LSAT Kung Fu Blog / Week 17: The End of the Beginning
Week 17: The End of the Beginning
We made it.
We’re now one semester down, five to go. It went fast for me. Like, unbelievably fast, and that actually means something coming from me because I’m a dad. Parents know about how time flies better than anyone: we spend long lonely sleepless nights with sick or colicky or just stubborn (I swear to god my son taunted us with his ability to fight sleep as a six-month-old. Just rubbed our faces in it: You can make me lie in this crib because you’re so much bigger than me, you monsters, but you CANNOT make me close my eyes!) babies, and then the even-longer zombified days, bleary eyed, worn to nubs, rocking, cradling, spoon-feeding, nuzzling, cooing, and then out of nowhere, I mean out of the clear blue sky, you realize you don’t have a baby anymore at all, but a twelve (!) year old kid in seventh grade. Time flies. It’s been flying for over a decade for me, and I’m telling you, this first semester of law school was maybe the flyingest period I’ve ever seen.
I’m truly not sure how I did on my finals. My most honest, closest assessment puts my performance… somewhere? No, that’s not true. I can be more specific. I’m dead certain that I’m in the top half of my class. And I guess a little more specifically, I’d probably bet some money that I’m in the top quarter. But past that, I don’t know, man. I know I didn’t write perfect tests. Like, I am aware of specific mistakes I made in every subject except Civ Pro (which was a blur; I’m not saying I didn’t make mistakes there; I just don’t remember anything about it!). I do not have a good sense of how much those mistakes will cost me. I can imagine a world in which they cost me very little, and I did a superior job elsewhere, and I earned the top scores in my classes.
I can equally reasonably imagine a world in which those errors were fairly costly, and then there are other errors I made and just don’t remember making, and maybe several of my peers didn’t make such costly errors, and then I end up behind several people. So if you’re thinking about law school and you’re reading this, I guess I would want you to come away knowing that if you feel cloudy and confused about your performance, you’re not alone.
Plus, I’m putting this all down here because it creates a record; if I did knock the top out, I don’t want to retcon it into a false sense of confidence or superiority. And if I did even worse than I am currently allowing for, having this record will provide me with a moment of reckoning that should help my future self-assessments.
One good reason not to take on any additional responsibilities in your 1L year is just so you can enjoy your holiday after your first semester finals. I’m on a Mock Trial team and I’m going to write onto one of our school’s journals (they offer a winter write-on, which I understand is fairly rare). These things are important to me personally, but they mean that I’ve got schoolwork to do over the break. Something for you to think about.
I cannot overstate the importance of sleep to my own performance. I can really do OK if I didn’t sleep well the night before (I didn’t have much nervousness about these tests, and so I slept fine, but I’m talking generally, here), so long as I have several nights prior to that. I think of sleep like a bank; you can make significant withdrawals and be fine, so long as you’ve stocked up a cushion of deposits. In that way, the sleep you get on nights that aren’t the night before Your Big Event is maybe the most important sleep of all. Plus, if you’re generally well-rested, it takes some of the pressure off of going to sleep the night before, and that pressure to get to sleep is its own cause of sleeplessness.
Breathe. I mean literally (well, obviously you’re constantly literally breathing. But I mean to say I’m not being all metaphorical and suggesting you chillax right here. I’m talking about actual respiration). After every paragraph you write on an essay test, sit up straight and breathe in and out deeply one time. That extra 3 or 4 seconds of time away functions just like my bubbling method does for the LSAT; it gives you a tiny oasis that improves your focus, your stamina, and your attention. Don’t be afraid of the clock; instead, be deliberate and thoughtful about your approach, including a tiny but intentional period of reflection to gather your wits every now and then (paragraph endings are an essentially arbitrary but fairly easy-to-remember marker for creating these mini breathing sessions).
Law school is on the whole easier than advertised. There is a lot of information to handle, but if you can prioritize the big picture (very much like we do for LSAT Reading Comp) over the details, it’s manageable. And it’s mostly lower-order thinking skills that comprise your graded assessments. You won’t be rewarded* in your first semester for the depth, complexity, and nuance of your thought. You don’t earn points for being peculiarly incisive; you earn most of your points for simply identifying the issues your professors point directly at. Then there’s the quantity consideration; many professors simply tot up points as they read, with the highest score going to the person who saw the largest number of issues. So you’ve got to keep it moving. It’s a little bit like if they replaced a current LSAT Logical Reasoning section with 200 multiplication and division problems to do in the same time frame.
*At least, not much. Some classes contain participation consideration in their grading rubrics; in those classes, you may get a small grade bump by being particularly smart and thoughtful in your treatment of the material, but it will only be a very small percentage of your overall grade. The real reward for your actual legal smarts will be in your professors’ estimation of you; you are building that reputation I wrote about back in week one or whatever. So do show them that you’re engaged, thoughtful, intentional: it may have significant rewards in terms of job recommendations down the line.
And a-deeb-aduh-deeb-aduh-that's all, folks!
I'll see you guys next week with a short Christmas post about a new wrinkle we're adding to our courses. It'll be fun!
Questions? Comments? Complaints? Post them below, or shoot me an email.
Be good to one another, for we need it now more than maybe ever,
P.S. Looking for a smoking hot Velocity LSAT discount code? Use this code: DHALL10 at checkout to get 10% off your enrollment in any course! That code will work for the remainder of 2017.