • Susan

    I should add… I was in-and-out of the hospital that semester, and my grandmother died the very same semester… I should have withdrawn – taken a sick leave – something… but I was stubborn and thought I could tough it out.. Lesson Learned… >.<

  • It

    I would just hump some 1Ls.