There's a general belief that third-year law students are apathetic. And you know, I don't think that's a fair assessment. I honestly don't think we're "apathetic." I think we're "fearless." While the 1Ls are stressing out, spazzing out, freaking out over academics, we're taking it easy and enjoying the ride. Why? Because after surviving law school this long, we're confident that we can handle anything.
Anyway, the differences between 1Ls and 3Ls are especially apparent during finals. And since I've decided to blog tonight instead of study for Negotiable Instruments, let me elaborate on these differences for you:
A 1L's Approach: You think that the best way to study is to make an outline. If you're one of the more eager students, you will start your outlines weeks in advance of finals. You buy every commercial outline in the bookstore to supplement your personal outlines. There's a good chance you study with a group of other students. You take practice exams. You grade your practice exams. If there's something you missed on your practice exam, you highlight it on the outline that you typed out.
A 3L's Approach: Purchase Legalines and give it a good readthrough before the final.
A 1L's Approach: The week before to the final, you are very nervous. But you have a healthy amount of confidence, too, as you have studied your little heart out for the past few weeks, and you know you have done all you could. The day before the final, you start to question that you know enough for this final, and you start to feel a bit ill. Right before you start your final, you are shaking a bit. Of course, I may have been the only one shaking before my finals 1L year, but that's just because I downed like 3 Red Bulls before each exam.
A 3L's Approach: You don't know this material. You know you don't know this material. You know there's nothing you can do about it at this point. So why worry?
Test-taking during a closed-book exam
A 1L's Approach: Don't worry, you memorized your entire outline, so you're good to go. But you developed mnemonic devices to remember all those tricky parts of the law that can be especially pesky toward the end of your final. These mnemonic devices come in especially handy during the property exam.
A 3L's Approach: You really think a 3L is going to take a class that doesn't have an open-note exam?
Test-taking during an open-book exam
A 1L's Approach: Just like in the closed-book exam, you have memorized your entire outline. However, as a backup, you have tabbed your book and color coded it, because you never know what might happen during an exam.
A 3L's Approach: Oh, dang, you may know absolutely nothing about the law, but you sure as heck know how to organize some notes. You tab your notes. You put notations on your tabs. You color code your tabs. You put little sparkly things on some of the tabs to distinguish the nuances in the law. Not that you needed all of that extra stuff on your tabs; you have your tabs memorized. You know to find everything in your notes, even if you don't exactly understand the contents of those notes yet.
In light of all this, I'd like to give this piece of wisdom to everyone who is stressing out over finals this week. The law is a very complex thing, and there's a lot of it. There is no possible way any attorney can know all the vast scope of the law, no matter how much time he spends trying to learn it. But the thing that makes an attorney great is that even if he doesn't know the answer yet, he knows how to find the right answer for his client. So if you don't know every answer on your exams this week, don't worry - your value as a lawyer isn't riding on a three-hour test. Just be confident that you will be able to find the answer in the real world. And if you need the help of color-coded tabs, that's okay, too.