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Your First Set of Law School Finals


January’s rolled around, which means new year (oh yay!) and also new semester (oy vey!). You’ve survived the worst finals ever, buuuut you’re looking down the barrel of more finals in a few months. Did you get anything out of that terrible experience, besides a fallback conversation piece with your classmates? Do things get better?

Good news: those really were the worst set of finals ever. Yes, you had been coddled by your college finals — those multiple choice and short answer questions looking like veritable rainbows and puppies — and left utterly unprepared for the slaughterhouse that is a law school final.

But now you know what to expect. What you discuss in class doesn’t necessarily translate directly to how to perform on essays; you need to use the IRAC method (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion); outline, outline, outline; there is no way to cover every issue in each question for the time given; and just type faster, dammit!

At the end of this semester, you’ll have a better idea of how to outline more efficiently, now that you know there’s no way you can reference the Encyclopedia Brittanica of an outline you had for fall semester and that the outline is mostly there on test day as backup. The panic you get upon reading the questions in your finals will slip away more quickly, now that you’ve gotten the gist of the whole thing.

On the other hand, once the conversation piece of “ZOMG finals — WHAT?!” has fallen away, you can’t fall back on, “So, law school classes, am I right?” Fortunately, you can start speculating on whether 2L and 3L will be worse than 1L.

For the most part, 2L and 3L are better than 1L. You’ll be an old hand at taking finals, and the classes tend not to have as strict a curve as 1L classes do, and the instructors vary in the extent to which they’re gung ho about cold calling. You get to choose your own classes, and, yes, you get to choose classes based on your interests and the professors’ reputations, but you can also choose based on the method in which you’ll be graded. Traditional finals, long-form essays to be submitted at the end, group project, or participation points? The world is your oyster.