It is 3:37am on a Saturday morning and I have just come to a rather frightening moment of clarity: damn near nothing that I have done thus far in law school will prepare me for the exams. I feel like someone just kicked me in the torso; I think I’m bleeding in my chest.
Up to this point, I’ve briefed cases like a madman, going beyond what was probably necessary in the name of avoiding those embarrassing moments in class when someone fails to understand the particulars of a case to a sufficient level, and the professor intellectually smacks him/her around for his/her sheer enjoyment. Those moments are uncomfortable to watch, especially when the person going through the torture is a friend. I’ve done all that I can to avoid ending up on the receiving end of such grilling, but in the name of class prep I forgot the goal of a 1st semester law student: ace the exams.
The exams have next to nothing to do with class discussions. All one can ascertain from class discussion is a general idea of what type of answers the professor is looking for on the exam. The exam is black letter law: the law defined and the elements that make that law complete. While this may seem simple, the task of acing an exam only begins with knowing the law in its black letter. As I understand it, most exam takers lose the most points because they don’t know how to take a law school exam.
The exam is best taken when one knows “The Drill.” The Drill, when properly used, tortures the relevant facts and law from the exam fact pattern to the point where every possible cause of action is thoroughly analyzed, showing the professor that you know the law (the easy part) and know how the law works in the real world (this is what makes a lawyer).
I have been ready, willing and able to attack almost every question a professor may ask in class, and while I haven’t always answer aloud, I always have had a response. I have attacked law school this way in part because it feels good to have the ability to banter back and forth with a professor, but also in part because it feels good to be proof that a black man in Air Force Ones and wearing a baseball cap can stand toe to toe with anyone who challenges his analysis capabilities.
I have fallen victim to my own hubris and stupidity. I forgot that I am not here to prove anything to anyone. I am here to be the best lawyer I can be. By attacking class discussion and neglecting exam prep, I have put my ability to reach my goal in jeopardy. Luckily, I have realized the error of my ways (it was actually brought to me by someone who cares), and have a chance to make necessary corrections to my day-to-day.
If you plan on going to law school, do not make the same mistake that I have.