Dispatches from Law School: Stressing Finals Week

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Since my first semester of law school recently ended, I’m ready to share the experience with the LSAT students who may be curious about what is probably the most notorious part of law school: finals. I’ll give you my best description of the finals period first, and then tell you a story that will give a real sense of how it feels to be in the thick of law school finals.

My last law school classes of the semester ended on December 6, and then I had my first exam in Criminal Law about a week later on December 12, followed by Civil Procedure on the 17th and Contracts on the 20th. I did all of the traditional preparations law students do between Thanksgiving and finals: I made outlines of the material from my classes, met with a study group, took all the practice tests I could find (just like the LSAT!) and generally became the most boring version of myself with nothing to say to other people that wasn’t about law.

Each exam was between three-and-a-half and four hours long, so it was roughly like taking the LSAT three times in two weeks. And my exams were all typed on a computer program that looked like it came straight out of the 1990s which lets you to access your hard drive, but not the internet during the exams.

The most disconcerting part came at the end of my last exam: the proctor called the time and the class applauded, with some students actually getting up and dancing in the classroom. Personally, I couldn’t really relax again until Christmas, but talking to classmates about the whole semester over a beer on the night of the last final, it was a really good feeling to learn so much in a short time and to share that experience with other people who were going to make great lawyers someday.

Now for those who’d like to imagine what it feels like to go through law school finals, here’s a story:

Immediately after my last and most grueling exam, I went to return my rental textbooks at the school bookstore. It was raining and absurdly humid for December, and it took everything I had to carry my own bodyweight’s worth of textbooks with my non-existent muscles after barely living outside the library for the past month. The only things keeping me from giving up for the night were knowing how close I was to being rid of these books, not wanting to be the only one of my friends too weak to lug all my books in the rain, and knowing that I was going to be losing money I didn’t have on books I didn’t own if I didn’t return these books in the next two days.

When I finally arrived at the bookstore, they told me the books were wet (that’s right…from the rain) and couldn’t be returned. I argued about the law of contracts and then gave up when I realized the wet books policy was actually part of my rental agreement. So I lugged my books twice as many blocks home to dry and did the same thing the next day, where the store finally, and anticlimactically, accepted my books. Those books felt like the perfect representation of the arduous and unnecessarily bureaucratic experience of law school exams, but the weight of the books literally lifting off my shoulders — that’s what it actually felt like to be done with law school finals.

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