notes on ‘the slacker’s guide to law school’ by Juan Doria

Disclaimer: at some point my email address got added to a list of ‘people to email if you want to pimp your law-related product.’ Most of the solicitations I get that way I ignore, but every once in a while something looks interesting. This is one of them. I’ve received nothing from the author except a free copy of the book (necessary if you’re going to, you know, ‘review it’ ;)

The Slacker’s Guide to Law School‘, as both the foreword and introduction seem to admit, is a little mistitled. You can’t really be a slacker and go to law school. You can, though, make it through law school with either tons and tons of stress, or… less so. You can come out feeling like a failure, or… not. I think two things have helped me with these problems: one, having a lot of pre-law-school experience and therefore a clear idea of why I was going to law school. Two, I had Krissa around to force me to get out of my shell. Both of these things helped me keep everything in perspective, and helped me focus on what was actually important.

For those who don’t have Krissa or a lot of experience, this is a pretty decent book. It isn’t the end-all be-all of law school prep books. (I’d recommend Law School Confidential as a more serious and methodical counterbalance.) But it is a good start, and one with a fairly unique spin in my limited experience. The focus here is perspective- how to do well enough that you can get a solid job, pay your loans, live where you want to live, etc., without killing yourself. In this the author recognizes something that too few new law students grasp- if you’re stressing yourself to death, odds are good you’re going to do worse, not better.

Trying to put everything in perspective helps, and this book is strongest when doing that. For example, lots of people I’ve met recommend taking as many ‘bar prep’ courses – like Evidence – as possible. Evidence is on the bar- you can’t become a lawyer without knowing something about it. But you can graduate from law school without it, in most schools. So… should you take it? Or just learn it over the summer before the bar? There is no easy answer to this, but this book does the fair thing and points out that the decision has real pros and cons- which is more than I’ve seen elsewhere. And one of the cons is that every time you think about this, you’re stressing about a bar exam which is far, far away, instead of focusing on what you need to do Right Now. I like this approach. The section on exams is similarly pragmatic, stressing that showing up every single day, or not ever showing up, is completely irrelevant- the only thing that matters is the exam. Ditto for note taking, bar exam, etc. (though of course you’ll need to take the bar advice with a grain of salt- since the author didn’t pass :)

The editor in me thinks the book could have been shorter. For me, at least, it contained too much description, since the descriptions will frequently be repetitive to what other law school guides have covered. Similarly, while the book contained good advice, the slacker in me wanted more advice, in a more accessible fashion, and less of the other stuff. I wanted to do other things with my day (go slacker go!), so if the advice had been more distilled/focused/highlighted it would have fit the title a lot better.

At the end of the day, if you’re thinking about law school, I do recommend picking this up. It is frank and useful in a way that other law school guides aren’t. (And short! :) But don’t read just the Slacker’s Guide. Read it first, and then read something else. This will help you put that more ‘serious’ (and probably more complete) advice in the proper perspective- which is, at the end of the day, what it should be all about.