How much of a lawyer are you after 1 semester?

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 4, 2010 in The 1L Life | Subscribe

My 2L and 3L friends are collectively rolling their eyes at the post title, but I promise it’s a serious (or at least seriously-intended) question :angel:

Just how much of a lawyer is a law student after their 1st semester?

Some background behind the question is in order, so you don’t think I’m totally batshit crazy for even asking. Everyone talks about the big life adjustment that is law school — teaching you to “think like a lawyer” and all that jazz.

But my (admittedly unproven) hypothesis is that 90%+ of any such adjusting is going to take place in your first semester, since presumably if it hadn’t you would have already failed out of law school.  Unless of course you go somewhere with a B+ median.1 ;)

So assuming, arguendo, that my hypothesis is right, the next 2.5 years will be spent not on training you to be a lawyer so much as forcing you to have at least a passing knowledge of the current state of the law in various subject areas.

Not sure if that’s worded well enough to convey my point, so let me try a computer comparison:  basically in the first semester you’re taught all the logical constructs of programming (conditionals / loops / etc) and then for the next 2.5 years you get taught logically-identical variants of programming languages (Java / C++ / etc).

Or maybe a movie comparison works?  It’s like the first Matrix movie, where the first semester is for explaining wheretf you are and rebuilding your atrophied muscles from scratch, then the next 2.5 semesters get spent uploading various martial arts like kung-fu straight into your brain.2

Hopefully at least one of those three made sense :beatup:

So going back to the question, let’s say you finished all of your required credit hours in Contracts, Legal Research, and Civil Procedure. At this point would you be competent enough to litigate a Contracts dispute pro se? Or will some other course over the next 2.5 years add still more training that you’d need to be effective?

Not sure why that particular question crossed my mind tonight, but I figured I’d throw it out there if any of my 2L/3L/post-L readers have insights they wouldn’t mind sharing :)

Back to reading for Contracts, just in case I need to represent myself any time soon ;) Have a great night everybody!! :D

  1. JUST KIDDING AGAIN! I promise I still :heart: y’all Tarheel ppl (you know who you are)  and it won’t become a habit :* []
  2. And if you haven’t actually seen any of the Matrix movies, you need to get out more. Seriously. :P []

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Feb 5, 2010 at 10:27 PM

Ay, you are making this way more complicated than it really is! It is clearly a simple math problem, and you are 16.67 % lawyer now! he he

Feb 6, 2010 at 3:15 PM

lol very true — but what is 16.67% of a lawyer capable of doing? :P :)

Feb 7, 2010 at 2:12 PM

Indeed! Perform lawyerly tasks at 16.67 % efficiency or accuracy? Or perform 16.67 % of the duties of a lawyer? hmm… and what should a 16.67 % lawyer get paid? But the most puzzling question is, what is the remaining 83.33 %??

Tree Hugging 2L
Feb 8, 2010 at 10:56 PM

perhaps you are more well-adjusted than i was. as a former engineer – the whole law school thing took awhile to “sink in.” my first semester was terrible (my gpa went up a half point between 1st and 2nd semesters) and it wasn’t until the end of last semester (that’s right – halfway through) that i feel like i can do, well, anything “legal.” i suppose i could have done some basic legal stuff after first semester. argued with someone about public forum issues. discussed the “reasonable person” over a latte. but…until recently, i don’t think i knew what being a lawyer even meant. i have to think that law, just like engineering, is another set of skills that are drilled into your head – but that you only call upon about 1% of the time for your “real job.” after all, in the “real” world you will be allowed to specialize – rather than essentially changing your specialty every 4 months like law school requires. so…you’re totally 16.67% lawyer. but at 50% you don’t worry about being called on (even if you didn’t read!) and the thought of being in the “real” world again starts to provide endless comfort. :)

Feb 12, 2010 at 10:43 AM

I have several professors who swear by the idea that once you are done your first semester you’re ready to be a lawyer. obviously not a lawyer sans that pesky bar exam. but you have the basic skills (particularly issue spotting and familiarity with research tools) to be a lawyer. the rest of law school is merely honing these skills and developing a broader knowledge of doctrinal areas.

i tend to agree with the first semester part. but the rest of law school is about more than just muddling through classes. it’s like the minor leagues – you’re learning how to handle yourself among colleagues, identify opportunities for professional development, interact with more senior level attorneys, and take chances to apply principles in class to real life issues and questions.


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