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Classes Begin: Tips for Newbies

So there you sit in the first year class. You have tracked down the assignment and read it in a vacuum. You thought you understood it. The professor seems to drone and then surprises the class with a question. Hands fly up. Bodies sink into seats. Anxiety sits next you. That was the question? That is what I should be thinking about? Someone answers. Sounds like gibberish. They are right?!? What the heck was that? How did that person know any of that? Anxiety smiles at you and sits in your lap. The class continues. You follow along and find that little makes sense. This mad, mad world scenario recurs in class after class.

You panic. In the words of the great Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Don’t Panic.

Honestly, some folks may have family members who are lawyers; some may have worked around the law; some may have read extra material (often a professor’s articles but be careful about that tactic); some may have jumped in to see what happens; and some may just be that on it…for now. No matter where you are in law, you will be learning. At least I hope so. Law is not that static. In law school, you are tackling new language and a subculture. Hang in there. If you are feeling lost, work harder to find out what seems to be lacking. If folks throw words and concepts at you as if you should know them, realize that you may not yet, but you will. Although law school is not a war zone, it can resemble the book Dispatches which drops the reader into Vietnam and a world of jargon and confusion. One reads words and phrases and watches as others react while all of it is opaque. As the book progresses, undefined words and strings of acronyms are unlocked and the world is a bit more clear. Law school can be scary. Don’t let that get you down.

And if the panic takes hold (or not) try the song below, “Panic Switch” (lyrics here) by Silversun Pickups (I recommend going to 11). If you like it, play it a few times, revel in the way it captures how panic can take over and (to me at least) the suggestion that you have a choice in overcoming it or letting it swallow you up. After you have wallowed and flung about in the sensation, let it pass. Then get back to work. After all there’s always more reading to be done.

Panic Switch – Silversun Pickups