A Tale of Two 1Ls:
I’m getting ready to start my first year of law school in a few months, so for the past year I have watched carefully as a few of my friends have experienced the tragedy and triumphs of their own 1L. Thankfully, I was able to gain some insights, for the sole purpose of sharing this information with all of you. The following two stories are authentic. The people are real. The details are real. The fake names to conceal these students’ identities are patently absurd.
Meet Rupert Huckleberry. A good friend of mine with whom I attended a very competitive college. Rupert was actually a model student-athlete at this university, and an international finance major with a strong GPA and a stellar LSAT score. Despite his credentials, Mr. Huckleberry did not follow the narrow path to Wall St. that so many of our other friends instinctively marched down. He hated the idea of crunching numbers on a spreadsheet all day, and buying and selling equities for 60-second periods was not ultimately what he thought would make him happy. He decided to take a couple of law-related courses his senior year, which he not only excelled at, but found really interesting. He also enjoyed watching Jeremy Piven play the character Ari Gold on Entourage, so he decided to move from New York City to Los Angeles to become an entertainment lawyer.
Now, there is nothing wrong with this story so far. Mr. Huckleberry (“the Huckster,” as we called him) is a very smart guy. Furthermore, despite what the cynics out there tell you, “Entertainment Lawyer” is actually a real occupation with the potential for some very lucrative returns. However, the first signs of trouble appeared when I ran into him at a bar in LA last summer just before his 1L. I asked him why he didn’t enter the world of finance like everyone else we knew at our university. His response seemed to be affected by the Jack & Ginger Ales and was not indicative of his usual intelligence: “I can make the same amount of cheddar just as quickly if I take care of business this year.” Interesting…
While he did put in a lot of study time and show up to all his classes, I regret to say that Rupert was not prepared for the beast that was his 1L. At a competitive law school, you simply cannot go out every weekend and expect to keep up with the steady bombardment of reading and assignment deadlines. Mr. Huckleberry now concedes that he will probably end up somewhere in the bottom half of his class, and he is scrambling to find work this summer. This isn’t the end of the world for him, but a lot of doors that were once open are certainly closed. (Like, for good).
Meet Daisy Poindexter. I actually know Daisy from high school, and she decided to stay in Los Angeles for college rather than go back east like myself. I won’t say which college she attended, but it is a beautiful campus downtown, and their football team seems to beat UCLA most years. To be honest, Daisy is naturally smart, but was kind of a party girl as an undergrad. She majored in communications, and tells me she had about a 3.2 GPA. Her father is an extremely successful litigator (Reginald Poindexter IV, Esquire), but growing up she expressed zero interest in following in her dad’s footsteps. Nonetheless, she ended up taking a political science class the first semester of her senior year that involved tons of case law, and something clicked.
Her father made it very clear that she would have to take out the law school loans on her own, and he reminded her what was at stake during 1L. She got a great LSAT score that made up for her lackluster undergraduate performance, and like my buddy Rupert, she started her 1L last fall at a good school. Let’s just say that in the nine months between then and now, I saw Daisy once, and it wasn’t at a bar. I saw her walking out of the library while I was touring her law school last month. It took me TWO MONTHS to get a “let’s catch up” lunch (which I then apparently exploited into a blog post).
Ms. Poindexter claims that she spent about 12-15 hours every weekday and about 6-7 hours every Saturday on her academic workload. She is almost certain that she will finish her 1L in the top 5-10% of her class, and she has lined up a federal clerkship this summer. She also just submitted a 45-page writing sample to get on Law Review. In those 9 months, she went out on the town about once every five weeks. (Keep in mind I watched this girl do a keg stand as recently as 2008). Long story short: 2L and 3L will be less strenuous for Daisy, and every indication points to her earning a six figure litigation salary downtown once she graduates. Most importantly, she loves it.
Summary: Now, you may think that these disparate paths seem to express some very obvious advice: “Don’t slack off in law school, and if you work really hard, good things would happen.” You may also think that since I have not experienced my 1L yet, I am in no position to be preaching atop Mt. Pious. You would be correct. Still, if you are considering a career as an attorney and taking out piles of loans from the government, its a nice reminder of what is at stake your first year. It’s also worth noting that just because Rupert may have looked better on paper, this was ultimately meaningless once the paper chase began.