Paul L. Caron

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Paul Horwitz's Advice to 1Ls

Paul Horwitz (Alabama), Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here; Or, My Advice to First-Years:
  1. The Economy is Terrible:  "This one seems obvious, but the contretemps of the other day has convinced me that we would be better off starting with the bad news so that law students can make some smart and tough decisions at the outset."
  2. You Are Enrolled in "Job-Hunting and the Law":  "It's easy to put the job hunt last after a long list of other duties and to work at it lackadaisically. I recommend instead that you treat the job hunt as one of your principal enrolled courses."
  3. It's Your Money and Your Degree:  "[I]f you're going to spend three years and a good deal of money in law school, it's up to you to make the most of it."
  4. Nobody Gets Hurt, Nobody Gets Arrested:  "Talking in class, and other ways of throwing yourself into the mix, is a terrific, bad-consequence-free way of actually starting to practice at being a lawyer. Take advantage."
  5. Stop Worrying About Competitive Advantage:  "The 'edge' you lose by helping others is minimal compared to the 'edge' you gain in mastering that same material by teaching it."
  6. Legal Research and Writing Is Your Most Important Class:  "That's true not just in the sense that you will use the skills you gain in that class more than you will use, say, basic contract law doctrine on a given day at work. It's also true in the sense that a good legal writing memo ...IS A GOOD LAW SCHOOL EXAM ANSWER."
  7. Find Your Own Way to Find Joy in Law School:  "[I]t's your money and your time, and I think you will feel a lot better off about it if you work to find ways of making it your own and finding something lasting and exciting about it."
  8. Don't Hate Shortcuts But Don't Make Law School All About Them Either:  "[I]f you would like to develop legal skills, learn how to become an A student more often than a B student, and just, you know, enjoy law school, then you shouldn't let the shortcuts become the whole story."
  9. Use Clinics and Adjuncts:  "[F]or those of you who are interested in getting some practical skills or who already know exactly what they want to do in practice, both clinics and adjunct professors are a great resource."

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You don't know what you are talking about. I hate it when good students don't participate in class. That's what makes me angry, not a wrong answer. I will give the "best in class" award to someone who got the second or third highest exam grade but who spoke up in class over the person with the highest exam grade who never talked. I also don't look for right answers. Right answers don't help much because they don't create space to teach. I look for answers that move us along and can be built on with follow up questions. Furthermore, I don't remember by the end of class day who gave a right answer or a wrong answer, and I certainly don't consider it when setting the curve, and not just because grading is blind but because what is important to me is that students participate not whether or not their attempts are right every time. (I love blind grading, by the way, and do everything I can do keep it blind until the final grades are assigned and submitted.)

Posted by: Prof | Aug 19, 2011 8:02:57 AM

Great advice, Paul.

Posted by: Lisa McElroy | Aug 19, 2011 4:55:33 AM

Horwitz offers terrific advice to 1Ls. Unwittingly, upon deciding to embark on a third career and go to law school, I followed each of these recommendations with no post hoc regrets.

Posted by: Jake | Aug 18, 2011 2:38:55 PM

"Talking in class, and other ways of throwing yourself into the mix, is a terrific, bad-consequence-free way of actually starting to practice at being a lawyer. Take advantage."
Consequence-free? If you say the right thing, perhaps. Otherwise you've set yourself up to be the first downgrade when the professor needs to match the curve. Top students keep their mouths shut.

Posted by: Scipio | Aug 18, 2011 12:19:27 PM