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Dec 28th 2004

posner on 1L misconceptions, other law school stuff

i will have to excuse myself from the blog for the next six-eight weeks, as i throw together a personal statement and study for the february 12 LSAT administration. the pressure is on, since i’ve only been working on things for a couple of weeks. i may blog infrequently, but i’d like to manipulate expectations by posting this notice. as they say in business (1): “under promise and over deliver.” and as they say in taking the LSAT and applying to law schools (2): “start studying two hours a day in january and take the test in june, work on your personal statement for six months and send it in with your completed applications by december 1. otherwise, you’re royally screwed and good luck if you get accepted to florida coastal.”

well, one outta two ain’t bad!

on topic, the following comment from a distinguished judge and legal scholar is timely:

“…the principal misconceptions of first-year law students. There are two, and they are closely related. The first is the idea that the law exists somewhere, in a book presumably (or, to be modern, in an electronic database), and that what you learn in law school is how to find the book, and that what law professors do, to justify making you sit in class for three years, is hide the book from you. The second misconception is that legal reasoning is something special, subtle, esoteric, which will enable you once you have learned it to answer a question in a way that would make no sense to a lay person. In other words–and this is what joins the misconceptions–law is a mystery.”

“But what law really is is a tool that law school shows you how to use. It is a rhetoric, a vocabulary, a tradition, a set of rules and conventions, which you can use to achieve practical results, which are the only results worth having. So if you’re a judge–which sounds like something special, something far removed from the real world of nonlawyers, but is not, or should not be–you are given problems that you try to solve in a way that will be realistic, having regard for the issues at stake, the relevant moral values of your society, the interest in providing guidance for the future, the goals behind applicable rules or standards, the value of a certain kind of neutrality or impersonality, and perhaps other considerations both particular to the case at hand and systemic.” [link]

judge posner serves on the US court of appeals for the 7th circuit and teaches at the university of chicago law school. the above remark was made in response to comments to this post. his words echo things i’ve read as i’ve researched schools. washington and lee’s admissions page calls the first year “mental boot camp”, apparently because of the very misconceptions posner highlights:

It’s not that everyone is trying to make life difficult for first-year law students, by imposing on them some sort of rite of passage. It’s just that the law is different. There is nothing black-and-white about it. Often “facts” aren’t even facts in a legal sense. That takes some getting used to. Success depends less on how much you absorb than on how well you learn to use it. Learning becomes a much more active endeavor, compared with even the most demanding of undergraduate educations. [source]

One Response to “posner on 1L misconceptions, other law school stuff”

  1. I’m sure you will ace that LSAT. I look forward to the first personal injury case you will handle and hopefully I will be on the other end from the insurance company standpoint.

    Best of luck to you these next 3 years and to your better half.