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My First Time

Written By Ken Bannon

Ken Bannon

Yes, of course mid-terms! Now that all of the 1L Midterm exams are written, some observations are apparently in order. The experience is the span of seven weeks divided into four general categories: Pain, Panic, Past Tense, and Postlude.

The hard part of coming to law school is, well, law school. The profs are each a world unto themselves requiring adaptation to the world they each create and administer. The learning curve is steep. The Socratic method is akin to learning a discipline one has never heard of in a language one has never read, written, or spoken. The Law School workload makes other higher education feel like remedial coloring. A sixty-hour work week is functional; fifty hours a week is adequate, and the conventional forty-hour work week is slothful – a distant memory of days bygone. These factors begin to become manageable, perhaps even comfortable just in time for the reality of week five or so when midterm exams and writing projects loom on the horizon, looking strangely like a mushroom cloud. All the while Professors give instructions like “Always outline, write several drafts, revise, edit, and proof . . . you have forty minutes . . . GO!” Meanwhile, upperclassmen offer advice like “It’s doable, that is if one is willing to just give up eating, sleeping, and all human interaction.” Many thanks . . . LOL!

That fifth week is a ramp up for those preparing to take those exams . . . about half of the class. The other half maintain the ever-worthwhile denial. By week six, the panic descends in the form of the fabled OUTLINE. There are those frantically writing them and those frantically searching for them. Then comes the brain-lock of segmenting test prep by Prof. Neither can one write a Cardy answer for Rhee nor vice versa, nor can one write a Cady answer for anybody else. Then comes the morning of the exam and the most dreaded foes: time and lines. Who could have told us that we would be willing to pay for ten more minutes or ten more lines. 1000 characters sounds like a lot of typing until Contracts limits an answer to that standard. Similarly, remember when an hour for one question seemed like forever? Not so much in a Civil Procedure exam! In the end, somehow we all get through with a zero body count . . . unbelievably, not one heart attack. This is quite impressive considering all things . . . not the least of which is the handy audio program playing in Room 153, ALL OF THE TIME! LOL!

When the exams are in the collective rear view mirror, there is the new, self-inflicted panic. 1L’s everywhere asking one another “What did you write?” As a result of the entirely illogical condition wherein we each think we are the least smart, least prepared person in the building, the new panic descends. This time it comes because we are convinced we wrote the wrong exam; forgetting there is not a right or wrong answer, only a defensible set of conclusions applying the law to the facts. That is way too much logic to put on the exhausted psyche of the post-midterm 1L. Facing the overload, we take that deep breath of the mind. Some go home for the first time. Others visit a purveyor of adult beverages and unconsidered counseling. Still others exercise the body to exorcise the mind. Now the waiting begins. The profs have the “joy” of reading the worst exams we will ever right and we wait impatiently for them to tell us just how behind the pitch we really are. Oh the angst!

What now? Now comes the second half. Games are won in the fourth quarter. Law school success is won in the second half. If we do poorly on midterm exams, how do we get that C- to a B? We must focus on Recovery, doing enough to get there by Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice . . . pick your favorite. If one does well, the challenge is to avoid coasting in favor of remaining nose to the proverbial grindstone – Redoubling. Either way, it is time to Reevaluate. What does each need to do to get where they wants to be. Some want to top the class . . . others are satisfied with any of the top three quatrains . . . still others just want to return on January 14.

Wherever we each find ourselves, following those first tastes of the fabled Law School Exam, we made it! Half of the toughest semester of the toughest year of the toughest academic endeavor anywhere is behind us.

The world is ruled by those who show up. Keep showing up! Keep showing up prepared! Keep showing up with the knowledge that you will go home at winter break with a strength, a confidence, and perhaps even a wisdom those around us will unlikely understand and certainly will not match!

Onto week eight! Onto December 15th! We’ve got this!

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