Over the summer, I blogged a bit about getting ready for law school. The getting-ready part is over with. The Fall semester is just about here. For incoming law students, here is the first of a series of posts on managing school itself.

For this tip, I refer you to this paragraph from Scrivener’s Error:

The single most important class you’re going to have in first year is Legal Research and Writing. It’s the only class that every lawyer is guaranteed to need every day. That said, if it’s graded on a pass/fail basis at your school, you should put greater “marginal effort” into graded classes—but, whatever you do, don’t blow it off. It’s a sad truth that this profession, which lives and dies by the written word, as a rule can’t write a coherent shopping list. The better your writing (and research) skills, the better a lawyer you will be.

I’ll make the point a little stronger: Law school isn’t so much about memorizing rules of law. It’s much more about learning how to write and speak about law and about different legal disciplines. Your Legal Writing course is central to acquiring those skills. Writing and speaking effectively about law will make you a better lawyer. Will make you a better law student. Will make you more comfortable when you take exams and more confident in job interviews and in moving from job to job — and career to career — after law school.

The rest of the Scrivener’s Error post is worth reading, and I agree with most of it. The bit about Civil Procedure being your most important class — well, that will depend on what your Civil Procedure syllabus covers. My CP professor spent a full semester talking about Due Process and class actions, and little else. It was a great class, but it was hardly the most valuable thing I learned in my first year.

What was the most valuable thing I learned in my first year? Stay tuned.

3 Thoughts to “Law School Survival Tips — Part I”

  1. COMPETITIVE DYNAMICS AT PITTSBURGH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

    Lynne Kiesling When I was back in my hometown in December for a conference, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth about the future for US Airways. Bankruptcy, etc. Over dinner when I got home I speculated to the…

  2. John P.

    More terrific advice! Being able to write well is a tremendous asset to any lawyer. In practice, lawyers deal with each other and the courts much more often in writing than orally. Every time a lawyer writes something — a brief, a contract, a letter, an email — the audience will make assumptions about him or her based purely on the writing. Plus, as Richard Mitchell (the “Underground Grammarian”) frequently pointed out, developing your ability to write will develop your ability to think.

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