Yuko Sin is an instructor and blogger for Blueprint LSAT Prep. He started as a 1L at Columbia Law School in the fall, and has been writing a series of law school-related posts about his experiences.
I’m almost at the end of my first year of law school. I have one more exam to go: Property. Already done with Japanese Law, Crim, and Torts. I have no idea how I did — I’m alternating between disgust, resignation, and occasional bouts of wild optimism.
Taking a law school exam is neither science nor art. It’s more like alchemy. You don’t really know what you’re doing, but you construct a system of symbols and incantations called an “outline.” That system sometimes produces good outcomes, though it always falls short of gold. But exam grading isn’t random either. My Crim prof holds the record for the highest GPA at Columbia Law School. There’s a chance he just got lucky, but I highly doubt it; he must have been doing something right.
Some professors draft incredibly clear exams with very specific question prompts. That’s scary because everyone here is pretty damn smart, so when the exam is straightforward, the curve is especially brutal. Other professors load their exams up with typos, incoherent facts, obscure abbreviations, diagrams drawn in MS Paint, and word limits so tight you’re forced to choose which issues are worth addressing and which ones aren’t. That’s plenty scary too.
At least the whole process is less mysterious the second time around. Last semester I made really long and detailed outlines. This semester I’m relying more on two to three pages per class: one page for all the issues, one page for all the cases, and one page for all the policy arguments. Most law school exams are about breadth, rather than depth, of knowledge. Condensing the course into a manageable one-page checklist is a lot more valuable than creating a massive outline you won’t have the time nor will to consult during an exam. Anyway, that’s my alchemical system.
On the bright side, another student is trying to get me involved in a vodka tasting contest. I had my one and only intense disagreement with a law professor when “H” -– my Property prof -– claimed that there was absolutely no difference in taste between cheap plastic jug vodka and the top shelf stuff. I let fly, “Oh come on! That’s absurd!” before we got into it. At least my emotional outburst earned me class participation points; I saw H put a mark next to my name on the seating chart. Well, he could also have noted something like, “triggered by vodka disparagement.”
I’m looking forward to my summer internship. A friend from CLS and I will be working at the same job in Los Angeles. I won’t see my grades for over a month, so being in L.A. for the summer should definitely help me pass the time.
‘Til next time.
For more of Yuko’s law school journey, check out his past diary entries for Most Strongly Supported.