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"A step-by-step, issue-by-issue, walk-through of the challenges that face every new law student, with the emotion and stories that bring the experience to life for the reader!"
-Paul M. Lisnek, author of The Hidden Jury
Executive Director, BarBri Law School Prep Program
Admit it-you've been captivated by courtroom dramas, intrigued by national lawsuits, and, overall, fascinated by the opportunity a lawyer has to change the world (while still making a decent living).
The ability to interpret the law and fight for justice gives the legal profession a unique prestige. With more law students than lawyers, however, it now appears that the power and romantic allure of the law has overshadowed reality. The daily life of law school students and attorneys is often misrepresented in popular media, and more prospective attorneys enter law school uncertain of what awaits them both in the classroom and in their career.
Some of the facts that every entering law student needs to know include:
--college majors do matter-but not in the way you think
--grades don't matter-as much as the LSAT
--there is not a job waiting for you at the end
--an honor code will be instilled in you
--you can make a difference
Finally, the truth revealed
Law School 101 is an insightful, and sometimes humorous, guide to help prospective legal scholars anticipate the trials, tribulations, and exaltation of going to law school. Becoming a lawyer is often a frightening, stressful journey, in which every resource you have must be used. Law School 101 teaches you how to avoid common pitfalls, decode myths, and, finally, how to achieve your dream of becoming an amazing lawyer.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
R. Stephanie Good, Esq., is a New York TImes bestselleing author of Aruba: The Tragic Untold Story of Natalee Holloway and Corruption in Paradise. She majored in political science at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where she graduated summa cum laude and was initiated into Phi Beta Kappa. She continued her education at Hofstra University School of Law, where she earned a Juris Doctor degree and held the distinction of being the first recipient of the prestigious David Kadane Public Interest Law Fellowship. In addition, Ms. Good returned to Hofstra Law and earned an LL.M. in International Law. She is licensed to practice law in the State of New York and in the federal courts of the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York, as well.
Ms. Good has practiced law on both private and governmental levels, focusing on environmental law, criminal defense, white collar crime, corporate mergers and acquisitions, estate planning, and entertainment law. She has devoted substantial time to pro bono work. She is also a court-appointed special advocate for children in foster care. In addition, she serves as corporate counsel to SilverCreek Entertainment and has co-produced several major news segments for Extra, 20/20, 60 Minutes, Good Morning America, and Prime-Time Live in association with SilverCreek Entertainment.
Ms. Good has written several papers involving environmental law, including International Emissions Trading Schemes, Carbon Sinks As Defined in the Kyoto Protocol, and Dioxin Contamination in the Indoor Setting. She is also recognized in several law journals, including the Kentucky Law Journal and the American Political Science Review for her extensive contributions to research projects involving the confirmation process for United States Supreme Court Justices.
Law School: What to Expect Your First Year
Excerpted from Law School 101 by R. Stephanie Good, Attorney at Law ©2004
First Year Quarantine
In the majority of law schools, first-year students are assigned to their sections, as well as their classes. Sections are made up of groups of students who stay together in the same classes throughout the first year. In my school, there were three first-year sections, A, B, and C. Each section consisted of approximately one hundred students.
There is definitely something to be said for this system. The stress of first-year law can be overwhelming; seeing the same familiar faces each and every day can provide a sense of continuity and reassurance. You have the advantage of becoming close to your classmates. During an incredibly anxiety-ridden year when you feel extremely isolated from all that you were connected to pre-law, it is especially comforting to know that there is at least one constant in the whirlwind of law school.
Your first year schedule will consist of at least five to six yearlong courses, including a legal research and writing class, all of which will be extremely demanding. If you miss a class, you miss an important chunk of material that is difficult to make up by merely getting someone else's notes. Although it is not out of the question to use other students' notes to keep up when it comes to some classes, especially upper level courses, the first year is also a time when attendance is carefully monitored. Even if it isn't, you should attend because keeping up with class lectures and assignments is more important for you than for your professor.
It is crucial that you stay on top of your workload. It is also essential that you become fully accustomed with what your professor expects from you regarding class participation, exams, and papers. Understanding their requirements is the only way to achieve success, and to do this, you must be familiar with and able to adjust to their particular mode of instruction.
Besides being assigned to your section, you will also be assigned your first-year class schedule. This is nonnegotiable. You must stay with your section in each and every class.
First-year classes are meant to introduce you to all of the key concepts required to understand the legal system. The following is a brief description of what will generally be included in your first-year courses.
Civil Procedure describes how a civil lawsuit is brought and the procedural path that it takes to get through the court system. You will learn about such topics as who has standing (the right to initiate a lawsuit); which court has jurisdiction (the authority to adjudicate a particular case); what types of jurisdiction exist; the statute of limitations (at what point the time runs out to commence an action); and many other issues involving how to function in the legal system.
