The air in the law school library is dense. The lack of windows contributes mightily to the pungent aroma – a concoction of old books, Tara Thai takeout, coffee. Admittedly, it does smell better than a middle school locker room, by a narrow margin. But the density doesn’t come from aroma alone. It’s the people, the critically intense people, exhuming various levels of gnarly bitchiness.
November as a first year law student is crazy as hell. It should be. More accurately, the Thanksgiving holiday marks the spot for stressed-induced eating comas. You’ve had to read thousands of pages from case books, and you’re weeks away from being asked to regurgitate (with some thought) that information in the form of open-book and closed-book exams.
So, in accordance with the combined wisdom of some 2Ls, you sit there in your cubicle, outlining away – until you realize that your outline just hit 103 pages (#FAIL). If you were smart and lucky, you got a hold of outlines from the stone age to last year, and then you realize that your outline is nearing 200 pages (#DOUBLEFAIL).
One bit of advice. An outline is an outline, and should remain an outline. For open-book exams, the purpose of the outline is to make it easier for you to locate the rule and cite to a few relevant cases that support your argument. The volume of your outline is not indicative of its quality. Your goal is to make a series of useful documents that will help structure your answer come exam time. Your outline is less useful in issue spotting; if you don’t know the issue, you don’t know it, so don’t count on the outline to jump out and spot the issue for you. Tabbing your outline to key issues and cases would help. Yes, there will be some exams that ask you to throw in the kitchen sink. But even in such circumstances, the stuff you throw in the kitchen sink should be organized, concise, and to the point.
You’re on your third bold coffee, maybe a Red Bull on deck for later. This is your third Tara Thai dinner this week. Pad thai with chicken is a reliable choice, but it’s a bit drier than usual today. And a little light on the chicken, aren’t we, cheap bastards. But thank God for Sriracha (or Texas Pete). Wait, why is the bottom of the styrofoam container melting…?? Maybe the lemon juice got to it? Is it supposed to do that? Melt? Oh well, eat on (a Torts hypo maybe).
In front of you, next to the laptop, casebook, takeout carton, coffee, Red Bull, and Trailmix, you have one too many supplementary books. Contracts in a Nutshell, Examples & Explanations, Emmanuel’s, Crunch Time. You try to look through them at 20 pages per minute, but alas, it’s just too much information. And why are there so many differences from the professor’s lecture notes? You ask yourself, who do I trust, what do I need in my outline, what’s going to be on the exam. In the end, you go ahead and make the lethal error of throwing everything in. Can’t hurt, right?
‘Twas that time of year, the air dry and chilly, the trees barren of life, sweatshirts and windbreakers, coffee and Red Bull.
To be continued…