Archive for October, 2013


Stating the obvious, it’s October.  On my old stomping ground in the UK, law schools are around 3-4 weeks into the new session.  Here in the US, however, as we start around Labor Day, we are past midsemester.  It’s an odd time, especially for my 1L students.  They’ve been here long enough to get settled into some kind of pattern.  But the prospect of end of semester and exam season is beginning to loom.  After two years in the US, I’ve learned a fair bit about the stress that the first set of law school exams engenders.  Part of the problem is that they come relatively early on in the law school experience while students are still finding their feet.  Another part of the problem is that the system in the US places what in my view is a disproportionate emphasis on 1L grades (it’s all employers will have to go on for 1L summer jobs; it is all employers will have to go on when hiring for coveted 2L summer associate positions at the beginning of the 2L year).  I’m trying to assuage some of this systemic problem in the way my class is set up this year.  We’ll see.  But let’s just say I have begun to understand the notion of the 1L ‘October freakout’ vividly described here by Alison Monahan over at the Girls Guide to Law School.  As usual, Alison has much sage advice. And I commend it to all 1Ls!

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It is pretty obvious that law students need to develop their reading and writing skills in order to be effective lawyers.  Oral communication skills are also important, and not just in lawyering contexts that immediately spring to mind such as courtroom advocacy. Clients need to be counseled in language that they will understand rather than in “legalese”. Deal lawyers need to be able to talk effectively with other deal lawyers.  But lawyers also need to be effective listeners.  This is sometimes forgotten but again it is fairly obvious (think client interviewing and client counseling or consider, in the litigation context, what’s involved in the taking of depositions).  It follows that law students need to begin to develop this skill.

Listening involves processing.  Law students have to do a lot of both. And so listening skills can be developed by the adoption of active learning strategies in the classroom. Jennifer Murphy Romig of Emory Law School, the founder of the blog Listen Like a Lawyer, offers some valuable advice on the Girls Guide to Law School website about listening and note-taking and a listening check-up for first-semester law students on her blog.  Well worth checking out.

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