Monday, October 11, 2010

On Outlining

If you talk to most law students as their first semester starts to roll along, you'll probably encounter the subject of "outlining." It's a topic particularly near and dear to my heart because currently I'm mired in the practice of doing said outlining for my in-class practice midterm in Contracts. Which is tomorrow. >.<

Don't fault me though, I spent all break doing Torts outlining. I've been darn productive.

Anyhow, back to outlining.

It's an interesting paradox that my perception is that most law students produce documents which really don't look anything like the outlines of 5th grade, neatly typed up with happy little bullet points, and a concise 2-3 pages long. No, no. In law school, ones outline is actually a lumbering behemoth scores of pages long, encompassing every shred of knowledge you've managed to accumulate on the subject from your book, your notes, your friends notes, commercial resources, practice exams. When you work on The Outline, you do so with the prayer that successfully making the thing will be equivalent to successfully finishing the exam. All of us (or so I think) at Friendly School of Law grin and laugh at the labor and ultimate product being sunk in to the outlines, but really, just like neighbors who have just watched each other receive deliveries of various expensive home appliances, we quietly catalog each other's new assets and ponder how ours stack up.

In all of my classes, we're allowed full open notes, something of a blessing and a curse. Generally, there is no scenario in which using every resource one could during an exam period can lead to good things. The Law, even the tiny little slivers of it that get labeled and shunted into 1L schedules, like "Criminal Law" or "Torts," is huge. Unfortunately, exams are short. In the space of the 3-4 allotted hours, you could simply get lost in all of the theoretically helpful material that the no-limit rule allows you to bring. Which would be bad. Particularly if you were intending to do other things. Like write the exam. It seems to be a case as if all of us neighbors buying home appliances have unlimited money and can get whatever we like. Which is great, until you realize that you've now got to figure out where you're going to put your swimming pool-sized dishwasher.

I don't mean to say that I think that large or long outlines are a bad thing. My torts outline isn't even halfway finished (which is to say it's not entirely finished for this first half of the semester), but it's already something like 14 pages. I think the incredibly underrated key is organization. If you can actually _find_ something in that 100 page monster of yours, you'll be a much happier camper than if you're busy flipping through the whole thing page by page...

Meh. Nevertheless, at the moment it's not so much a big deal as it is a personal goal to get underway. Maybe I'll be slightly less miserable in November for doing some of this work now.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

On The Search For Meaningful Extracurriculars

So, sure, everyone likes to have fun. I'm certainly not an exception to that rule (for proof, just watch me playing Halo/Assassin's Creed for hours on end). But this is Professional School. And we have to be ever advancing ourselves towards successful careers in the field of law. Despite the School's Beer-And-Softball persona, we have to go out and find ourselves some Meaningful Extracurriculars.

I have an interest in doing corporate litigation once I leave here, so when I got in my mailbox a flyer for Trial Advocacy Team tryouts, I hastily went to sign up. The task was to come up with a 5 minute presentation arguing any subject one chooses, so long as you take a side. In my attempt to show how clever, creative, and brilliant I was, I put together an argument for why two birds in the bush are worth more than one in the hand. Once I had delivered my opinion, I was asked for a few minutes a series of random questions testing my ability to advocate against natural positions. I feel like I did fairly well, but unfortunately, I found myself competing against the rest of the Smartest Class In The History Of Ever, and didn't get an invitation to join the team. Luckily for me, there is also a Moot Court team, so maybe I can try my hand at some appellate argument and have better success.

I had a friend shake her head at my hellbent attempts to make my way onto some kind of team or Position of Responsibility. Maybe I'm over-stressing over the whole thing, but I don't think so. After an Undergrad career surrounded by other classmates who were trying to figure out the most direct path between them and New York Banking Job, I feel like I have a reasonable view of what it takes to succeed in a competitive environment. UVA may be incredibly collegial and filled with people who have smiling faces and genuinely care about their fellow classmates, but it's definitely competitive. It's a strange paradox that no one wants to be seen as the guy breaking form with the school mentality, but no one wants to be the person who gets left in the dust because they never did anything but camp out by the Thursday keg and play cornhole. It might just be that I'm a 1L, and haven't been properly acclimated to law school life yet. Even though I've been here for only half a semester, it sure feels like forever. Anyhow, for now, one problem at a time: I have a torts practice midterm I'm going to take in a little bit, plus a host of other things to do on my list.

Okay, okay, I'm not Dead...Yet.

So, a few days ago I got an email from an old friend demanding answers. Particularly answers as to why there have been no witty, brilliant posts from me about law school for the past month.

The answer is: Law School Is Freaking Busy.

Now, by busy, I don't mean overwhelming, stressful, and Un-Fun. Just busy. Between, stimulating classes and a lively section with lots of social events, I'm hardly finding time to sleep. Strangely, though, I have to say that while this is a level of busy-ness approaching my most taxing time back in Undergrad, I really really enjoy it.

Perhaps too much. Because I haven't been blogging.

I'll be better, I promise. For now, the blog posts may be short, but I'll do my very best to keep them regular-ish. There's a ton worth saying about law school though. So I wanna get to it. First return post in a minute.
This blog is updated approximately whenever I feel like it. Those of you who expect some kind of schedule will be sorely disappointed, and probably don't realize how scatterbrained I am.

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