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Having been a law professor for eight years now, I have seen the good, the bad and the very ugly. As you begin this new journey known as law school, I want to share with you 10 little points. If you heed these words, you won’t go wrong. I have noticed that many new students come from a number of professions and have many different experiences. 1. Some law students have backgrounds in law enforcement, leading them to assume they will be experts in their criminal law class. Wrong. Remember what happens when you assume? Prior practical experience in a given area rarely translates into one’s being an instant expert in law school, nor does it lead to an automatic “A” in a given course. To the student’s horror and chagrin, it often leads to just the opposite result. A word to the wise: entering your first semester with an open mind and a clean slate will bring much better results than entering with a closed mind and a full plate. 2. Purchase all the study aids on the market and read them all. By reading all these materials, not only will you get a jump on your classmates, but you will be smarter than most of them. Not likely. You will be broke, tired, overwhelmed, hysterical and confused. Your classmates who take good notes, read a hornbook for guidance and consult their professors when they don’t understand a given concept will be cool, calm and collected, and well ahead of the process. 3. Take shortcuts in your first year. Instead of doing the assigned reading and briefing the cases, purchase what are fondly known as “canned briefs,” where a big publishing company has already summarized the cases for you. Not only will you win friends and influence people, but you will also impress your friends — and, more importantly, your professors — with your profound knowledge of the assigned materials. Don’t count on it. There is nothing worse than standing unprepared before your peers in sheer terror and embarrassment because you are unable to address the subtleties found in the case and not found in the “canned briefs.” 4. Instead of doing your own course outlines, get an outline from an alleged “A” student whom you don’t know, whom you’ve never met and whom you can’t even prove ever successfully attended the law school, let alone got an “A” in the class. By using some stranger’s outlines, you have the “magic bullet.” Reading, studying and outlining are simply not essential. Believe that if you’d like. However, after suffering the heartbreak of earning the first “D” or “F” you may have ever received in your life, you will realize — hopefully not too late — that law school is simply a lot of hard work. There are no short cuts. 5. Find the perfect study group. Be certain to bring chips, pizza and beer to these gatherings and turn your study sessions into a real “party.” You may not have a grasp of the law, but you’ll be full and happy, and you have friends for life. That’s what law school is all about, right? Catch a clue. The study of law deserves serious attention. Schedule time to study alone or in a group, and make sure the time is spent productively. If you study with a group that is too large or simply does not advance or clarify your understanding of a given area of law, get out of the group and study alone, or find a group that will help you successfully maneuver through the first year of law school. 6. Take your books to the library, even if you plan to use your time in the library for social hour. After several hours of having chatted with your friends, leave the library convinced that the “study time” was well spent and that you are well prepared. Don’t fool yourselves. The time pressures in law school are unbelievable. Once you fall behind, it is difficult, if not impossible, to catch up. After you have studied and prepared, take time to relax, cultivate friendships and spend time with family. BEWARE THE LOUNGE LIZARDS 7. Party like you’re an undergraduate. Start partying and drinking on Thursday evening, finish on Saturday evening, and take Sunday to relax and try to prepare for the coming week. Prince said to “party like it’s 1999.” Have a great time. But remember, 1999 has come and gone, and so will you. I’ll see you in a year repeating your first semester courses. 8. Listen to the “Lounge Lizards” — second- and third-year law students who hang around the student lounge imparting “words of wisdom.” Every student you meet will claim to be in the top of the class, and none have ever received a “C” or a “D.” Listen closely as they tell you how to prepare for a given professor. Some will tell you they did not prepare until mid-semester and still managed to “ace” an exam. Find comfort when a student tells you she never studied in the first year and still did well. Be assured when a student purports to tell you what a professor always does from semester to semester. Count on an upperclassman’s story about having skipped an entire one-third of a professor’s exam, still receiving an “A” or “B” in the class. All of this advice should boost your confidence, right? Run from the lounge lizards. Someone has to be in the bottom of the class. Almost every student has to study to complete law school successfully. Those who wait until mid-semester to study rarely catch up and rarely do well. Would you take advice from a person who never studies? Probably not. In fact, most students claiming they never study are actually closet studiers. Don’t let them waste your time during the day while they spend their time studying at night. Remember, a student who attempts to tell you what a professor always does or advises you to skip a portion of an exam is a saboteur and does not have your best interests at heart. Smile at this “well meaning” upperclassman with condescending bemusement, knowing that you were smart enough not to buy the bill of goods he tried to sell you. 9. Tell everyone that law school is easy, that you have it all under control. You are only fooling yourself. Again, law school is hard work. It is a huge embarrassment to have the Registrar’s Office inform you that you cannot return after you have told your friends and family how “easy” law school is. Please, wait until you get your first set of grades indicating you have successfully completed the semester and that you are returning as a top performer. It is better that you leave town for a year telling your loved ones that you took a job with the CIA, rather than seeing the look of disgust and disbelief on their faces when you are forced to explain why you failed a program that was “so easy.” 10. Perhaps most importantly, compete with your classmates, even if it means hiding materials, stealing their outlines and generally stabbing them in the back. Who cares? You’ll be at the top of your class, make law review and land the job of a lifetime. The best part, you believe, is that no one will ever suspect that you are capable of such reprehensible behavior. Think again. When you leave law school, it is great to be numbered among the best and brightest. But it is better to leave with your integrity and character intact. The same people who know you in law school will remember you professionally. Whether good, bad or ugly, your reputation goes with you. In this journey called “law school,” strive to be a good citizen. You’ll be a good student, and you will always come out on top. May peace be with you, and may you find success. Shelby Moore is a tenured professor at South Texas College of Law where she teaches primarily first year and policy courses. She received her J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law and her LL.M. from Harvard Law School.

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