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The Case for Liberation

We were in the fifth hour of intense negotiations. My throat was dry and sweat accumulating on my eyebrow started running down my face.

“Counselor, I think we have ourselves a deal.  Wait… is there consideration?”

“Um… There’s no consideration… I must have forgotten…”


I sat up quickly in my bed, terrified. “Another law school nightmare—wonderful.”

In the beginning of law school, everything was great. My head was being filled with a wide range of stimulating concepts. I was learning the law and was going to make it big. If anyone messed with me, I’d take them to court. If they sued me, I would 12(b)(6) them so fast that their heads would spin. I read, re-read, and briefed every case with the consistency of Cal Ripken Jr. It was a lot of work, but I was rewarded by feeling awesome when I answered a question correctly during class.

And all was well and good. Except, it wasn’t. First, as the above dream suggests, I was literally going crazy with stress. I became an insomniac, typically going to bed around 3:00 a.m. after a long night in the library and waking up early to read before class. When I did sleep, I often had abstract legal concept or exam failure nightmares. Furthermore, my social life was inhibited, and I recall several weekends during which I would stay in, even if I subconsciously knew that I wouldn’t get any work done, because of this huge psychological burden. On top of this, my workout routine fell apart. A week has 168 hours in it, but somehow I convinced myself that I was too busy to spend 3 or 4 hours on my health.

After my first set of finals, I realized a second problem. Despite devoting all of this time and energy to reading and briefing cases, I felt as if I didn’t actually learn the material until the two or three weeks before finals. For example, civil procedure didn’t make sense to me until I watched the civil procedure BarBri video, which summarized an entire semester in six hours. Amazing. And there wasn’t anything wrong with my professor. It was just the nature of the law school method, which, in my opinion, involves learning topics in the most fragmented and least efficient way possible.

I realized the third problem during the first semester of my second year. Despite working hard my first year and getting good grades, I had trouble getting a summer job, because I had very limited legal experience. During my first year, I was told to “focus on grades and only grades.” Looking back, I should have spent less time reading cases and more time building my résumé.

I am glad to say that this story has a positive ending. My dreams are happy again. Despite being a full-time student, I am able to balance law school with the following: gaining invaluable legal experience while working about 20 hours per week at a law firm, developing products for and running two online businesses, having a healthy social life, exercising regularly, participating in law review, and serving as a mentor to 1L students.

How did I do it?  The main principles of law school liberation are below.  This approach helped to redeem my law school experience, and maybe it can do the same for you.

Liberation Principles

“Doing less meaningless work, so that you can focus on things of greater personal importance, is not laziness. This is hard for most people to accept, because our culture tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity.”
—Tim Ferriss

1. Learn your professors
Do you have a professor that really loves the case facts and the in-depth reasoning of the court? If so, then you should devote more effort to that professor as opposed to the professor who just wants the case holdings. Review old exams early in the semester to determine important topics to focus on. Not all classes require the same effort. Figure this out and apportion your time accordingly.

2. Learn from secondary resources
Such resources include BarBri videos, library audio CDs, supplements that explain and summarize cases, and outlines from friends and upperclassmen. These resources help you to learn the law more quickly and efficiently than exclusively reading cases. Working smarter, not harder, is the goal.

3. Learn how to ignore others
You may be intimidated by that group of students who seem to always be in the library. But it is crucial to not let others affect you. Next time you’re in the library at night, see if you can spot all of the diminishing returns. Facebook, G-Chat, Youtube, etc. I’ve even seen people passed out across their casebook. When you’re in the library, ask yourself, “Am I here because I need to be? If so, am I being productive or just busy?” Be productive and then go spend time on more important things.


What would you do if you had more free time? Pursue résumé-building activities? Spend more time with a significant other? Get back in shape? By working smarter, not harder, all of this is possible. Law school does not have to be three years of suffering spent in a musty library. In fact, these can be the best years of your life. Treat them accordingly.

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