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And for those without blogs...

Dear Wormwood:

Our correspondence over these last few years, put together, may be the single longest thing I've ever written. For old time's sake, however, I hope you'll allow me to give you one last list, a few things I hope you'll take with you in your own purgatorial journeys.

At long last, Wormwood, our conversation is at an end. Please take with you my best wishes, and may your time in law school bring you every joy possible.

1L Year

  1. Relax. Take deep breaths: You're going to be under a lot of pressure, especially in December, to consider what you're doing right now the most important thing you ever have, or will, do. It's not. It's barely even the real world. Nothing here should determine your self worth. Go out into the city of New York, watch the world go by in wonder, and every so often just put it all aside.
  2. Learn the game: Law school isn't really that difficult, it's just different. There are rules, patterns and strategies to be discovered. You want to maximize the amount of learning--where "learning" means "what you'll need for the exam"--with the minimum amount of effort. The learning you get joy from may coincide with this, but if it doesn't, just make it a free-time activity.
  3. Ask your elders: 2Ls have gone through this already. Befriend a couple you trust and ask their advice.
  4. Everyone else is jumping off a bridge. Don't join them: Start thinking right now about what you want from the law. Then ask your counselors, your professors and your compatriots how to get there. Don't sign up, join up, compete for or get ulcers over things that aren't imperative to your goals. This, by the way, is excellent advice well beyond your 1L year.

2L Year

  1. Don't Be Smug: If you did well, be proud of yourself, but don't let it go to your head. Law school is a very limited game in a very limited world. You've now got a few extra chips to carry into the next hand, but the rules are going to change.
  2. Law Review: If you're offered a position, think long and hard before taking it. Is the Review something you really want to do? Do you think you'll learn from it? Is it necessary for your goals? A law review is probably the single biggest time commitment you'll make in law school, and I'm going to admit: joining the Columbia Law Review was probably my greatest regret. Don't just say "yes" by default. (For more advice, see here.)
  3. Getting a job: The Vault doesn't hold the secrets of life. You're choosing your future colleagues, and they're choosing you, so the first and foremost thing you want to know is, "Do I want to be up at 2AM eating bad takeout Chinese with these people?" It's a trite observation, but the best advice I can give.
  4. Help a 1L: Remember that 1L advice about getting a mentor? Be one.
  5. Plan your schedule: I didn't do this very well, particularly in the area of tax. I should have planned my schedule so that I'd have more time to take tax courses in my third year.
  6. Take a clinic: Clinics don't get the respect they deserve in law schools. Clinical professors sometimes aren't treated as "real" professors, and there are academics who sneer at them. Guess what? They're also a chance to stop learning about "The Law" and see how law and people interact. I started law school as an originalist. My clinic drove me into the arms of legal realism. Find me one other experience in law school that evokes that deep a change. (You can do this your third year as well.)

3L Year:

  1. Enjoy your classes: Take a course or two that will never be useful at all. 3L year gives you at least a bit of breathing space.
  2. Start some projects: You're going to be really good at the law school thing now, which means you'll have free time. Use it wisely.
  3. Apply for clerkships: If you can afford it--there is a significant impact in lost wages--then look at clerking. The process is far more difficult than it should be, time consuming and may cost you some airline tickets. It's still worth a try.

    Certainly there is more, but I've mentioned it to you over the years, Wormwood. With any luck, this will serve as a brief reminder.


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