Tort Law involves civil liability for acts committed by persons or government entities. In other words, who will be held responsible for a slip and fall; a car accident; a foreign object in food; a doctor's or lawyer's malpractice; false imprisonment; and many more claims that do not fall within the criminal category. Duty, breach of that duty, harm, remedies, and defenses are also discussed, as well as the difference between an intentional act and a negligent one.
Contract Law analyzes what it takes to create a binding agreement, to breach it, and what remedies are available to satisfy the agreement. Discussed are the concepts of offer, acceptance, and consideration, and how they create a binding contract. To put it simply, a contract is created when one person makes a promise to do some thing in exchange for someone else's promise to do something else. Of course, this is a primitive explanation, but it gives you an idea of what a contract is.
Constitutional Law may be one of the most important classes during your law school tenure. In some schools, this is a first-year course. In others, it is taken later on. Here you will learn that the United States Constitution serves as the supreme law of the land. It is
where all of our rights and privileges as United States citizens are found. It is the document by which we challenge our government when it appears that those rights and privileges are being abridged.
It is then up to the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution in a way that allows us to fully realize and understand our rights. Since the document is subject to interpretation, there is no guarantee of a win in the Supreme Court. However, by researching prior Supreme Court decisions (precedents), we become better able to argue our cases in a reasonably capable manner and to predict the likelihood of success in front of the Court.
This course also teaches the basics of how the powers of the federal and state governments are kept separate, how the legislative, judicial and executive branches function under those powers, and why it is necessary that there are separate and distinct branches of government. Thus, if you find yourself being discriminated against due to race, religion, gender, handicap, or any one of a number of other constitutionally protected things, or if you are told that you are forbidden from speaking your mind, writing about a certain subject, participating in a specific type of event, or denied your day in court, it is the Constitution to which you will look for protection.
In a few short words, a Criminal Law course teaches you how to determine what type of behavior is necessary for an act to be considered a crime; the procedural steps to take regarding what type of punishments may be administered; and what constitutional protections are afforded to protect the defendant. You will learn about the difference between committing a crime with intent or preparation and committing a crime out of emotional upset. You will also learn how a person may be guilty of committing a crime just for going along for the ride or discussing the crime with the perpetrator before it happens and not doing something to prevent it from taking place.
Property Law tends to be somewhat more complicated in comparison to the others. Generally, the student learns about the development of property law dating back to the feudal period of England and spanning to the present day (which is good because you will finally begin to more easily understand the language). Covered are landlord/tenant disputes, personal property issues, and estate interests.
NOTE: Many students walk into this course thinking that it is all about real estate. But the famous Pierson v. Post case demonstrates otherwise. It involves chasing and catching a fox, and at what point, if ever, possession of the fox is truly achieved. There are law schools where nearly an entire semester will be spent on this case alone.
Legal Research and Writing
Legal Research and Writing is probably the most indispensable class in law school. These are the essential ingredients for getting through law school and successfully practicing law. Legal writing is the lawyer's artillery. It is through the art of communication that the lawyer makes his or her point. A well-written motion, a thought-provoking brief, a craftily-drafted contract, or a simple letter of intent can all serve as devices that make the difference between winning or losing a case and closing or killing a deal. Your pen is your sword and the more capable you are at putting pen to paper, the more successful you will be in your practice of law.
In your legal writing course, you will be guided through the steps of brief and memoranda writing, advised regarding which books and resources are the most useful for research on specific topics, taught methods to analyze those issues, and finally, you will learn how to properly weave it all together to make your point. Most legal research and writing classes culminate with the writing of a brief, and depending upon the school, a moot court argument.
During first-year law, you may find it somewhat unsettling if you are consistently criticized for your writing skills, or lack thereof, especially if you were a highly successful English student in college. But it is important to remember that there is a huge difference between creative college composition and fact-based law school writing.
At the beginning of the course, you will attempt to draft elaborate papers similar to those you wrote in college English. You will take the information given to you and weave tales around it, embellishing and crafting details to make them more interesting. You will proudly turn it in and wait for your professor's critique, feeling relieved at how easily you completed your assignment. However, you and your paper will be often be chewed up and spit out if there is even a hint of creativity in it.
Facts, facts, and more facts! That is what legal writing is all about. Your professors do not want to hear that the sharp, red-stained knife that was used to kill the tiny waif of a child was still dripping with her poor, little body's red blood. More to the point would be that the murder weapon tested positive for the victim's blood. (Creative writing does not belong in the factual world of law.)
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