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The last time doing something for the first time changed my outlook on life as much, it involved prom night, three bottles of champagne, a recovering Catholic of a girlfriend and a red towel that may very well still be scampering down Zuma Beach. But now I moan and shudder for a different reason. Right now, I am smack-dab in the middle of finals. Spring finals function like the moon in a solar eclipse — what you actually focus on instead of the larger, glaring truth: After spring finals you either have a job in which to roar your scrivener’s acumen, or you shvitz [that's "sweat" �- you wanna be a lawyer, get used to Yiddish] over the lack of a job which you are already trying to cover for in your r�sum�. “I spent the first half of my summer banging my head against the ‘B’ wall. I spent the second half patching up the hole before my next set of finals began.” Each time they passed out those pernicious little Bluebooks, I could only think, “Gently, please.” Here lie the most compelling final perspectives I’ve taken, heard, considered, mocked, abandoned or otherwise crossed paths with: FINALS ARE THE WORST PART OF LAW SCHOOL If you thought law school was a stressful and harrowing experience filled with fear and loathing, finals are the zenith of Mt. Hell. Before: The bags under your eyes bothered you. Now: Those potato sacks really bother you. Before: You didn’t use alcohol to relieve stress because hitting the bottle wasn’t a good idea. Now: You don’t use alcohol to relieve stress because you need something stronger. Before: You did not like learning the material in three months. Now: You don’t like relearning the material in three weeks, nor three days, nor three hours. Really, you stress about not studying whenever you aren’t studying. FINALS ARE THE BEST PART OF LAW SCHOOL For those who outlined (and got something out of outlining) or only need two hours a day to study (“brilliant” was never a dirty word until I got to law school), finals afford the one thing law school never offers: time. Time to step back and look at the big picture. Time to take a walk. Time to understand how the material comes together to form a beautiful crystalline structure, the shape of a corner office. Time to hit Reno. Such student specimens are, however, rare. Since their friends probably have no time, being a leisure-lad or -lady means being a loner. (Sniff.) FINALS RUINED SEX FOR ME Just when all those beauties finally ended those long-distance relationships we just knew wouldn’t last, now is a bad time to get involved. Few are on The Hunt when finals are infecting their lives. FINALS GOT ME LAID Stress sex. FINALS ARE A STUPID GAME — ONE WE SHOULDN’T HAVE TO PLAY For God’s sake, they don’t grade us the way they teach us. Shenanigans! All we ever do is read judges’ botherations of opinions. Shame! Then, without teaching us how, they rate us by how well we write a law exam answer. Sham! They’re training a Vegas dealer to play poker and then judging him by his play in 52 Pickup. Our classes offer to teach the skills we’ll need on any exam: issue-spotting, factual analysis. Yet a mastery of these skills without knowing how to write answers assures only B’s. And getting a B when you knew and understood it all is like watching your ineffectual vote fly off on a butterfly ballot, whisking away your GPA. Knowing the rules and the material just isn’t enough -� you need to know how to package what you know. One student suggested that, once Legal Writing and Research and Moot Court were over, law schools could use the time slot to teach green 1Ls how to write law school exam answers. I, for one, am sure his idea will never come to fruition; it makes too much sense. Pragmatically, finals have squat to do with being a good lawyer. They’re just another troop of tests which “in no way reflect upon your ability to succeed in this field.” Tomfoolery! Yet they’re exactly as pivotal in the law as having as powerful a mind as an “A” student is alleged to have. FINALS ARE A SILLY GAME — ONE EASILY MASTERED With all the hornbooks, casebooks, outlines, study guides, review sessions and sacrifices to the appropriate gods, anyone can save themselves from a semester of academic-slacking, bowl-packing and sexual record-attacking with a few ultra-intensive weeks of grade salvation. Every year, millions are spent garnering any desperate student the grade he wants -� not the one he deserves. Paper-Chaser: “Reading the cases is a waste of time. ‘Smart’ law students spend their time learning to slam-dunk answers and memorize the rules,” lest they become ignominious 4Ls. So what if finals are dumb? People only whine that finals are dumb when those dumb finals are making their future look about as promising as George W.’s chances of winning bus fare on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” FINALS — WHY BOTHER? Final-fretting boggles the mind when you hear lawyers in almost every field say they use little to none of their legal education in their work. Worse, they don’t even remember what they learned. Besides, the skills that make a person an effective lawyer are not mentioned or proffered in classes. Let’s have a final on schmoozing; the doctored direct examination; the cross-examination stare-down; the government inspector payoff; the power walk; the power talk; the poker face; the hardening of the soul; the grooming of our once-wife-beater now-choirboy client; the median laugh — no harder or lighter than the crowd; the impressing without looking like you’re trying to impress interview. Finals are for feebs who can get grades and not much else. Of course they take it seriously. They’ll be the lawyers who will suffer all the drudgery that’ll make me look so good. FINALS — WHY WORRY (WHEN THERE ARE OTHER WAYS TO SHINE)? Professor Lee told a shocked Section 1 during Orientation: “There’s almost nothing you can do to help your grades. Some of you will do well; some won’t. When I was in law school, I saw some of the hardest working students do poorly, while many, with a fraction of the effort, did well. Just do your best, and don’t worry too much.” Clearly, Lee is awesome. And he aced Yale, so he must know what he’s talking about! The Tao of Lee means that after a semester or two you know how you will and won’t impress. Don’t worry about finals if you don’t shine there; shine some other way. Just shine, baby! Or the only shining you’ll be doing is of hubcaps … . THE FINAL PERSPECTIVE So who’s right? All of us agree on some level that finals are stupid (especially if we can’t master them). Some professors apologize for the grading curve they are made to employ. Most students wonder whether finals, and the ensuing grades, are any more indicative of a legal mind’s worth and potential in practicing law than the LSAT we all mocked (once we got into law school) had to do with law school success. Finals will still be here when our kids go to law school. I say treat finals like those junior high gym showers: most everyone dreads it; everyone does it; a few come out shining. So hide your weaknesses, always cover your ass and — never pick up the soap! Mitch Artman is a 1L at the University of California, Hastings. His e-mail address is [email protected].

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