The Legal Beat
1Ls: Keep Calm And Carry On
Posted on Tuesday September 17, 2019
It’s LPB, checking in on you again. I worry about how you’re doing. This is the time in the semester you might be feeling confused. You might be feeling like you have some grasp of the black letter law, but you don’t know what the hell the professor is doing in class. What’s with all the hypotheticals? What’s with the questions? Why the apparent hazing?
Let me tell you what I think we want you to learn. And then I’ll tell you about the limitations you face in learning what I think we want you to learn.
We want you to learn the substantive law in the course you’re taking. Whether it’s contracts, torts, property, civ pro, crim law, or legal writing, we want you to know the principles of law as courts apply them. We want you to know these things not only for the final exam and not only for the bar. We want you to be able to at least know when you encounter such an issue, and how to dispatch it or seek guidance in how to do so.
In learning these principles, we want you to know how to reason. Analyzing legal rules in light of the facts (and vice versa), the policies behind the law, and the consequences of ruling in the alternative is the foundation of American law. At the very least, you’ll hear tell of IRAC and its myriad of derivations. But that isn’t the full story. There are entire courses on legal reasoning and jurisprudence. Alas, as law schools are forced to place emphasis on passing an exam that has little relation to the practice of law, these courses are increasingly rare to find.
We want you to realize the law has consequences. These cases that you read impact the parties. Often profoundly. In many instances, the effect of the case reaches beyond the parties. There are consequences to legal decisions. Policies change, and sometimes the law changes. That’s why it is always important to read the dissent, too.
We also want you to learn how to practice this stuff we are teaching you. Part of that comes from socialization, in terms of immersing you in this first-year core curriculum. Part of it comes from practice skills, exams, and other means by which you get some “hands on” training to grapple with these issues. I can talk to you all day about how to swing a golf club, but that’s not the same as swinging a golf club. And swinging a golf club on the driving range isn’t quite the same as playing 18. And playing 18 isn’t the same as playing in the Master’s. In other words, there are levels of progression, and you are starting on that journey. And if you’re humble, that journey of understanding never ends.
We also want you to learn how to become part of a community of professionals. That means that what you do matters. Will you be fondly remembered for your kindness, compassion, and willingness to help, all while maintaining your intellectual rigor and determination? When people don’t act with compassion, it is usually because they let their fear get the better of them. As I wrote some three years ago:
These types of folks can become addicted to drama, seeking it from negative means, such as gossip, negativity, bullying, or being hot-headed. These people get their jollies bringing others down to make themselves feel better. They never, ever feel better. I call these people drama llamas, although they are sometimes called ‘energy vampires.’ If you’re one of those, get some professional help. Seriously. Your fear is of yourself and your insecurity, and you are being toxic and exporting your fear onto others.
If you keep your eyes on these goals, you’ll realize that the confusion you feel right now is normal. You’re changing, and confusion often precedes enlightenment.
LawProfBlawg is an anonymous professor at a top 100 law school. You can see more of his musings here. He is way funnier on social media, he claims. Please follow him on Twitter (@lawprofblawg) or Facebook. Email him at [email protected].