Law in Contemporary Society

-- By MinChoi - 15 Jun 2012

1L will be the worst year of your life. Ever.

My happily-no-longer-1L friends (some happier than others, depending on what they were billing their hours for and how much they liked it) warned me. Fortunately, my first year at law school wasn't the worst year of my life, although it was definitely up there. My worst year happened to be my junior year of college, when I was racked with intense anxiety, combined with a sharp cut in motivation, upon realizing I was utterly clueless on what I wanted to do after college and largely hopeless that I would be able to figure it out. So I did what many clueless and anxious undergrads have done, do, and unfortunately will probably continue to do - I applied to law school. Fortunately, due to an administrative bungle, I was semi-forced to take two years off before law school. And the years before law school that I spent trying to figure out whether I wanted to go to law school at all, with a better reason than avoiding getting a job and "well it's shorter than a PhD and seems more useful, and heaven knows I can't do med school" were easily two of the most significant years I had so far.

To cut a long story short, after trying out different companies, agencies and organizations, I figured out I wanted to help clients at a preferably non-profit organization not of the bitter, cynical type. The year before starting law school, I worked at a non-profit helping international adoptees find their birth families and learn about their birth country. Basking in the positive energy from anger and resentment transforming into hope, forgiveness and healing made me realize I wanted to help people regain hope. It was a self-interested venture. The positive energy diffused my anger and anxiety and instilled hope in me as well. Hope that while I most certainly can’t solve all the lofty problems in the world, there would be a niche I could contribute to. Working at a non-profit legal group for public interest after that made me recognize the power of a legal education and a law degree (two things which, I would later learn, are not synonymous), and so I decided to go to law school after all.

Unfortunately, after the buzz and cheer of August was over, I soon lost confidence in myself. I learn primarily from doing things. I advise my anxiety racked friends still in college to simply GO OUT AND TRY THINGS because - ever heard your mother say you'll never know until you try? She was right. Unfortunately, other than pro bono work (during which, for personal reasons, my client could no longer pursue her case) the past semester, I had little opportunity to do things, i.e. sample a slice of what lawyers do. Even though I knew this would be before I came to law school, I still found it absurd. I came to law school thinking of it as a vocational school. I still think it is, and frankly speaking, I do not see why clinics, externships, and other practical training should not take place in the first year with lectures. The so-called "substantial" classes sometimes do help me during my summer internship, but I don't think completing a whole year of them prior to work is necessary.

As the year went on, I only found the curriculum even more absurd. 1L, they make you study to death; 2L, they work you to death; 3L, they bore you to death - was what I'd often heard of law school before I came here. In itself, the order of these phases doesn't seem much of a problem (although I'm not sure about all the "to death" extremities); med school students study the theory of medicine before they start training on the job. But it's puzzling to me that placements for 2L summer (from which supposedly most people stay for full time if they receive job offers) take place before the whole working to death phase takes place. Many people come to law school with no work experience at all. I can easily imagine myself working at law firms by default, had I not taken time to explore. In fact, although I did not heed Eben's advice to steer clear of legal internships, I did heed his advice to examine why I came to law school, what I was doing here, if I wanted to keep doing it, and what I wanted to do with it other than trade in my soul to some employer not knowing why I was there. But I was fortunate in this pursuit; I work with many indigent and elderly immigrants, and the work I do now reminds me why I came to law school and makes me think over whether I want to stay. Perhaps it is all a question of consciousness, being aware of what you are learning in the classroom, but honestly I think that the first year experience would have been much more constructive had I been able to think, reconsider, try, and evaluate during the whole year instead of just having one shot during the summer. What most of us will be doing after graduation is not taking 3-hour finals but practicing the law. And you'll never know what lawyer you want to be until you try.

My first advice is to shorten your paragraphs. My second advice is to shorten your sentences.

In order to shorten the grafs, you need to register much more clearly for yourself which idea each graf conveys. This requires tighter outlining and a clearer focus on the central idea or theme of the essay. In order to shorten the sentences, you need both to remove extra words and to separate independent clauses. A sentence like "My worst year happened to be my junior year of college, when I was racked with intense anxiety, combined with a sharp cut in motivation, upon realizing I was utterly clueless on what I wanted to do after college and largely hopeless that I would be able to figure it out," shows the difficulties.

I think the idea presented is: "Experience is the best teacher. What I learned interning before law school helped my more to grasp what kind of lawyer I want to be than the my first year. If there were more practical extramural experience in the first year of law school, people would make better choices about practice." As you see, that can be put in 50 words, leaving 950 for developing the idea.

But the development seems to me crucial, because that idea, standing by itself, although hardly incontestable (I don't think the lesson to be learned is that we need more extra-mural experience in the first year, for example), isn't very new or striking. If you think more about what follows from the idea, and less about what has preceded it (whether in your internship or your unhappy first year of law school), and if you concentrate on what education you now need, rather than on what you believe you should have had, the next draft will be far more effective and more powerful.


Webs Webs

r6 - 22 Jan 2013 - 20:10:06 - IanSullivan
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