Sunday, November 13, 2011

T minus One Month

The first semester of law school goes on.  I thought I would have more time to post, but my free time is rightfully spent with my wife, who diligently continues to support me by cooking every meal, doing all the chores, and taking care of our dogs.  I should also mention that she is working full-time from home.  I could not do this without her.

Today is exactly one month prior to my first final exam.  For a 1L, the impending approach of exams can be scary.  I believe I've mentioned this previously, but your exam results from the first semester set a tone for your future.  

I've almost always done well in school, and I thrive on academic success.  A law school of UConn's caliber attracts some very smart people.  My class has MDs, PhDs, and several people with master's degrees.  The curve, however, is a mandatory B average.  Getting all A's is not probable.  We had a practice exam question in my Torts class, and 3 people of 66 got A's.  Needless to say I was not one of them.  Nevertheless, I'm coming to grips with the fact that I might not be the best law student.  I at least need to be above average.  A B+ or an A- average should empower me with plenty of opportunities to do what I want.  I think I can do this with continual focus and a little extra effort down the stretch.

Someone told me that success on the LSAT (the law school admission test) is not a good measure of what kind of student you will be, and that your GPA as a student is not a good measure of what kind of attorney you will be.  Unfortunately, most firms and courts can differentiate you only through grades.

I'm still enjoying the ride, and I have learned a lot of law in the past 2.5 months.  I absorb the material more quickly now, although there are so many subtleties one cannot absorb them all in such a short time frame.  I've written memos (the legal terminology for 'papers') on whether a horrible boss can be sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress, whether a company must allow a disable CFO to work from home, and whether a boy could recover for injuries suffered in a dog attack on a neighbor's property.  The answer to all of these questions is the same: it depends.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Week 3 - Week 6

It's been too long since I posted an update.

School is going well.  No doubt, it is challenging; nonetheless, it is rewarding.  Law school hones your perception.  Much of what I do is read and analyze cases, then try to abstract a general rule that could be applied in a different situations.  Most of the challenge in mastering the material comes through this abstraction and reformulation.  There are a few reasons why this is challenging.

The law is subtle.  Sometimes a very fine line separates what is lawful and what is not.  Many cases are black and white, but in law school you study only shades of grey.  These grey cases force courts to draw the line, but often the line is only clear for one specific set of facts.  Each case is like a snowflake; no two are exactly alike.  Figuring out which side of the line your snowflake is on can be tricky.

The law is still changing.  Our common law system is based on the standing precedent of previous decisions made by judges, which necessarily (and sometimes not) change with time.  In the 1960s, civil rights litigation made it easier for parties to sue.  Recently, as a policy concern against frivolous lawsuits, the Supreme Court made it tougher to sue.

The law is diverse.  The law has to deal with as many uniquely different situations as there are people to create them.  There are common principles that apply, but exceptions abound because of our notions of justice.

I love it.  We are almost halfway done with classes for the first semester.  I've made several friends and feel like I'm making progress--a fulfilling feeling that was lacking over that last several years working in game development.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Week 2

Week 2 is over.  My ability to focus on study has been tested this week.  The workload is beginning to bear down, and the pace is unrelenting.  I have had to adapt my study style, giving up the deep notation and documentation of all readings.  It takes too long, and I feel like it helps only minimally.  Another way to say it is that I am sacrificing some depth for the sake of breadth.  I may be able to revisit these subjects more in depth once I have a larger view of the whole.

I had my first of perhaps many moments of becoming entirely lost in class.  As class neared its end, it seemed as though my professor was speaking in tongues.  However, that prompted me to do some extra studying in that class, which I hope will catch me up to where I can translate the alien language of the law.

I feel like I have had a small success in heading up a study group for my section.  Through Facebook, I was able to organize a group for my entire section, which is about 22 people, and several of us met after class on Friday.  Although I selfishly benefit from review with my peers, I hope that others might find the review helpful as well.

