quick look back at the semester

Some things I learned this semester:

  • Law school exams are probably pretty terrible for measuring your knowledge of the law, but having been through them once, I can see how they are probably a pretty good measure of capacity to actually be a good lawyer. High pressure, high stress, all eggs in one basket, playing the game as important (or more so) as actually knowing what you’re doing- none of these necessarily correlate with knowing the law, but they almost certainly correlate with being a productive lawyer. So I’m less disdainful of them now than I was before I went through them.
  • After I said that I was interested in technology-related law because the rate of change was so high, a few lawyers at the last iLaw laughed and said that once I started law school I’d learn that all law changes quickly. I’ll admit now that even relatively settled fields like contracts, torts, and civil procedure change much more rapidly than I had imagined- but real substantive change happens over periods of years or decades. Compare and contrast with what my friends from Berkman are now calling infolaw– significant change is happening basically all the time, in large part because it is being made up on the fly, dealing with an industry and a culture that is changing all the time.
  • Contracts is a lot more intellectually rigorous than I expected, which made it pretty interesting. I have the sense that the habits and frames I picked up in the class will mold a lot of my thinking in the future.
  • Torts (i.e., suing strangers/semi-strangers when they wrong you) was more interesting than I expected, in large part because it was more completely insane than I expected. It just hasn’t kept up (and in many ways likely can’t keep up) with modern notions of responsibility and causality. (If you’re curious about how that happened, I just finished Accidental Republic, and would recommend it to non-lawyers as a good (albeit necessarily incomplete) intro to how modern tort law evolved into the strange beast that it is.)
  • Civil Procedure was… well, a bit messy. The focus seemed to be less on the nuts and bolts, and more on the interesting intellectual problems of the field. This certainly made it more interesting (on good days this was my most stimulating class), but it also meant that on bad days it was completely confusing. That the nuts and bolts are completely boring – the class is about the rules of the game, rather than how to achieve anything concrete and productive – did not help at all.
  • I held out on studying as part of a group until exams started. I think next semester it is something I’ll do more often, though probably not weekly like some classmates. Walking through unclear things with other people, and helping them walk through it when they weren’t clear, was valuable.
  • I never felt any of the hyper-competitive vibe law school is famous for. Obviously people are conscious that every class is curved (there is none of the grade inflation most of us benefited from in college, and that lurks in all of our minds), so we are all competing against each other. Despite that, I never felt like anyone seriously changed their behavior because of it.
  • I am enjoying studying again- as Dave once observed, I like being around smart people, and I also like thinking about bigger-picture issues. Not that law school gives me much time to do the bigger-picture thinking, but it is equipping me with some tools which will allow me to do that better in the future, and that is pretty exciting.
  • New York rocks. I hope some day to actually be able to enjoy it properly. Still pretty sure I wouldn’t want to be here permanently, though- something about the pace and the greyness of it would wear me out eventually, I think.

(Thanks to Rodica for prodding me to write this all down. Now she owes me a post about what she’s been doing ;)