Tuesday, September 06, 2005

the devil that was

Now that Elements is a distant blip in the rear view mirror and a whole new crop of 1Ls is experiencing the misery, it is clearer than ever to me that 2Ls and 3Ls here have perfected the art of terrifying 1Ls so much so that it’s become a sport (notice the 2nd comment!). A sport that’s not much fun for those on the receiving end of the ‘wisdom’ imparted by the 2Ls and 3Ls. I guess this was evident to me last year, too, but it was difficult to see the forest for the trees when I was in the middle of Elements.

It’s funny because most 2Ls and 3Ls (and I include myself in here) were just as miserable or terrified of Elements when they were 1Ls. And they heard from their elders the horror stories about how nothing in class was on the exam, about how no amount of studying can possibly prepare you for class each day or for the final, or how it’s a process and not to worry about it but to just try and slog through it every day and not let it get you too down. Most people I know craved some nugget of truth, some hard facts, something to grasp on to in Elements, if only to ease the frustration (the other three classes were hard enough, but at least we understood the general point of Torts, Contracts or Property and Civ Pro). It just seemed impossible to wrap yor arms around what you were supposed to be learning.

You hear mixed results from alumni, too. I’ve met some that had professor Elements (the one who taught section A last year) and curse him to this day. Others say it took them a few years of practice but suddenly it hit them one day that they were living what they once learned in Elements. Others loved the Elements professors but said years later they still didn’t have a clue what was happening in that class. People from other law schools – students or alumni – just give you a blank look when you try to explain the concept of Elements. Whenever I tried I just told them the title of the book—as if The Theory and Craft of American Law means anything to anyone…

Still, it doesn’t make me feel better to torment 1Ls with stories about Elements. Just dealing with it three times a week is hard enough. I have no grand conclusions here. If it makes you feel better to tell 1Ls about how awful Elements turned out to be, then so be it. It doesn't make my life any better to bitch to them about how much it sucked and how horrible it was but how wonderful I must be for surviving it. I guess the only piece of advice I can offer a 1L is to look around – there are 800-some 2Ls and 3Ls here. They all survived Elements. If they did the reading and gave a legitimate effort in and out of class, they probably got a decent grade. So will you…


At 7:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I like to see the fresh meat squirm when you tell them how hard a class/professor was and that knowing what you know now you might have chosen not to go to law school. Oh, the doe-eyed look on their innocent faces. They're not jaded yet like us elders.

At 7:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elements is a complete waste of time for too many 1Ls. The people who can catch on quickly, yay for them. It doesn't mean shit. It would make hella more sense to take it 2nd year, once, oh i don't know, everyone has taken contracts and has some idea what the hell is even being talked about in the cases/in class.

My only "tip" for 1Ls is that if you don't get it before the final then get over it - its only 3 credits. As for legal analysis, worry more about LRW for honing skills. Analyzing poetry using holdings does not make you a good lawyer, it just makes you weird.

At 11:10 AM, Blogger LawFool said...

There is no secret to what Elements is about. It is an attempt at an embodiment of Karl Llewellyn’s view (expressed in the Bramble Bush) that the study of law should be treated more like a liberal arts study. In this setting, law school would involve a very small amount of cases, but these case would be teased out to minute details. The cases should build upon each other and should express the differing views on the creation of law and the reasoning of law (example: Levi’s views on comparison and analogy). Around this, the student is expected to read other materials outside of class. Books, poems, etc (hence Gorgias) to accentuate their education in becoming lawyers. The idea is am immersion in the cases in class (the hard law, perhaps) and a bettering of one’s self outside of class (the softer law, or philosophy as it were).

Of course, one semester of this, where this is never explained to the students, and where only the students who read the Bramble Bush (usually right before exams) might even pick this up, and where the “outside” reading is in the casebook… well, it is a failure.

Maybe Llewellyn had a good idea, but it can’t be crammed into one 1L semester. No way.

At 12:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elements is useful if it beefs up your GPA. Otherwise it is total BS. It's really that simple.

Best advice - memorize the cases. Don't take study time out of Torts or Contracts, where studying actually helps.


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