I thought I would be able to post more, but the little free waking time I have has been dedicated to relaxation.  Hopefully I can at least keep posting weekly.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Week 1

The first week has come and gone. Before I know it, I'll be done with the semester, then the year, then law school entirely. One reason for this blog is so that I can savor and remember these times.

Law school is amazing. There is an immersion into the material that I have never experienced before in any of my schooling. There is a strange pressure to perform, to not let yourself down, to not let the school down, and to not let your classmates down. There is an odd insecurity among law students that they might not be keeping up with their peers. I find myself resisting the urge to assess my own standing, although it is probably too soon to know if I am top of the class or holding up the cellar. One thing is certain, digesting the material is tough. It is seriously challenging to read all of the assigned cases and essays critically. Thankfully at the moment I am almost caught up.

Law itself is intriguing, and I think that man-made laws are perhaps one of those primary philosophical differences between humans and animals. We don't simply live by the Natural Law as animals do (i.e. survival of the fittest). As humans we ascribe to something beyond the Natural Law. Each person, whether he wants to or not, is automatically opted into the laws of the land in which he lives. We each take upon ourselves the burden of obeying (or disobeying) the law voluntarily. This allows for society to function. We can trust each other because we trust in the legitimacy of our laws.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Properly Oriented

Friday was the last day of orientation. Law school orientation is interesting. I did not know what to expect at all. I don't think I ever went to an orientation in undergrad.

Orientation appears to have two sides: practical and inspirational. There's a lot of routine stuff, like getting your photo taken for your student ID and learning how to log into the library computer system. There's also a lot of "rah-rah" build up about how great the school is and how great the incoming class is. We had a couple of distinguished alumni speak to us, one of which truly was inspiring (an African-American female judge on the U.S. District Court of Connecticut).

There were also a few opportunities for socialization, mostly around meals, but also doing community service one morning. I met quite a few interesting people, some of which I'll be spending a lot of time with in the next school year. I hope I made a good impression--you never know when you'll be working with (or against) these people when we all get jobs.

Classes were supposed to begin tomorrow, Monday, but Hurricane Irene caused all classes to be cancelled. Irene mostly fizzled around here, though. There were a few downed trees, but our power and internet never went out. So I have one more day to prep.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Eating an Elephant

So, it turns out that I read law school textbooks at the rate of 3-5 pages per hour. This is at a highly critical level of reading, looking up words that I am unfamiliar with, rereading sentences and paragraphs until I fully comprehend the meaning.

I can only hope that as time goes on I will be able to comprehend more quickly. I'm still trying to figure out how to track my progress through assignments and familiarity with topics, as well as track my specific assignments so that I am ready for class each day. I thought I would try using Microsoft OneNote, as it seems like it would be a great program for documenting notes and tasks. Here's what my first week's schedule looks like:

Somehow documenting what I need to do allows me to focus and makes clear my goals. I'm a big fan of the checkbox, as you can probably tell. Checking off each little box is like finishing each bite of the elephant I need to eat.

Monday, August 15, 2011

First Real Study Day

I went to the law library today (early, even) to try my hand at studying. I have a few of my first assignments, and in order to get into a routine, I thought I would try going to the library to study. There are a couple of things I learned.

The library can be a loud place. In the main area there are people chatting, phones ringing, people answering, elevator doors dinging. After about an hour I moved to a more quiet, cozy spot. Silence works best for studying from books.

Smartphones are ever the distraction. Texting, messaging, emails, all add up to some serious distraction. I may even need to (gasp) leave my phone at home so as to cut out the temptation to check it.

Learning law is fun. Did you know that in a civil case, the trial judge can overrule the verdict of the jury? Seriously, after the cases are presented, the jury decides for one party, the judge can overturn it and rule in favor of the other party (although the losing party must file a motion). It's called a ruling in favor of a motion for judgment notwithstanding verdict (I guess it's kind of a safety net for biased, misled, or prejudiced juries). I had no idea how much power individual judges have in deciding the outcome of trials nor how many opportunities the judge has to make a mistake and allow for an appellate court to overrule him.